Slow down the River (Part 1)
I know you know that life is more than being “busy”. But how does that look on a day to day basis?
Today I share a concept that has been more than a year in the making. Along with 10 simple practices to give you the power to make every day reflect way more than just being busy.
What will you gain by adopting even one of these practices? Well, honey, you gain your SELF. Sanity, more smiles, and better sleep. Not too mention regular wading into delight. Doesn’t THAT sound good?!
Have you heard the saying, Don’t Push the River (It Flows by Itself)?
The saying is credited as a Zen proverb.
I am not one to argue with Zen proverbs, nor in any way comment on the mesmerizing and immense soul work of Barry Stevens in her book of the same title.
However, I propose that we can Slow Down the River. This is not really pushing the river, but acknowledges our power to create and shape our lives.
For most of us, the River is our Day to Day life, and it pushes us along with its demands. Actually I should say, our perception of its demands. Do you feel like you create your day, or your list and shoulds create your day? Does the flow of your day move along so it naturally has peace or ease?
Last year I taught an 8 week course called Mind of a Guide three times. It works with understanding the flow of a river and applying it for confidence, energy, and creativity in your everyday life. In short, it is an invitation to cultivate sanity amidst your ridiculously busy life. Over the year I started thinking more and more about the river aspect. The question that came up was, could I actually change the pace of the river? Could I impact not only my experience of the river AS it WAS, but also, impact the river itself?
An additional year of gently working with this idea has brought me to a yes. We play a part in creating the river.
In early July I bought Dr. Libby Weaver’s book Rushing Woman’s Syndrome. I didn’t actually buy it as a rushing woman (I thought). In fact, I consider myself a recovered rushing woman.
But as I read her introduction, I realized that I have a few quite clear signposts of a rushing woman. Still. For example, I often wake in the middle of the night and will be unable to get back to sleep for a couple of hours. And, I so look forward to my cup of black tea in the morning and have put an entire ritual around this moment. Get the kids off to school, take care of the animals on the property, do the kitchen dishes, and 9:00 am, cup of tea time. Complete with goat’s milk and a sit outside on our deck watching whatever is unfolding in the day. Just wouldn’t be the same with rooibos or peppermint tea. Or would it?
In river language, rapids are classed according to difficulty and consequence. Consequence means how bad it might hurt if you don’t get where you want to go within the rapid. The system I grew up with ran from Class I (slow flow but no white water or rapids) to Class VI (highly consequential, considered unrunnable). From more than 30 years of being around the river industry I can tell you that while the classification has not changed, a great deal that used to be unrunnable is now run quite frequently.
When I was guiding, I usually worked in the Class III-IV range. This is fun for a commercial trip, without being too consequential, or even requiring a very high degree of skill from the crew (although it did make things easier).
Somehow for most of my adult life, I realize that most of my Day to Day Life has been on a Class III or Class IV river, with some big shots of Class V thrown in. For me, in terms of the pace of my day, I know that Class II-III is sustainable and Class IV-V is not. Three years ago when John joined the business, it freed me up to focus full-time on the business. And with some workaholic and rushing tendencies, along with a desire for success that translated into many hours of work, consistent Class IV.
From one perspective, my life is Class IV-V right now. In 6 weeks we will begin to double our business with two new sister brands. I am personally guiding this growth, from product development through to artwork, production, and marketing. We are hitting deadlines that mean the difference between being ready for our launch dates or not. We’ve had barcodes fail certification, display carton samples go through 8 weeks of mockups working to get it just right, a major supplier informs us that they cannot guarantee supply.
AND I’m solo mum right now. John is in Queenstown for the month of August. I’m taking care of a pregnant goat (from shelter to paddock and back each day), chickens, cows, my two children, our house, food, kid sport, and even to my disbelief coached a hockey game over the weekend.
That means work fits in between 9am (after a cup of tea) and 2:30. But the river is fast right now, and work does not fit in that space. At least until I rearrange my river, that is.
I’m 6 weeks behind on the schedule I put together in April. Websites have only just been started. A brochure is yet to even be outlined. Videos are in my head. I estimate I’m covering the top 20% of what I see needs to be done on a particular day. Lists are just a crazy testimony to my old rushing woman tendencies.
What a perfect environment to really put the Slowing down the River to work.
Legendary stuntman, base jumper and friend of Queenstown days, Chuck Berry says, Slow is Smooth and Smooth is Fast. If anyone knows about high performance, he certainly would. But it’s slightly counter to the tendency to rush to achieve more. And for me, it takes a daily set of basic skills to keep me slow.
The workaholic, over-achiever, rushing woman in me needs to be talked down daily. You see, I’m not so Zen that I can do this without a few daily practices.
Here are my top 10 very basic and physical ways of slowing down whatever river your life happens to be on.
I do them daily and get even more devoted when my schedule starts to feel like it’s pushing me.
1) Breathe: Honestly, just breathe. Breathing is one very powerful access point into your nervous system. Every time you remember to breathe, you bring yourself back to your body. (And out of your very busy head) It brings your shallow breathing, distracted, maybe even slightly panicked nervous system into balance. Pretty good for just remembering to breathe a beautiful deep breath.
2) Check out the Day: Make a daily morning space to acknowledge the day. See the clouds, determine the wind direction, and listen for birds.
