I flopped down in my hammock and let my body sway back and forth until it finally came to a stop. I had twenty minutes to tune into my inner knowing. Walking is usually my go-to for tuning in, but I had just been on a walk at lunch and I didn’t want to put my shoes back on. Plus, lying on the hammock sounded better in the moment.
(I was attending a virtual retreat with my Light House community where we focused on these four movements: Reflect, Notice, Discern and Respond. We were in the discerning phase at the point I flopped onto the hammock. Graceful, I know.)
I looked up in the trees and saw a squirrel leaping from limb to limb, so I decided to follow it around with my eyes. Eventually the squirrel stopped on a branch in a spot that allowed me to see it between the leaves. From what I could tell, the squirrel laid down.
Do squirrels lay down? Where do they sleep at night? It makes sense that they need breaks during the day. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a squirrel take a nap before.
Staring so hard
I didn’t want to lose the squirrel so I stared intently at it on that branch. I was staring so hard that the surrounding leaves and light peeking through the leaves became pixelated. There were dots of green and dots of blue, but I couldn’t tell what they were until I eased up on my eyes a bit and the leaves and sky came back into focus.
I laid there like that for quite some time. I did not want to lose track of that squirrel! But then I heard sounds of birds and rustling in other trees and I wanted to look over to see what caused the sounds. I couldn’t, though, because I was so focused on that napping squirrel.
Ugh, I’m so annoyed right now. I want to stop staring at this squirrel but I feel like I’ve committed to this “experiment” and I can’t stop. I’d much rather be looking around at the other trees. Actually, after staring for so long, I’d really like to just close my eyes and take a short nap!
Eventually the nap was over and the squirrel found some playmates and they chased each other around various trunks and limbs. I was grateful for the break. My eyes felt tired from the intense gaze I had set on that limb holding that squirrel.
All of the sudden it hit me! I’m tired of focusing on this one question: what will I do next?
Let me back up a minute
I was a youth minister for fourteen years — that work provided me meaning and purpose. Though it wasn’t a perfect job, in almost every way it was perfect for me. I got to be creative and organized and relational. I got to play my guitar and lead music. I got to go on trips around the country and the world. I got to spend time with some pretty amazing teenagers. I loved that work… until I didn’t.
The work I do now doesn’t fuel me in the same way — I don’t find meaning or purpose in it. In fact, I really thought I’d be onto something new by now. And so, for the past year, maybe longer, I focused on this one question: what will I do next?
I’ve been so focused on this question that my eyes started to glaze over and everything around me became pixelated. The rest of my life became hard to see clearly because I wouldn’t stop staring at that one question. I haven’t given myself space to look around me to see what other questions might want to be asked. Instead of looking at my life with a gentle gaze — soft eyes, perhaps — I stared intently at this one aspect of my life, and nothing changed.
Flopping down on my hammock and staring at the tree above me helped me tap into my inner knowing. That experience with the squirrel helped me understand something deeper within my own life. My frustration with myself while staring at the squirrel helped me see the frustration I’m experiencing with this question of “what will I do next?”
I realized I don’t want to focus on that question anymore. Instead I want to create space in my life for to ask other questions. I create space by practicing yoga and quieting my mind. When I go for walks or talk with trusted companions, I make more space. The less I focus my energy on one specific question, the more space I have to entertain all kinds of questions.
It’s hard to break habits. Out of the blue the other day I told my husband how maybe I could be a dog trainer (LOL!!) or maybe a… and then I caught myself. I’m not asking these kinds of questions right now… I’m giving myself space to let my inner knowing do the necessary quiet work.
When the time is right, my inner knowing and I will discover the next right thing. Until then, it’s okay to give myself space to do nothing but breathe.