Grace here. I am looking out my window at the second largest maple tree in the state of Washington. This beautiful tree serves as my reminder of the ebb and flow of life. Every spring it bursts forth with new leaves and new life. Transforming our yard with color and bringing the whirly-gigs that prick my toes. It reminds me of the search for new life and new opportunities. The amount of energy that must be required for a tree this size to leaf out like this boggles my mind.
All summer it refuels itself through photosynthesis (again at such a massive scale) before suspending energy output as fall brings the changing colors and huge piles of leaves fall to nourish the roots (and our souls as we jump into them). Winter comes and the tree rests, preparing for the spring burst. All deciduous trees do this but there is something about the size of this tree that makes it even more apparent.
Our tree reminds me to find my own rhythm of rest and work. My pace may be different from the maple tree’s but our spiraling needs of work and rest are similar. Trees need this phase of dormancy to be healthy and, I believe, so do humans. This is, perhaps, partly why it is so important to get a good night’s sleep and why we need to build in time for rest and rejuvenation into our day, week, month, and year if we want to be healthy.
The truth is our bodies and minds crave this undulating pace and yet modern life encourages us to live with a non-stop, go-go-go mentality. Our culture overvalues the drive to push forward and undervalues rest. This mentality makes it hard for us to allow ourselves to live at a pace that responds to all of our various needs. A recent article from the American Institute of Stress showed that 26% of people feel burnt out always or often and that 80% of people feel their jobs are stressful. We are driving ourselves into the ground with our frenetic pace. What if we were all able to find our own pace and rhythm that honors both our drive for productivity and our need for dormancy?
I find it no surprise that the majority of us get sick in the winter. There are many reasons for that, I’m sure; but what if one of the reasons is we simply aren’t following what the natural rhythms of the Earth. What if we get sick because we aren’t resting enough. I know I find it easier to sleep later during the long, dark winter mornings. I typically want to crawl into bed earlier, too. What if these desires are my body’s way of saying “Hey, listen up. I’m tired and now’s an extra good time to rest.” I know if I allow myself extra sleep I still get done all the things I actually need to get done, they just get done at a different pace. Pressuring myself to do more doesn’t seem to help me get more done. Being honest about my needs actually helps me be productive and it helps me to discern what actually needs my energy and what doesn’t.
My need to rest more and interact less with others (which seems to correlate almost exactly with the onset of winter), helps me live a more resilient life. With full coffers, I am much more able to respond to life rather than wildly reacting like I was putting out brush fires. My energy is more effective when put where it is needed. Things calm down. Easing into my own natural rhythms brings incredible peace.
It makes me think of something Herbalist Rebecca Altman said during her interview for last year’s Stress Buster’s Summit. She mused about what modern life would have been like if we had all gotten addicted to Tulsi (aka Holy Basil) instead of Coffee. Tulsi provides a more sustained and grounded energy as opposed to the frenetic energy of coffee. What if we all were living at a sustainable pace that supported both productivity and rest? Breathe in, breathe out.
For myself, I know that I get the most done when I have a generally consistent pace that is not overwhelming but still flexible enough to allow me to work extra hard when needed or rest up when needed. You may have noticed this pattern in our flow here at The Seven Tools as we ramped up to host the summit last November and then followed it with a resting breath as we recuperated and spent time with the family for the holidays.
Conventional marketing advice would have suggested we immediately engage with the new people on our list. We do want to engage you (new and established people alike). We want you to see that we have amazing content to share. And, we want to keep working because we have so many big dreams for the next phase of our business.
But, we were honestly tired. The summit was a huge production for our little family business. And, then it was the holidays and we really value spending time with our family and creating traditions for the next generation. For us to be sustainable in this business we need to work at a pace that works for all facets of our lives. We trusted that if you were interested in what we are offering that you would be interested in it after our rest as well. We know how important it is for us to walk our talk and that means listening to our inner wisdoms too.
And so, as we enter this New Year (New Decade!), I would love to encourage you to schedule less, to allow yourself more rest. Choose to actively rest and then listen to what your inner wisdom whispers to you when you are taking these quiet moments. It doesn’t mean that you don’t have to go to work or show up for you family, but consciously claim a few moments for yourself too...a warm bath before bed, an extra hour of sleep on the weekends. Allow yourself these moments of grace. Perhaps even remind yourself that rest is an action verb and put it on your to-do list if you need the reminder. Rest isn’t something that takes away from productivity and a meaningful life. It is as essential to our survival, our health, and our productivity as the dormancy phase is to a deciduous tree.