Where can we find the power and the peace in doing the “no-thing” (Dawna Furfaro-Strode)
Scene 1: We awaken to the alarm and stumble to the coffee pot. We blast through the day as we speed to
shower, dress, get children ready, skip breakfast, maybe make lunch (or not), rush into the car, then hustle to drop of kids and/or ourselves to work. Then we grab a coffee, or maybe that was earlier and this is a second one. Now we face the workday. We move from meeting to meeting, task to task, thinking, doing, talking, planning. Always on the move.
How do you feel in your body as you read this? I’m feeling anxious and tightened in my chest just imagining the rush.
A recent social media article noted the problem of not having enough time to be well. As Acupuncturist Dawna Furfaro-Strode notes, “I see the problem of overworking patients too often in my treatment room. And when it's parents overworking, kids suffer too. As a culture, we've got to make a change. For ourselves and our kids and theirs.”
We’ve been conditioned to be adrenaline junkies. Adrenaline is a stress hormone. Much of our lifestyle promotes the push to do more, to strive harder, achieve more. And then our health and mental well being suffer. This may be our cultural norm, and, yet, how might we go about accomplishing what is necessary, in resonance with our heart, and in a calm state of peace we can maintain?
Even the very state of this flood of stress hormones itself becomes its own addictive force. It is not that stress itself is bad, or good. Some stress in life is strengthening. Our heart muscle itself creates a great big tremendous muscular contraction to pump blood through our entire body. But then, it relaxes in between. A heart breath. The problem occurs when the heart muscle doesn’t have a chance to relax and becomes “over stressed.” Even the stress of birth is necessary…a butterfly must wiggle, and strain, and push its way out of the chrysalis. Butterflies let free from their cocoons without the struggle soon die.
Alternative Scene: Imagine waking up naturally to the sounds of the birds, replenished, and refreshed from sleep. You stretch, get up and have a large glass of tepid water to re-hydrate from the 7-8 hours of slumber. You walk over to gaze for a moment outside, or maybe it is beautiful outside and you go out on a porch and reach your arms up to the sky breathing deeply into your belly and let your arms ease down. You bring a smile to your mouth, and raise your arms up up to the sky again. A bird flies across. The trees are shining in the morning sun and leaves gently blowing as you raise your arms up with breath and then back down again. This is the ancient form of restorative movement called Qi Gong. In even 5 minutes, your lungs have filled deeply with the life-giving air that powers every aspect of your being. And now you begin your day, a cup of tea, maybe arising the children…maybe even engaging them in the qi gong game. At work you face the usual list of things to do and people to meet. And as you walk from one to one, you purposefully slow your step and take this small moment between to breathe in deeply. Smile at a colleague. Calm your pace and just notice what is around you in this minute. Breathing deeply in with an inner smile knowing that even in this 1 minute there is actually infinity if you are able to be fully present.
Do you feel differently after reading this scene? I just inhaled deeply, with a feeling of peace and letting go. I have an image of a cool and peaceful lake.
Practice being fully in the moment. Breathe in deeply. Just notice your body, the sounds around you while letting go of the “analyzer.” Just take in. Without evaluation, come fully into your senses. Coming into your senses helps in the movement to being present. Without evaluation, sense your breath, the odors in the air, the sounds near and far, the sights, the feeling of air on your arms. Bring an inner smile to your mouth and eyes as you are in this present moment. This is a practice you can do anywhere, in any meeting, with a patient, a friend, in the car or on the subway.
Say no to packing in more activities unless they are essential priorities in your life right at this moment. List what these primary things are so you stay clear. For me it is my family, my studies, a few close friends, and restorative walks in nature. A pristine house isn't currently on my list :) Then, choose not to fill in every moment. This takes some work and letting go of the habit of constantly doing. I am in conscious practice of curtailing my to do list too. Removing things if I am tired or not filling in if something is canceled.
Consciously create space in your day for a quiet walk, for reflection, for a cup of tea and for “no-thing.” This is the space where creativity can come from too. It is where the intuitive has a chance to bubble up. It is where you are able to recharge your batteries to keep going. For those of us, who forever pack more and more into our busy life, the practice of saying no can be a significant learning. The key is to really notice your energy level and stress as you do a bit less. As you are doing things and going through your day….notice, do you recover quickly? Or does it take you awhile?
Enlist a friend who also wants to find balance and be gentle reminders to each other to contain and curtail doing too much. Help remind each other to let go of what doesn’t serve.
Energy can be deceiving. I used to think I could just create it when I needed it. And I could..but it was an empty adrenaline rush. I didn’t really have the basis for my excess level of output. I detracted energy from building good bone. We have to be aware there can be a sense of energy in the moment that might just be an adrenaline high. Notice how difficult and long is your recovery from your energy expenditures. Do you get sick after such a push? Are you draggy for days? The equation changes as we age, or if we have a chronic disease, or are tired from raising children.
I can say this is a continual edge of learning for us too…..how not to not add in more. What matters is how your level of activity and what you do feels in you. Do you fall asleep easily and wake feeling rested? Do you get headaches and tight shoulders. Is your stomach in knots? How are you feeling in your body?
How can you come to “to see a World in a Grain of Sand And a Heaven in a Wild Flower. To hold Infinity in the palm of your hand And Eternity in an hour?” Auguries of Innocence By William Blake
In loving partnership,