Having time off from my paid work, time at home and away, is such a gift. Sinking in to that space allows me to be wholly mindful in a way that I don’t seem to manage otherwise, and I learn so much from it.
I committed myself this week to doing a whole “Review, Reflect, and Resolve” project, but found myself getting irritated, and tired, and frustrated, and anxious–not at all the experience I’d expected. It was taking too long, wasn’t going as smoothly as I had imagined, and I felt scattered and unfocused–until I realized why: I have been blogging about my “life rehab” here, and this has been an ongoing process of reviewing, reflecting, and resolving my life. I have already taken steps, I am already doing the work, and there’s no need to separate that out as a special, isolated practice because it is, all of it, MY LIFE.
And yet, it’s good to be clear and mindful, about who you are, what you value, where your particular strengths are, what you have to offer, how you can help, and what you want your life to look like. And when you are connected directly to that, when you absolutely embody who you are and what you value, there’s no need to make any other special statement about it. Instead you simply sink into it and rest–it’s where you live. As Leo Babauta suggested in his post “Quashing the Self-Improvement Urge,” we can let go of goals and projects and improvement, and “instead…be happy with ourselves,” what he calls a “revolution of contentment.”
I didn’t completely abandon my review, reflect, and resolve, but I have reframed it. I am putting pages into the 2012 weekly planner Eric got me to be able to carry a physical reminder with me, of who I am and what I value and what I hope to manifest. I am so excited for the possibility and transformation of the new year, and think this “book” I am making will remind and inspire me when I need it. What I’ve learned while being on vacation is that to approach a year of “retreat,” I need to remember the qualities of retreat I hope to manifest: practice, balance, rest, and transformation.
I’ve been reminded that I need to make time to tend my body: eat, shower, sleep, exercise, meditate, do yoga, walk with the dogs, spend time with Eric.
I’ve been reminded that I need to make time to tend to my spirit: meditate, do yoga, walk with my dogs, study and read, be creative, write.
I’ve been reminded that I need to make time to tend my heart: served most effectively when there is balance in the way I tend the other two, because in that way/those ways, I am generating and manifesting love and kindness towards myself, but I’m also practicing keeping my heart open, being mindful, vulnerable, present, and brave. I am able to connect my core values (kindness, bravery, silliness, creativity, curiosity, and presence) directly to my actions.
You might wonder where “mind” is on my list of things to tend. I have come to understand that concept (through my study and practice of Buddhist principles) that the brain is an organ of the body, so would be part of what you are referring to when you talk of that physical collective. The “mind” or consciousness is centered with, and directly connected to the heart. Together, they join wisdom (mind) and compassion (heart) in a single, central location. This space is our fundamental nature, our basic goodness–who we “really” are, underneath, before, and beyond anything else. So when I referred to “heart” earlier, I meant heart-mind.
For my year of Retreat, my resolve is to sink into my practices, know and manifest my core values, be open-hearted and brave, have faith in a sacred alignment between what I want and what I have to offer, be mindful of my middle path (the pause and the gap, balance and freedom), rest and restore and rehab. Transformation is one element that has special meaning to me, as I realized the other day that every butterfly is first a pupa in a cocoon–fat, soft, round, vulnerable, and completely still. You simply cannot transform and grow wings without that time in stasis, and therefore, you must retreat if you are looking to transform. Yes, I might feel a bit sad or even embarrassed by my blobby, fat, slow self while the rest of the world is happily crawling around chewing on stuff, or floating in the sky on their beautiful wings, but I have to remember I am exactly where I should be, things are unfolding just as they should. It is right, true, and completely natural.
Just like savasana pose in yoga, this quiet and stillness and surrender is necessary to integrate the body and mind with the practice, to assimilate and process the practice into an embodied whole. In the same way, off the mat, deep change needs a balance of deep rest and contemplation to allow our innate wisdom to work, for integration to happen.
In between inhalation and exhalation,
In between joy and pain,
In between remembering and forgetting,
In between who we think we are and reality,
There is a pause.
Seek refuge there.