Over the past nine months of 2017, I have embarked on emotional, mental, creative, and spiritual challenges.
Lately, I’ve been getting tired, losing inspiration, and running out of steam. I berated myself for not having it in me to finish what I called my 2017 creative meditation challenge, until I participated in an online Mabon meditation with a woman who refers to herself as Sage Goddess.
She said, emphatically, to the nearly 300 people joining her from around the world:
“Your work for 2017 is done.”
A lump formed in my chest, and I choked up a small cry. What? I thought to myself. My work ends for 2017 on December 31st, not in September. This provoked some mindful analysis.
How much time, then, do we give ourselves to enjoy the fruits of our labor? Do we allow ourselves January 1st to overcome our New Year’s hangover—and then, January 2nd, we’re back to work on our new resolutions? Maybe we feast like gluttons on Thanksgiving and shop until we drop, or until our credit cards bleed us into debt through the giving season.
In our Western culture, we are taught to push ourselves to extremes.
We believe that if we’re not working hard all the time, we cannot achieve our goals. So many are realizing this is a misnomer. The question I am now asking myself is: how can we receive the benefits of our hard work if we don’t allow ourselves time to receive our harvest? When we keep working hard without rest, the harvest we sow rots in the fields of our labor. We often never end up receiving our gains.
This is hard for me, and I believe it’s hard for many others to relax and receive. I look back at all I achieved this year—my mindful paintings, my articles, and the workshops and retreats I attended. Now what am I supposed to do, just sit back and wait? And what exactly am I waiting for?
There are no awards and capital gains for self-improvement work. There are no cosmic pats on the back, saying good job. Often, we sit with our journals filled with undecipherable scribble, burned down candles, and empty incense boxes wondering when our manifestations will rain down upon us.
Here’s the irony:
Without much notice, the fruits of my work have already arrived.
During a retreat this past summer, I met friends who are now helping to create a mindful art community. My labor has inspired others, and in turn, many others will be inspired, which leads to further inspiring me. In this, I can rejoice. I no longer need to meditate and create in solitude—I now have a community.
What we produce through the year is more than just a material piece of art, a chord of music, or a written piece. We are forming bonds, whether they are with people in our community or by sharing with strangers across the globe. How often, when we’re glued to our own businesses and our own challenges, do we take the time to realize all the benefits not just to ourselves, but to others?
And yet, thoughts arise about what I didn’t achieve this year and the work I still need to do. Where is my artistic and financial success? Where is the love of my life? Did I fail to harvest all that I desired?
If we look at our lives as a garden, we understand some fruits and vegetables have a longer gestation period. It takes a couple of years to get an abundant crop of delicious strawberries. We must understand that some of the things we desire need more time to cultivate. Just because a gardener only receives a few ripe strawberries doesn’t mean they will give up and thrash the entire bush. They allow this season’s fruits to become next season’s fertilizer to grow even stronger. What they grew this year—what they harvested and what they let return to the earth the winter season—reaps greater bountiful harvests in the future.
This is how we can learn to cultivate our lives—we celebrate our harvest and let the rest become next season’s fertilizer.
Although, as I write about the benefits of harvest, it is challenging to rest and understand what that means. Do I stop writing? Do I stop painting? Do I call it quits and camp out on my couch until January 2nd, 2018?
That would be impossible. I would become a madder woman than I already am. It is creating that keeps me sane.
So, I had to stop and think: how do we rejoice in our achievements without going totally off the grid?
When I thought of those farmers in days gone by, they often celebrated with a big feast and then worked to preserve their harvest for the coming dark winter months. After celebrating with friends, how do we preserve our emotional, mental, and spiritual harvests that don’t have material value? Preserving our personal growth through the year may be hard to quantify.
What this calls for is a different type of work, one we are not used to doing. It’s the work of gratitude, giving thanks for all we received throughout the year, counting the blessings instead of the short-comings in our life, and most importantly, resting.
We take time for appreciation, not just for our creations and those we inspired, but for ourselves. We did it. We worked hard. Now it’s time to enjoy until 2018 calls us for our next challenging adventures.
Author: Jennifer Ott
Image: Tracy Ducasse/Flickr
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Copy Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Social Editor: Waylon Lewis