You can do ANYTHING, but not EVERYTHING.
How do you know when it's time to stop?
Just before Christmas I knew I needed a break. On top of starting Still Space which has been a truly unfathomable undertaking, I was also holding down three jobs. Yes, three. One for money, two for love. I made sure to label them as 'projects' though, to trick myself into thinking that I could juggle it all. But 18hr+ days without a break for three months begin to take their toll. When I started to stare catatonic into my sock drawer at the thought of having to choose a pair, or when I lay in my bed at night more exhausted than I've ever been but unable to sleep, or when I couldn’t remember if I’d eaten that day or not, I knew something had to change.
So what did I do? I put even more pressure on myself to get it all done because that appeared to me, to be the only way out. And here's a thing, when you run your own business, or certainly when you're starting out, the only person you're answerable to, is yourself. And who am I? At my best... enthusiastic, energised, organised, invincible, positive, kind, efficient and productive. At my worst? Intolerant, sharp, controlling, judgemental. short-tempered, dogged, impatient and productive.
Productive, productive, productive. Whatever the weather I am always productive. Productivity is King. It is my go to, my USP, my thing. It is also the villain of this story.
So I kept going. Kept pushing. I felt hollow. Let's borrow some Tolkein here; 'Like butter spread over too much bread.' I barely got anything done. Started weeping, regularly, pretty much every single day. It wasn’t until I started to research somewhere to take a break for three days and suffered a complete meltdown because I didn’t have the energy for one more Google search, one more choice, one more anything to organise the break I so desperately needed, that I knew I was really in trouble.
I took a breath, “Stop what you’re doing”, said the calm knowing inner voice. “AND DO WHAT INSTEAD?? I HAVE SO MUCH TO DO I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHERE TO START!” I railed through tears, filled with self loathing for my inability to get everything done. “Well what would you like to do?” she said, unflinchingly with love. “SEE STAR WARS BUT IN 2D BECAUSE I F***ING HATE 3D!!” I cried. She responded in kind, knowing that I live within 500m of two cinemas “…….”.
So I went and saw Star Wars. In 2D. And I had such a fantastic time and met a storm trooper on my way out, that enough temporary calm had settled for me to book the first trip that came to mind as soon as I got home.
I ended up in Glastonbury, which is a funny old town but I’ll save that story for another day! I still took my computer and every piece of spiritual paraphernalia that I own so that I could really get to the bottom of all these problems I’d been having. And, you know, heal myself properly, productively.
But it wasn’t until the third and final day of my trip, when I found myself post brisk walk and meditate, sat on a swinging bench in the beautiful Chalice Well gardens, staring into the middle distance at the Tor, dotted around with sheep, that suddenly I felt an enormous shift.
I felt back in my body for the first time in weeks. I felt at ease. I felt joyful. I felt energised. I felt connected. I felt safe! But what was so different about this moment from all the other moments? I showed up to my meditation practice every day, I took myself for walks, I gifted selfish acts of kindness to myself just like I preach. I started to search frantically for what it was I was doing so that I could use it again when I was drowning in work - because you know, this was what it was like to be successful in the modern world and I had better suck it up and get used to it.
Was it the grounding energy of being in nature? Was it the hilarious Cinderella moment I’d just had with a robin? Did my new pendant have magical powers...? (It does but again, that's for another day). Or was it the ridiculously beautiful sunset to my right that I was about to Instagram the crap out of?!
And then just as my neuroses were about to take over and the feeling started to ebb away like that racoon with the candy floss… (YouTube it) it dawned on me.
I was doing, nothing.
For the first time in three months, I was doing absolutely nothing.
I was allowing myself the space just to be, just to feel.
“This is it”, I thought. Deep exhale. “This is my still space”.
A thousand shiny pennies rained down into my brain’s store of revelations. Even in the bath I would be reading or watching something. Even when I was watching something I would be checking my phone. Even when I was checking my phone I was on my computer.
