Head in my hands, I was raw and broken. This wasn’t what I had imagined my life to be. I was alone, packing up my Columbia Park house, quivering with anxiety and overwhelm. Staring at a bookshelf filled with books that had supported me for years, I didn’t know which one to pick up or who to turn to. I was struggling to move my daughter and I out of the life I had built and into unknown territory. I felt like a failure and I was terrified about where my life would lead.
My fear around asking for help means I’ve often found myself reading books, training or listening to podcasts – seeking any words or advice that might help me. Although education has always been an important part of my journey, in retrospect what I needed most in the above situation was friends: in my living room, helping, supporting and watching me as I packed my life up and started unravelling. But I was too scared to ask for help, or possibly, I didn’t know how.
We have access to countless books, videos and courses on self growth, spirituality, yoga, theologies, and a myriad of mindfulness practices. It’s a spectacular time. With opinions swirling, teachers spread their convictions and trainings; there is an endless supply of health products designed to make us feel better. Finding our way through these mountains of information and products can feel overwhelming.
How do you know when you’ve had enough? Enough reading, self-exploration, plant medicine, meditation retreats, gurus, essential oils, supplements and body work? How do you know when to take a break from your self-work and allow yourself to live the ‘work’. When is it time to call in your friends and have some good old fashion conversation without ‘self-help’?
Maybe this is all new to you, and it’s an interesting read as you move toward self-work and self-awareness. But what if you’ve been using self-work as a distraction? What if body work, products and theologies have made you codependent on the outer world when what you need is to develop your inner world, one that is built with patience, a slower pace and quiet moments.
For those busy bodies out there, I’m not suggesting you sit under the bodhi tree for hours at a time. I’m saying learn how to slow down. When you get in your car in the morning, spend 30 seconds taking deep breaths and orientating yourself to your environment. When you feel overwhelm, take five minutes, outside or inside, to get quiet, drink tea without your phone and just be with yourself. When your kids are telling you stories about their day, put down the basket of laundry and sit beside them and listen. Finding ways to calm any part of the rushing and doing part of your life habits will bring some of the biggest gifts.
Mindful practices, wellness products and quiet time away are not baloney, but if we depend on them to create ease in our bodies we are setting ourselves up for failure. We only have today, not six months from now when we’re going away on retreat. We use practices like yoga and nutrition to create a healthy physical body. But if we’re constantly ‘doing’ instead of ‘being’, we will never reach peace. We will always be chasing it.
It turns out that when I was living that way – constantly pushing myself – it slowed my process and caused tension and resistance in my body and mind. When I’m forcing an outcome, whether it’s rushing the integration of my self-growth work or pushing against a situation, I lose the moment. When I slow down and soften, I can create peace in the ‘now’.
There is so much information, there are times when you will reach a saturation point. Getting quiet and taking time to identify what feels good in your life will bring peace. There’s so much information available, and just because someone claims it is true doesn’t mean that it is – or at least, maybe not for you. If you learn the art of slowing down, the things you need most in your life will come to you.
This life is an individual journey. It’s not about timelines and check boxes. It’s easy to get caught in self work and use codependency to teachers, products and practices to feel at peace. I’m not dismissing your choices, I’m suggesting that learning to be present in a single moment can be far more gratifying than chasing how you want to look or feel in the future. You only have this moment, as Eckhart Tolle says; ‘You cannot find yourself in the past or future. The only place where you can find yourself is in the Now.’