Archives for Work-Life Balance
When was the last time you rested? Truly just put aside some time – a minute or an hour – to do whatever it is that recharges you. And what is that for you anyway? What does rest look like - for you? Is it kicking back and taking the phone off the hook and just breathing in the sun? Or do you rest best while you’re mindfully engaged in some activity - like maybe gardening or cooking or drawing or something else - where your mind can get involved just enough in the minute-by-minute process that it can let go of holding onto everything else? Rest seems underrated sometimes. Misconstrued. Painted in the colours of lazy or unambitious. And then compared to the razzle dazzle ‘importance’ that busyness likes to decorate itself in. But maybe rest is at least as important as busyness…
Have you forgotten your phone anywhere lately? Accidentally left it behind somewhere, until you realised you "needed" it? And it wasn’t there? (I just did). It’s amazing how much daily living can be kind of woven through this little device. Pixellated inside it. So seemingly handy. And yet… When you’re without your phone, are there other parts of your life that you’re more with? If you forget it, do you remember you? (And what might that tell you?)
Well, how did that happen? It’s February already… So maybe you’re already right back into the swing of things, drawn back to the thousand appointments and meetings and obligations calling your name - just like all these little Post-it notes stuck to the window in the photo, above, practically obscuring the person who put them there. All that stuff that wants to be done. Now. (Or maybe even wanted to be done by January…) How do you approach it all? Whether it’s your salaried work or your parenting or managing your health or keeping up with friends and family (and somewhere in there, also living the rest of your life). How do you do it? Do you multitask? Throw a few things in together and return to a juggling routine you maybe know all too well? Maybe it feels like you do. But do you really? What if some of the research thinks that’s impossible?
I came across a little piece of eternity the other day (there it is in the photo, above). Or, more precisely, it came across me. Tumbling towards me on the footpath. Blowin’ in the wind*. Ok, so it was also just a loose page of a newspaper, blowing around the street, with an advertisement on it featuring a stone angel pointing towards a single word: “Eternity.” Just a banal moment of dodging some floating flotsam on my way home. And a bit of a wake-up call. What do you do when eternity comes barreling right down the street at you? I picked it up. And could suddenly feel my heart beating. I took it with me. What will you do with yours? (Your eternity). (Your heart).
This little duck (in the photo, above) was swimming in the clouds in my local park this morning, rippling the upside-down sky in the pond. It’s moments like these I want to remember to see. To live. To pause and breathe into in the midst of the day. That’s about as close to a New Year’s Resolution as I got this year. Just to stop. To look. And to remember to see the small stuff. And this morning there seemed plenty around to see: little crystalline moments of inexplicability that you can climb into and rest in if you just get down to their level. Do you want that sometimes?
So much is unknown about this mystery we like to call “life.” We have our theories and ideas about it, our values and beliefs that may help guide us through it, but watertight certainty about any of it is hard to find. Except for one thing: This is probably the only time your life will be lived. Just think about that for a moment... This is the only time when your unique talents and abilities and yearnings and experiences and even your pain can mix together in quite this way. It’s more than just the chance of a lifetime… So it’s also probably the only time your dreams have a chance to be lived out in quite the way that you – and only you – could live them. So will you let them live?
I have a love-hate relationship with one of the major therapies endorsed by psychology today: cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Both as a therapist, and as a client, I know it can work. It can bring fast relief in acute times. So it's a good thing to have in your inner toolbox when you're working with the challenges life can throw you. In a (very small) nutshell, CBT asks you to question your thoughts, and the beliefs that underpin them. It asks you to have another look at the way you've got things set up in your mind. To see if the conclusions that it's so easy to jump to in the heat of the moment are actually even real or right. To renovate the interior of your inner-most home. And it has a few user-friendly formulas to do it with. Which all sounds great, right? But something about CBT also irritates me. Because it seems a bit patronising, sometimes, to be sort of "taught" to "un-think" or un-learn your so-called "negative thoughts." To sort of shuffle things around in your skull to just think a little differently. Sometimes that seems a bit fake. A bit try-hard. A bit rose-tinted glasses goody-two-shoes to suggest that there are "right ways" and "wrong" ways to think. But then I have to remind myself that there's also a whole lot more to CBT than just hoodwinking yourself with word games and tricky thinking. For at another level, this seemingly formulaic therapy can also reflect elements of much deeper, much older wisdoms such as: "You are not your thoughts" (which I once heard spoken by a Buddhist monk on the radio). What do you think about that idea?
You are not a machine. You’re mortal. Organic. You don’t come in a shape that will always easily slot into all the timetables and schedules and systems that beckon. That's probably no surprise. (And yet how many demands do you put on yourself sometimes?) So there might be times when you can’t “keep on keeping on,” or where maybe you don’t always have the energy to “push on through.” Where it’s not always so easy to “just do it.” Times, instead, where you might need to rest. Replenish. Respect the boundaries of your humanness – perfectly imperfect just as it is – and simply restore the balance a little. To stop treating yourself like the machine that you’re not…
I came home tired the other day - flat. Feeling the pressure of all the tasks I "should" be doing. Hearing the list of responsibilities that were calling my name. The weight of obligation over pleasure or rest. When things start to feel like this, I tend to put my head down, my blinkers on and just keep ploughing through. It's as though there's no time to stop and breathe - that somehow I don't "deserve" to just yet. And life turns into a dead to-do list or a string of endless homework. Have you ever felt a bit like that? And then, as I unlatched the gate to home, something broke that spell. A simple flower. Or, actually, a rather complex one (the one in the photos). The way it was just blossoming all over the place, white spilling out purple and yellow, literally brought me to my senses again. It invited me to look closer: • at its petals and patterns • at this moment of light and colour and scent • at life as it is just now. So, in a way, it was mindfulness in action. And that's the thing about mindfulness. It's nothing "special." Yet it's immensely potent. It can reconnect you to a sense of the sacred even in the middle of the mundane. It's something you can tap into at any moment you like. And it can add untold fathoms of depth to even the flattest of days. How?
You know those times when the same message keeps on turning up in your life? Over and over? Where you keep recognising the same idea in many different places (and you know you could apply it to yourself)? Well, I’m having one of those times. And the message is about editing. Cutting back. Slicing off the excess to leave some empty space. To leave more room for simply living. (Something in me relaxes even just thinking about it – how about you?) So let’s have a look together for a moment and see what you might have to gain by losing some things…