Suddenly I could see everything with such clarity. In that moment I recognised how ridiculously high my expectations were of myself, how much pressure I had placed upon myself, how many imaginary deadlines I had set for myself! Because who else but you knows the website launch date? Who else but you knows what you’re planning to do with your blogs? Who else but you knows everything you’re developing that hasn’t even made it to paper yet, but you anticipate being ready and released to the world at the very latest by tomorrow?
I saw my ‘strong work ethic’ as a deep seated fear of what would happen if I ever dared to stop. I saw my ‘crazy busyness’ as a modern addiction to prove to everyone around me that I was making a success of my life. I saw my need to keep going, to keep pushing as a way of controlling the things that were beyond my control. I saw my 'multi-tasking' as a way of pretending I could get everything done.
But I also saw where I wanted to take this business and the changes I needed to make to my life so that I could actually sustain and support myself going forward, in a way that was healthy and in alignment with my core values and beliefs. Because when you stop, when you surrender, when you soften, when you open yourself up to possibility, when you forgive yourself for all your shoulds and shouldn'ts, when you allow yourself to do nothing, do you know what happens?
The world doesn't fall apart. You, no longer, feel like you’re falling apart. And do you know what happens then?
You are at your best, most empowered, most impactful, kind and creative when you’re bursting with joy and energy because you gifted yourself time. Time to eat properly, time to sleep properly, time to time out properly, time with the people who invigorate you, time to just be you, time to feel what you’re feeling, time to do nothing.
Is it ironic that I drove myself to rock bottom whilst setting up and launching a business teaching meditation, encouraging people to do less and live more? Ho-hoh yes. But would I change any of the timely circumstances that led to me hitting the ground so hard that it reset my head? No. Way.
I believe the most important lessons that we’re here to learn are also what we’re here to share and teach.
So let's take that concept even further - less doing, more living? That's still a little busy, with conditional expectation attached. How about less doing, more being?
I want to run this business with joyful energy and integrity. I want it to have a clear focus and message. I want to be open to being led to take it in new directions and also to have a really solid foundation as a starting point.
My moment of clarity on the bench made me realise not only the importance of how I want to operate in my life and business practices from this point on, but also that I have to allow myself space to implement those changes, because they’re habitual. And habits, which I love to talk about! Take time to be both made and unmade. Particularly when you live in a city like London. You can be so caught up in the maelstrom that sometimes you don’t even realise that you’re back in the same negative pattern of behaviour, the same destructive relationship, the same job that you’d been trying to get away from. And we all do it. Even in January, I felt that awful feeling of overwhelm start to rear its head again as my productivity waned trying to manage the now two jobs plus the business, a new class and submitting myself for this competition. And even in the midst of being part of this competition comes with its own challenges when all you want to do is surrender but the very nature of a competition itself forces you to engage your ego and push.
But it is testament to my daily meditation practice, that my heart now pipes up without me even having to perch on a cushion, when one of those patterns creeps back in: “Hey Sian. Remember that commitment we made? Let’s make some changes. One step at a time”. And this, is one of those first steps.
Life is not a race - and I sure as hell don’t want to finish first! Certainly not without enjoying the journey. I think I felt a need to launch Still Space in the way I did, as speedily as I did, for fear that it might never happen. But now I know that I can do it, I want to take my time with it and make sure I create something I am really proud of, from a space of love, joy and ease, not blood, sweat and tears.
“If it doesn’t light you up, you’re not the right person for the job.” ~ Danielle LaPorte
Amen to that. If you can start to recognise when you're no longer enjoying what you're doing, that's an opportunity to change direction. You don't need to uproot your entire life. Just take a step. A breath. You certainly don't need to drive yourself into the ground ignoring every single sign and heart whisper along the way - I've done that for you!
Is your schedule packed with obligations or things that bring you joy? Find a balance. But really? Stop what you're doing.
Do less. Be more.
Aim for joy. Just joy. Only joy.
Breathe. Empower. Repeat. And connect to that voice with your best interests at heart, in your heart, it is your heart :)
Because you really can do anything, but not everything.
Only love, Sian xxx