This is the question I am working intensily with in these past weeks. The pressing feeling that there is always more to do and that I never get to the end of my list. I could write more texts, I could make more advertisement for my work, I could work more, I could help more, I could engage myself more in things that are important to me, I could research and read more and go more into depth, I could take more courses, I could make more connections… and I would like to meet friends more – have more time for the people I love.
I feel that my head is exploding from visions and wishes and the time is not enough. The feeling is as if the time is just running quicker and quicker. I know this image from when I was a child – that adults used to say that the years go by quicker the older you get. I could somehow accept that as an adult truth, but I realise that I didn’t understand it until in the past years. Especially since friends around me are starting having children. Then I realise how seldom I really get to see them. Because it feels like just a moment between when they tell me about the pregnancy and the baby being there. And suddenly the child is rolling around on the floor, then the next time we meet it is standing, then walking, then talking, and then suddenly there is a second child there… and I have no idea where the time has gone.
A new person has been born and is quickly learning all the basic things about the world, and in the meanwhile I have still not managed to update my website or finished reading that book lying on my night-stand… And it feels like I am still so far from the vision I had a year ago…
It is so easy to feel inadequate and useless. In comparison with the speed of my mind coming up with new ideas, plans and visions for my life, my body putting it into motion is increadibly slow. I feel my mind getting frustrated and critical. „Why don’t you just do what I tell you to!?! What is stopping you all the time!?! Why can’t you just hurry up a bit!?!“ When I look at my life through these glasses I feel miserably incapable. And time feels merciless. I get a bit distracted on facebook while time just floats on and out of my sight and another day has passed.
Against this perspective it is impossible to win. For this critical part of myself I am always too slow and nothing is good enough. But recently I have started to turn the perspectives:
What is really time well-spent?
When do this feeling of fullness come?
When am I satisfied with what I have done?
I sometimes have days where I concentrate on just one thing and it doesn’t at all feel slow or ’not enough‘. Like when I write for hours on end I feel like the day couldn’t have been better filled. When I meet with a friend to plan a project and we end up flowing into it with playfulness and creativity. Suddenly it seems like ten practical steps can be ticked off in a matter of minutes without making any effort: The flyer makes itself, the words for the texts connects to each other like beads on a string. We pick them out of the air as if they were always there waiting for us. One idea adds to another and suddenly the plan is there – full and vibrant and alive with our intentions and energy.
Some tasks that have been on my to-do-list for months and that I keep agonizing over can be easily accomplished in a moment when I am in this state of mind. Suddenly it is not something heavy that needs a certain amount of time, but something easy and flowing.
Time is a funny thing. When I fight against it by trying to run faster and complete more things in shorter time – when I try to stuff in more and more things, it competes against me by speeding up. And it always wins! The evening light laughs me in the face, saying „You lost again!“.
What I keep realising is that I need to pay TIME more respect – I need to give it the things I value the most in life: my writing, my visioning, the people I love and that inspire me, beautiful places, good food, music… TIME is like a precious currency and I need to value the things that are important to me by paying them in plentitude of time. Because when I do time pays me back plentifully: It suddenly somehow slows down and lets me fill it and stretch it with meaning like a water-balloon. I write and write and look at my clock and only two minutes passed by. I stop and I sit on the bridge with my eyes closed and the sun in my face and suddenly a whole other dimension of the world opens. Beautiful images and ideas appear – they become something alive and tangible – I can almost touch them. I realise it is all there all along.
Time is the key that opens this space. It is not the competitor to fight against.
Still always back to this doubt and this question: Is this enough?
Can I trust that it is enough when I simply decisively turn towards and open the space for what inspires me? Can I trust that the other things – the important to-do-things get accomplished in time? What if I drift off and forget that I need to complete my tax declaration or respond to these important emails? What if the things that I decide to fill my time with don’t bring me the basic things I need – the money to pay my rent and buy food…? It seems too simple and too effortless to just allow myself to flow with it.
And the fact is that in the moment I choose to flow I can’t be sure it will pay off in money and success. It doesn’t give me any guarantees. But then again nothing in life come with guarantees. And exactly because of this the only thing I can trust is to turn towards what gives me the most satisfaction in the process. The pleasure of flowing needs to be enough payment in itself – then whatever comes out of it is simply like an extra bonus.
The experience of entering into a flow: For me a sweet lightness with butterflies in the belly. Like the feeling of falling in love. Or the feeling I know from biking through the city on a summer evening – a warm breeze carressing the skin, visions and sounds that I pass as if entering into me and becoming part of my story – of my rhythm. The pure pleasure of being alive and able to move.
I would so love to have this more in my life!
So my exploration in the past years, for myself and together with the people who come to me for sessions and workshops, keep turning towards the question what it takes to enter this flow.
And one of the most basic things I have found is that it is intimately connected with self-care and self-compassion – to allow and trust the feeling of ‚this is enough‘, ‚I am enough‘.
Flow is lightness but it is not ’simple‘. It is something complex and abstract – a channel I need to decide to open. And the opening process needs to be made with racor-sharp decisiveness but without force. I need to take great care to create the right preparations for entering – like before a great exploration voyage: Sleeping enough, eating well, relaxing and moving, collecting my strength… And then I need to ease myself into it like sinking into warm clay – more allowing it to adjust to my shape rather than forcing myself into it.
And everytime it is different. I can never expect it to be the same entrance. Only the preparation is similar. When I don’t take care of myself, something hurries up in me – I get impatient and start pushing… I start making effort and in that way actually wasting the energy I would have needed for the flow itself. Instead I quickly loose my motivation and start getting frustrated and self-critical.
What helps is dropping effort. And part of this is very simply taking care of my basic needs: Sleeping full nights. Eating well on regular times. Making sure I move enough – activating my body – sweating, breathing. Taking moments of relaxing and resting whenever I need it – sometimes even small afternoon naps. Surrounding myself with people who inspire me and give me energy. Turning my attention again and again towards me and my needs so that I again have the energy and force turn my attention towards others when I have recharged.
What helps is taking moments to just sit with what is there and take it all in:
Breathing in and allowing it all to touch me, breathing out and allowing myself to sink back and reestablish the connection to myself.
Breathing in and welcoming the challenges that I face, breathing out and feeling the value and worth my presence in this world has no matter what I manage to achieve or not.
Breathing in and sensing the world around me – the sounds, the smells, the air on my skin, breathing out and allowing myself to just be there, in the middle of it all.
Breathing in and welcoming the unexpected things that will come, breathing out and allowing my intentions and visions to flow out and find expression…
A small practice of reconnecting to what is there. Noticing the force that drives and motivates me to produce and change things, but also resting in the feeling of trust that it is enough no matter what of this all gets done or out into the world.