Cultivating Play and Rest – letting go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth.
For this past month of July I have gifted myself rest and play in a way that I have not felt or even noticed to be necessary before. I have had a slow, deep, growing sense that my body, mind, and soul have been longing for the letting go of needing to do anything, even meditate or read or write, letting go of needing to be any particular way. Having often felt somewhat “less than” in my productivity, having not brought in the “money,” this is a permission to reconnect to myself in a new way. A letting go of needing to produce anything. And in that I have been met with a mind chatter that has attempted to continue to drive an incessant need for doing and being and showing up in ways that are externally driven, strangling any young shoots of creative flourishing. Even as these voices are mine alone.
Discussing life’s goals and purposes with one of my children, we explored how the choices seem to be presented as succeeding either at “life”, the external orientation of success, or at “love”, the internal orientation of success, and that it can be challenging and difficult to reconcile the two. That many of us who are parents perhaps wish our children to experience the internal orientation of success and love what they do and who they are, but then become anxious when the external manifestations of success are not obvious. Even my own journey this past year has attracted some discomfort for daring to step off the external success orientation road, choosing instead to listen deeply to my own internal longing and not succumb to the panic that that orientation may not provide adequately. This fear contributes to external success becoming the focus, with exhaustion the necessary byproduct and consequent status symbol, and productivity the currency of self-worth. In this manner we continue on an ever increasing trajectory of busyness that may feed neither our longing for love nor satisfy our desire for success.
This past month of rest and letting go of the need to do anything at all other than be with my family and have a summer holiday in preparation for the year ahead has shown me how necessary play and rest are. How I have craved the permission to do nothing and be nobody in particular other than myself. It returns me daily to the simple practice of gratitude. It is the practice of not needing to have anything more for this moment to be perfect. It is knowing that this moment is all there really is.
So in the month ahead make some space to rest and to play, and examine the role of exhaustion and productivity as self-worth in your own lives. David Whyte describes being taught by a dear friend that the antidote to exhaustion is wholeheartedness. I am beginning to consider that the antidote to exhaustion may also be gratitude. As I find myself practicing gratitude in the tiniest slivers of time, the hidden moments of my life, I find my exhaustion lifting and lightening.
In ending I offer some simple musings from one of my journals earlier this year. Musings on the question: Why is it healing to ‘be’, to ‘rest here’? Perhaps it may evoke some musings for you?
Resting is breathing,
Stopping, being here.
Breathing is being alive in its most fundamental and natural rhythm.
Breathing washes through the whole body and via the Vagus nerve plugging into the diaphragm, lungs, heart, nervous system, brain. Slowing everything down.
Breathing brings oxygen into every smallest imagined and unimagined part of the body.
Resting in breathing
Breathing is being
Being is acknowledging life at its most mystical