I was playing on the edge of burn out (again), and it wasn’t until I came crashing down that I remembered how dangerous this game can be.
The realization that I have too many commitments usually comes at the worst time. I’m already in too deep, so I might as well roll with it. It’s life-affirming to play a modern day Super-person.
In Super-person mode, I become ruled by the tasks I must complete and once I’ve accomplish said tasks, I have succeeded. It’s an easy formula with alluring results. In a culture that constantly rewards productivity and efficiency, even the thought of “failing” feels nauseating to a perfectionist like me.
Even though the majority of the tasks I aim to complete in a day are for others, and usually these tasks don’t nourish my own soul, I must complete them to feel worthy of participating in this world. This is an epidemic.
The overwhelming need to do everything and be everything to everyone inevitably becomes stressful. Build up enough stress, and that translates into the body as tension.
I know from personal experience and from the multitude of reports that I get from my students daily, that once we are accustomed to “busyness,” once stress feels “comfortable,” it’s nearly impossible to pull ourselves away from it. We essentially become bound to the things that make us feel useful, even if it’s an illusion. We become addicted to our tension.
And where does too much tension lead us? Well, for me, it’s usually leads straight to a double ear infection.
I recently spent four days in bed with the worst sickness of my adult life, and the timing was no coincidence. I was maintaining my regular weekly schedule and then some, plus packed weekends for five months straight. I was basically asking for it.
Feeling weak, exhausted and confined to my bed was extraordinarily humbling. As I broke through to the other side of the nasty bug, my mind cleared. I started thinking about the scary questions I’d buried for almost half a year…
Who am I without my to-do list?
If I abandon all of my responsibilities and all of my labels—wife, daughter, teacher, co-worker, friend—what’s left?
What if I surrender all of my stress, tension, fear, guilt and shame so I can truly sit in the seat of my heart?
Every time the Universe strips me of my “to-do” list, I am almost surprised to realize that the world goes on without me. And instead of feeling destroyed by that fact, I am immensely relieved. It reminds me that the opportunity to slow down is always available to me. I just need to make the choice to do it.
Slowing down brings me back to who I am—the capital S “Self.”
The Self that remains unchanged as we strive to navigate and fit into the world. Our authentic Self never goes away, it’s just so easy to get disconnected and lose sight of our Selves if we’re constantly trying to be Super-people.
We thrive when connected by love, not chores or competition. We can only sit in awe of the exquisite beauty that we share if we surrender the busyness. I am blessed to be a part of unique and sometimes unexpected communities that come together and support each other in the ultimate quest to set aside tasks and come back home to source.
The decision to slow down isn’t an easy one. It takes consistent consciousness and commitment. It might mean writing “me time” on the calendar and making that time non-negotiable. Re-prioritizing our packed schedules may be the key to re-recomnecting to our authenticity.
We must experience a genuine balance of work and rest as individuals before we can begin to heal as a global collective. The solution to every big problem we see in our society begins with the individual.
One day, when we can all sit in our own skin and whole-heartedly believe that we are worthy just as we are, and that we will be worthy no matter how much or how little we “do,” our culture will understand a new, lasting, inextinguishable success.
Before you find yourself teetering at your edge, ask yourself, “Am I part of the problem, or part of the solution?”
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Apprentice Editor: Sarah Qureshi/Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Gareth Simpson via Flickr