3) Eat even Better: Refuse to go for convenience or faster food. You cannot fuel your body on a declining diet. I’ve been eating a daily lunch hit of garden picked spinach, silverbeet, rocket, dandelion, kale, and/or puha, steamed with a drizzle of olive oil and salt and pepper. So yum, and incredible fuel when life asks a lot of you. Shove the Sugar, Caffeine and Wine: These are the quick fixes that help you rev up in the day and calm down at night. They also suck life-force. Save them for when you are already relaxed or hanging out with friends and consider them party food, not daily crutches.
4) Get Grounded: Every day, put bare feet to bare earth. Mother earth is a healer, balancer, and wisdom keeper. Just a few minutes of direct contact will reduce free radicals in your body and smooth its electrics. Guaranteed, and every time.
5) Drink Blessed Water: I put a litre of water in blue glass outside to soak up the sun and moon. Today it’s getting topped up with rain. Having this water each day means I drink enough AND that it is high quality.
6) Sit still after a Meal: Take extra time after each meal to acknowledge the goodness of the food you’ve just eaten. You can begin to digest not only your food but the experiences that led you to be sitting there in that exact moment.
7) Down Tools 8pm (which really means after 2:30pm for school mums): This can be a hard one for me. But I hold to it even more clearly when I being challenged. I do not compensate well when I’m tired (and I bet you don’t either). If I start back to work after the kids are in bed, I’ll easily go to 11 or midnight, then have trouble getting myself to sleep, and feel crap and unfocused the next day.
8 ) Lie Down: My yoga instructor often places a one-minute Shivasana (corpse pose) in the middle of the 90-minute class. She says this helps us incorporate all that’s happening in the body and prepare for the next work. This works great for shifting from project to project during a workday. I’m lucky, I work at home, so I don’t have to wonder what people will think when I lie down on the floor for a moment or two. I will especially do this if I’ve just been reviewing art or editing copy or preparing for a phone call.
9) Create: Do something small that gives you a smile. Just you. Read, write, draw, walk, sing, listen, stretch, dance. Something you’d never put on a to-do list, and you really feel you can’t afford to do. Do it.
10) Flow: Life is not linear. You do not have to do One Thing at a Time. Life moves in curves and swirls and is most efficient if you do that too. Put on the kettle, start the laundry, sweep the floor, plug in the wireless. Many things started, nothing completed, but all progressing with ease. It may LOOK less tidy, but more gets done with less energy.
So, how am I doing? Well, pretty darn good. I haven’t cracked the perfect code. AND I’m not 100%, but I’m sustaining and feeling good. Not too much adrenalin.
I have missed writing, so I’m ignoring an in-box for the morning, to reflect on this on-going process and share it with you. I feel good, clear, and focused during the day. I know with the things I’m doing to Slow down the River, I’m actually getting more done with mountains less strain to my nervous system and sense of wellness. The kids are happy. Some evenings are tough, I’m pretty cooked by then. A couple of evenings ago I broke down in tears (the bar code did not pass its certification- AGAIN!). Later, on my request, the kids lovingly tucked me into bed, instead of the other way around. They loved doing it, and went to bed quietly on their own, knowing that they were part of creating the love of this home.
Yes, but what about the business? Well, it turns out that the top 20% is just about right to keep everything moving forward. After months of product development, TODAY we went into production. We have a small team of fantastic people helping with everything from graphics to PR. I’ve stretched out some of the timelines to give more space. And softened one of the launches to allow us to build into it more naturally. All deadlines are being made, just, and that is just good enough.
Can you really slow down the river? Or just your perception of it? It doesn’t matter. And I still don’t want to argue with a Zen saying. With trust in life and some basic practices, you create the quality of your life (and those around you).
What do you think? Are you willing to suspend your list-making, over-achiever, rushing self to see what peace you can discover hiding under the hectic?
I’m a mama. With great joy, regular frustration, and ever grateful, I have two children, Helena and Isaac. Their physical energy, creative flurries, and infinite desire to participate make me laugh and cry.
And I’m a business owner. I am ever balancing (or not) the needs of the business with my own needs, the kids, John, and The property. We live on a 5-acre property called Access Organics. Our mission is to grow as much of our own food as possible. This includes our meat, eggs, dairy, fruit, and vegetables. I delight in the collaborative projects with the earth and sun. Gardening is a doorway to wellness.
My own story is about accepting and shaping the roles that are mine for now so that they allow peace. This may be your story too. We all have a set of responsibilities and it’s easy to get lost in a to-do list. What roles do you juggle, and how do you take care of yourself and the people around you?
Check it Out!
Sounds like you folks have been busy having good times. Re your questions. I believe the gifts I offer are caring and empathy. In just the last few weeks I have lost friends to cancer and others are facing incurable diseases. I am grateful for my health and all of the wonderful people I have in my life. I am also great foul that I am able to travel to wonderful places in this world of ours.
I am also very pleased that its been close to three months since I gave up sugar. The cravings are much less frequent and I can fight them off with a piece of fruit or even a glass of water.
Looking forward to my 4 weeks in Africa during August and September. After the laundry is done, luggage put away, and mail dealt with then I can begin dreaming about and planning the next adventure.
Hope winter isn’t too harsh for you folks. We are anxiously awaiting summer.
Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day. ~A. A. Milne