On Dormancy and the Remedial Rhythm of Rest
The season of dormancy is fast approaching.
The circle of life is so visible, this time of year, as I wallow in yellow, crunching leaves.
And as the nature sheds its leaves and prepares for winter, I am slowly easing back to life after a little dormancy of my own.
You see, I have this habit of crashing and burning, albeit not in that order. I’m one of those people who burn, burn, burn – and then hit a wall with a ferocious mess and a week of utter exhaustion where my body physically refuses to do anything but sleep, and my mind refuses to do anything but stare into the air, slipping slowly into madness.
In other words, it’s been a very unproductive couple of weeks.
And you know what?
I think everyone can learn a little from nature as we go about our busy lives.
Because no one – not even me and you – can escape the rhythm of rest.
Did you know that even trees that normally go dormant in winter – if given an “eternal summer” – will eventually stop growing?
Did you know that there are plants who refuse to bear flowers unless they have a period of lower temperature and less exposure to light?
And just as the flowers and trees need rest, so do we.
Because there comes a time when more work becomes counter-productive.
When you push past your limits, the quality of your work will go down, not up. And when you burn for too long before refueling, you blaze through the reserves of your energy that should be spent on intuition, creativity, presence and self-compassion.
But in a world when everything can be better, faster, stronger – when do we stop? If we constantly put off resting until we are done, we will never get there. Because in a life of ebb and flow, nothing is ever finished.
When was the last time you slept until you wanted to sleep no more? When was the last time you spent a whole day doing nothing in particular? What rejuvenates you, nourishes you from the inside out?
And most important of all, does you life have rhythm?
What is the heartbeat of your life?
Sometimes your life will look more like the Flight of the bumblebee than Bach’s Air. That’s just the way it is. What’s important is that you have a rhythm of work and rest. If you’ve been running about and stressing around for a while – eventually you will need to slow down. And I dare say that the longer you run, the longer you will need to recharge. So is your rhythm a fast one – where you rest for 15 minutes to an hour every now and then? Or do you burn for a week before you take a day completely off? Or maybe you, like me, go go go until you and go no more.
How high is your pulse?
For me, I have crashed one too many times. After working almost day and night for three months, I collapsed two weeks ago. My body couldn’t take it anymore. I slept for 16 hours straight and I haven’t been able to do anything resembling work for over a week.
And as it sometimes takes a disaster to open your eyes – this collapse definitely opened mine.
From now on I have to change my beat. Inspired by a friend who has made Sundays her Cat Days – and from reading Sabbath by Wayne Muller – I am slowing down. This means that from now on, I will not work on Sundays. No exceptions.
Instead, I will light candles, cook, bake, take walks and read real books. I will deliberately slow down the pace, breathe and take naps. On Sundays, coffee will be replaced by tea and instead of throwing together a salad I will savor stew and delicious soup. Sundays will be my Do Nothing (Wrong) Days where I’m allowed to do everything that nourishes me, and nothing that drains.
And so, as the leaves change colors and then pirouette to the ground like yellow ballerinas – I will slow down too.
It’s time to do a little less, so I can live a little more.
Who’s with me?