Climbing off Your Hamster Wheel

Have you ever had one of those moments when you realized that you were so busy you literally didn’t know what to do next because it ALL had to get done NOW? (Insert head exploding sounds here.)

I just had one.

My summer turned maniacally busy without me noticing (not a pretty picture, I know). I’ve been head-down developing new courses and content, helping two nearly adult children through huge transitions…oh, and a garden full of feral tomatoes. YIKES!

When the busyness first started spiraling out I adapted, of course. Vigorous multitasking, tight schedules, days structured with near military precision, delegating, daily practice of connecting to the earth, exercising and eating (mostly) well.

And then… BOOM! Leaving me wondering, “I’m doing everything I’m supposed to. So why did my head just explode?”

Ahhh…in the question lies the answer. I’m doing what I’m supposed to. And, I’m doing it with my head. Hmmm…

In the wake of my explosion, I dropped everything and went and sat on the earth. Breathing gently, I realigned with my ecosystem and my own inner wisdom and rediscovered my presence. Not as a structured component of my morning routine, but in the moment – as a lived experience of NOW. I sensed, again, the steady stream of connection we all have to the wisdom of natural living systems and followed it home to myself.

Within 30 minutes of sitting with and in this deep presence, I had insights into three issues that had been consuming tons of my time and head-space: hours saved because I stopped doing, started being and reconnected my head with my heart, and the wisdom of the earth. So simple…and so powerful.

So why did my head explode when I was doing the right stuff?

Walking the nature trail near my home, I observed how I slipped in and out of presence. Sometimes I was moving along the path present, aware and alive to the life around me. Sometimes I was powering along the path, focused on the goal of getting home.

Both ways of responding seemed perfectly reasonable given how busy life is. Yet I had to ask myself:

• Is my purpose really best served by being focused on my goal & powering down the path?
• Or, is my purpose best served when I hold my goal in my awareness like a seed in an oyster – when I move through my world present to all possibilities, gathering their beauty and strength to add to the growing pearl?

What do you think?

I get that this is a delicate balance. That climbing off a hamster wheel takes cultivating a state of presence and awareness that can be challenging to maintain especially when life explodes and you are having a “stay on top of everything” reaction. If the results of my own 30 minutes of presence is any indicator, it’s utterly worth the effort.

Here are the simple steps to cultivating a state of deep presence:

• Stop doing
• Start being (often easier to accomplish when supported by nature)
• Connect your head with your heart (mindfulness practices are helpful here)
• Recognize you are present (ditto)
• Stay with that feeling (inhale…exhale…many times)
• Repeat process as needed throughout the day to stay present

It’s definitely a balance well worth cultivating.

Tracie Nichols writes poetry and facilitates group writing experiences from under the wide reach of two old Sycamore trees in southeastern Pennsylvania. She is the co-founder of the Embodied Writers writing group and a Transformative Language Artist helping women write themselves home. You can find Tracie on her website.

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