By Eric Grey
It’s practically cliché to mention how fast things are moving in the world these days.
We’re all aware of it. In the last couple of years, there’s even been increased attention paid to the phenomenon in the news, among business teachers and business owners, in best selling books and on countless sites on the Internet.
We know we need to slow down.
We know that we are happier, healthier, and more productive when we leave time for rest and recuperation.
There’s a snag, though. When asked, most business owners who have embraced this principle will crow with pride about how they have reclaimed their weekends. Finally out of the office a couple of days a week, they find space for family, friends, and usually an uncomfortably long list of errands.
Now, don’t get me wrong – this is a victory!
If you have managed to find time in your schedule for rest where previously there was almost none – you should be patting yourself on the back. Acknowledging this need and then going beyond “knowing” to “doing” is a huge step.
But there’s more to honoring the yin than taking a couple of days off. The difficult reality is that most of us need a lot more time off than this – particularly if we are doing knowledge work, pushing our brains to the breaking point.
We need to find space in our daily, weekly, monthly AND annual schedules for real, uninterrupted downtime.
We need to do this consistently and with a real honoring of the concept. This isn’t another technique. It’s not a business technique. It’s an investment in yourself – and that investment is very likely to result in increased productivity and focus in the work you’re doing in the world.
A good first step in digging into these cycles is to ask yourself some simple questions. Careful – the point of these questions isn’t to increase anxiety and feelings of guilt or low self-worth. Remember – you’re part of a culture, and that culture is going a million miles a minute. You’re hard at work, probably doing something you love (even if that’s “just” a side-job). This isn’t a place to be buried by stress and guilt.
These questions are doorways towards a different way of thinking about how you order time in your life and work – nothing more. Why not write your answers in longhand on some nice paper with a pen.
Let this be your recording of the answers that help you take the first step towards a deep freedom.
- Daily cycles: How much time do you give yourself in a single day to rest, relax, daydream and play? How do you wake up in the morning? Do you give yourself time to watch the sun rise? Time to talk to your kids and other loved ones? Time to take the dog for a walk? How long is your workday? When do you take breaks to stretch, drink water, look at the world around you, talk to someone off the computer? When do you close up shop for the day? How often do you run over your own self-imposed limits for how much you’ll work in a day? How much time do you give yourself away from technology, from the demands of work?
- Weekly cycles: Have you reached the triumph of a weekend? Maybe a three day weekend? Are you aware of your “hump day” and how to approach it? How’s your energy at the beginning of the week versus the middle and the end? Do you give yourself rewards or gifts for significant wins? Howabout insignificant ones? Do you feel like you’re waiting your whole week for your weekend? Do you feel like you’re waiting your whole weekend for your week? Do you have a “Sabbath” day – sacred time away from all types of work?
- Monthly cycles: Are you aware of the moon’s phases as they cycle through? If you menstruate, do you notice how your energy ebbs and flows as your hormones shift? Do you take time when those shifts put you into a space of more introspection and less busy? If you do not menstruate, know that you, too, likely have monthly fluctuations of hormones – do you notice them? Are you aware of the different energy of the days as our sun grows stronger and weaker, as the patterns of weather shift and change? Do you do anything to honor these shifts, or at least take time to be outside and really notice them?
- Annual cycles: Do you honor the New Year? Do you pay attention to the Chinese calendar and it’s recognition of the different energy of different years? How are you about making space for holidays? For other special times in the year – be they natural (solstice, equinox) or social (birthdays and the like)? Do you give yourself any time to reflect on the year that has passed and plan for the next one? How much time? Do you notice special natural events like meteor showers? Do you take time out to enjoy each beautiful season?
Any and all of these cycles should be considered and, where possible and desirable, worked into your life. For many, it can seem overwhelming. It can also seem impossible – how in the world will you get any work done with all of this resting and relaxing?
But, remember, the potential energy generated by rest and relaxation is a necessary precursor to effective action. How well does a canoe move forward with only the forward stroke of the paddle?
How well does a plant do that grows towards a distant sun source without cease? How well does an athlete do who works out, practices and competes every hour of every day?
Make no mistake – it can take TIME to work these principles into your life.
It could take months, years, even a decade before you realize that you’re returning to a state of relative balance and peace. It may take that long to see real “results” in your body, your mind and your business.
You WILL see those results however, and probably sooner than you fear. The more you learn about how to do this well, the more help you have in implementation, the more you can settle into the process, the quicker the good things happen.
So, give yourself a gift this year – a gift of matching the pace of your cycles to that of nature, not industry.
A gift of patience with yourself and the process. I can’t promise the results will be instant – but I can promise they will be revolutionary.
About the Author: Eric Grey is a practitioner of Chinese medicine who has an intense passion to dig deeply into the traditions of Chinese medicine to find effective, truly holistic solutions for common health problems. He lets his passion for traditional knowledge guide him in the pursuit of his passion to see people happy, healthy, and thriving.