So often in this modern life we are go, go, GO.
Always feeling like we need to be doing more, accomplishing more, taking care of everything.
We hold ourselves to impossibly high standards of having our shit together, which requires juggling 10 things at the same time.
We’ve gotten to the point of feeling guilty if we’re stopping for just a wee bit to catch our breath.
If we’re not being productive around our professional lives, we should be out with friends, or with a partner, or at the gym, or working on a project, or taking care of the kids, or learning something new.
Where is the time to even take a shower, one that isn’t rushed?
There’s a certain guilt that comes up, if we’re not always on.
At least where I live, in New York City, people pride themselves on being busy. It means they are important with important things to get done.
But this post isn’t just about busyness and the need to slow down and have moments of self-care.
Even if we don’t put it into practice, all of us have an idea that we need to be doing that for ourselves.
What I’m writing about today, is the idea that we should always be ‘on’ (meaning on the way upward), when the most natural thing is for things in life to fluctuate between going ‘up’ and going ‘down.’
Have you ever noticed that there’s an inhale and an exhale to each breath? Like, really noticed?
Could you keep inhaling over and over and over and over without exhaling? How long could you do that for?
Or have you noticed that the moon has phases, and the year has seasons?
These are not just things that are, but things that point to a natural order of things: things are born, they grow, they decay, they die… then they are recycled in some way and the cycle starts again.
But in this modern life we have this idea that we should always, ALWAYS, be at the peak.
Always at the top or, at the very least, on our way there.
It’s not just improbable to live like this, but actually impossible.
It’s not natural, and we run ourselves to the ground. We make ourselves stressed, and later sick, and then dead, emotionally, spiritually and in some occasions even physically.
This is not just unsustainable, but it makes us miserable.
We’re not very good at being with the experiences of things going south, and the experiences of being in that death/rebirth space.
We resist it.
Things are great until we get to the peak, and then as soon as we start feeling ourselves sliding down, we freak out and think something is very very wrong.
We desperately try to get back up, fighting against what’s natural, which is incredibly depleting because we’re swimming against the current of what is happening.
Nothing is wrong.
It’s just the nature of things that what goes up comes down, and then goes up again, and so on.
If we didn’t resist the down and the transitional space, we would find that it is very regenerative to let ourselves be down without judgment.
We would find that, while this space of uncertainty can be a bit uncomfortable, especially when others around us seem to be moving ahead at full speed, it actually feels good to let ourselves gather our energy inwards to build the foundation of what wants to be birthed next.
And we would also find that, if we stopped resisting, we would go back up a lot more effortlessly once we went through the contraction and let ourselves come back up the other side.
The down is what builds the momentum.
When you find yourself going past the peak and starting the slide down, throw your hands up in the air and enjoy the plunge the same way you would on a rollercoaster.
Trust the cycle of nature and let yourself relax into the slope. Know that just as you’re going down, you’ll come back up.
You’ll come to a space of what feels like waiting, a space that is full of not knowing and, yes, it can be a bit unsettling.
Let yourself soak in that dark, in the uncertainty of that potential state.
I won’t say it’s easy.
Society trains us to think we should be doing the complete opposite, that we should be taking more action to get back up instead of letting the cycle complete.
But it’s so very worth it, because you won’t be fragmenting yourself into the part that needs the down and the part that’s working hard to get back up.
Instead, you will come out the other side whole, and that wholeness means you can put yourself 100% behind whatever actions the next growth period requires.
Here are some tips to make your way through the regenerative phase with less freakout and more ease.
The negative bias of our mind is what has kept our species alive for thousands of years. This means that our mind is conditioned to find problems, even when there aren’t any.
But as the saying goes, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’
Remind yourself that there is nothing wrong with having periods of feeling lost, unclear, or confused. We all go through them from time to time, and there’s no shame in that.
2. Breathe and develop trust in the process
When your mind is trying to tell you how much more you need to be doing, that you need to figure things out now, take a deep breath and repeat #1 to yourself until you can accept that you’re exactly where you need to be right now.
3. Get curious
Get in touch with that part of yourself that can sense the little threads of what wants to happen next, even if they aren’t in full focus yet.
Get curious about those threads, and follow their lead.
Maybe you want to experiment with photography, or want to learn more about physics, or feel like starting a new exercise regimen.
We don’t know where these things will lead, but following those threads will slowly lead you towards the right next direction for you, we just don’t know how it all comes together yet.
The ‘how’ doesn’t matter, as long as you get curious about what wants to be explored and follow the clues.
4. Get support
Because we all learn the same go, go, GO mentality, it’s likely that your friends and loved ones will be urging you to get your shit together before you’re ready.
They want to help you and support you in your happiness, but don’t understand that this is not the kind of support you need at this time. That this kind of support stresses you out, paralyzes you, makes you feel like shit, and actually stalls the process.
Explain to them that you’re ok (or trying to get ok) with where you are and feel this is a time to explore new things and see where they lead. They might understand, or maybe not.
If not, find people who will and surround yourself with people who will support you and accept you as you are in this transition.
5. Beware from comparison despair
Again, your mind will look around and try to find all the ways in which you’re a fuck up so that it can solve the problem.
One of those ways is looking at what others are doing, and comparing yourself to them.
Remind yourself that you have no clue what’s actually going on behind the scenes for those people. For all you know, they might be just as insecure as you are feeling right now. They might even be comparing themselves to you!
What’s more, it doesn’t matter. Remember point #1: we all go through phases of ups and downs. Just because that person is up right now doesn’t mean anything. You’ve also been up, and now you’re down, and you’ll be up again.
6. Keep a journal
Let all of your thoughts out, judgmental or not, onto paper.
This helps loosen their charge, making it easier to let them go. It’s also useful because we can look back later on and see the patterns of ups and downs, which help us to trust the process more easily next time we’re on the downswing.
7. Pleasure and self-care
Throughout this whole period, when you’re not having a clear sense of direction yet, make sure you’re taking good care of yourself by finding pleasurable activities that bring you joy and/or relaxation.
Read a book, go to the spa, go out with friends… Don’t deprive yourself of joy just because you are not at the peak.
Let things emerge, gently, slowly, patiently.
This process might take a few hours, a few days, or a few years, but the more you resist and try to get back up before it’s time, the longer it will take.
No, we certainly haven’t built our modern lives, cities and economies in agreement with this process, but it’s our responsibility to build a world that is.
For our sake, for the sake of our children, the planet, and all life.
We cannot keep denying the cycles of nature.
Or Nature, being wise, will create her own balance without our cooperation, and come and bite us in the ass in the shape of a breakdown, depression, disease or sudden death.