I’m feeling all over the place today. I thought by now I would have this sabbatical thing figured out. Because this isn’t permanent, because in about 6 weeks I know I’m returning to my job, I’m having a hard time settling into this very wide, very open space. If I knew this was my thing – writing, quilting, walking, reading, meeting, etc. – if I knew that’s how my days would be shaped from here on out, I think I could find a rhythm, a groove to settle into. However, I know this isn’t permanent. I know that my days of doing the next thing that feels right won’t last forever. Because of that, I want to do it all! I want to plant all the flowers and finish all my quilting WIPs (work in progress) and read all the books and watch all my favorite Netflix shows and walk miles every day and see all my friends and lay in the hammock every day and visit my family every week and visit every church while also going away every weekend and write pages and pages of insightful stuff and go to every yoga class. You get the idea – I want it all. I want to pack in as much as I can into the second half of my sabbatical. I don’t want to waste any moment. And yet…
“The command is ‘Do no work.’ Just make space. Attend to what is around you. Learn that you don’t have to DO to BE. Accept the grace of doing nothing. Stay with it until you stop jerking and squirming.” – Dallas Willard
Ugh. Why is it so hard? I struggle because some of my doing allows me to be. For example, walking is when I do some of my best thinking – ideas just pop up out of the blue when I’m walking the dogs. When I quilt, I relax. I sink into the creation and just let my mind wander. When I plant flowers and work in the yard, I enjoy the beauty and wonder of nature. Yes, I’m doing but those moments give me a chance to be. I think that’s the case anyway – it’s either that or I’m really good at justifying why I’m busy all the time!
I’ve started going to yoga twice a week. I find it interesting that I’m paying someone to remind me to breathe and to turn the lights down so that I can lay in stillness for a few moments. Yes, they also lead me through various poses that allow my body to stretch and open up. The reminder to breathe always catches me off guard – of course I’m breathing, and then I realize, oh, you’re right, I’m not breathing. The more I go, the easier it is to remember to breathe. No matter what type of class it is, the end is always the same: lie down on your back, let your breathing return to normal and just rest. Whether it’s a gentle class or one that requires lots of core work, we always end with lying down on the mat. The rest is just as important as the movement. Rest is valuable. Rest is needed.
I wish there was a syllabus for this sabbatical. I wish there was someone outside of me telling me what I need to accomplish each day. I wish there was a rubric so that I know what I can do better for the next day. I loved the first day of class in higher education. I loved getting a syllabus – I could see what was expected of me, when things were due. I knew how to prepare and what I needed to get done in advance so I wasn’t stressed out later in the semester. I was really good at school. My professors rewarded my hard work with good grades. I knew I was doing well because someone outside of me told me so. I let those grades define me in such a way that without them I sometimes feel lost.
What do I want? What is important to me? For so long I’ve listened to all the voices outside of me and ignored the quiet voice pushed deep down, so far down that I’m not sure I’d recognize it if I heard her. I can’t hear her very well right now. Maybe because she needs a quiet, safe place to emerge into. Maybe because when I walk I listen to podcasts and when I quilt I listen to podcasts and when I read I’m taking in someone else’s words and when I meet with others I let them talk more. Maybe I haven’t given her time to find her way out. And, I suspect, I might not want to hear what she has to say. At this moment, I don’t know what to expect from her. I’m scared. Scared that she might say, “Stay.” Scared that she might say, “Go.” Scared that she might say, “Stop.”
I did listen to one podcast on my morning walk, but since then I’ve been in “silence.” Not the kind of silence I experienced at Ghost Ranch – that was a “I can hear my ears working” kind of silence. Here I hear birds and cars and dogs sighing. I hear the click of the keyboard and the refrigerator kick on. But, I don’t hear anyone else’s voice. I don’t hear any music. Maybe just for today, I will practice some silence. I’ll probably still do some things, but maybe I can do them slower, with more intention. I’m not thinking about later today or tomorrow – just now. Like my yoga teachers remind me, just be here. And when my mind wanders, I will gently remind her to come back with no judgment. And, maybe, if it’s quiet enough and the judgment is suspended for just a bit, I will hear that still, small voice waiting to speak.