Always this beginning:
Thirteen years ago my friend sent me the following stanza by poet Marge Piercy from her poem, The Spring Offensive of the Snail. She also added this note, which continues to inspire me. “This is a great poem to start off the New Year. There is a ceremony among some Indigenous people, which involves throwing water over their backs seven times. In doing so, they wash away any habits or thoughts no longer beneficial for growth. People forgive those who have harmed them and ask forgiveness of those they have harmed. Now they are ready to start the year anew.”
“…But remember to bury
all old quarrels
behind the garage for compost.
Forgive those who insulted you.
Forgive yourself for being wrong.
You will do it again
for nothing living
resembles a straight line,
certainly not this journey
to and fro, zigzagging
you there and me here
making our own road onward
as the snail does…” excerpt from Marge Piercy’s poem
I am interested in restfulness as we enter this year. It’s a bit of a quandary that at a time when we are predisposed to hibernate with a need to curl up in front of the fire there are many demands to exercise our will. All manner of goals and resolutions for the New Year are calling our name. Oftentimes they are wagging their finger to eat less and exercise more, get started on the unfinished projects from last year and create BIG new goals for 2022. I reconsidered all of this and look at the first three months differently. Possibly as a time to cultivate creativity and restfulness.
Restfulness doesn’t mean putting our feet up and doing nothing. It certainly doesn’t mean laziness. Rather I see it as wisely using our energy, along with being mindful of our time. Taking time to do the things we need to do while leaving enough space in between each activity so we are not agitated. Rather than booking our calendar back to back and relying on our will to see us through why not try something different. How about adding rest notes throughout our day, not just at the end. Maybe we take 5-15 minute intervals, (without turning this also into a task-oriented life) in order to actually enjoy this wonderful gift of waking up. In order to enjoy our contributions.
I’m thinking of the pauses we could interject to breathe, gaze out the window, read a poem, scribble in our journal, strum a tune, close our eyes. A mindful walk in the middle of the day where we aren’t running to catch up but rather walking and noticing the beauty of the sights and sounds. Being present to what unfolds.
Your important work will still get done.
The longer we are bound to our desk chair the harder it is to pause. To take three breaths. To stand and stretch our legs. Little breaks can help us to accomplish our important tasks without breaking our backs or our psyche. Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction has a good definition of overwhelm: he defines overwhelm as “life is unfolding at a pace that I find unmanageable in my psyche and in my nervous system.” If that is the case we can do something about it.
Life is a banquet with so much to choose from. We can’t have it all without serious indigestion. I want to savour a few things this year that I love by saying no to other things that I would also like. It’s all about limited time. I’m not good at any of this but I want to experiment.
To Be Present
I know my heart is wanting simplicity and meaning, and restfulness is part of this. Poet and philosopher David Whyte claims that we aren’t meant to work 8 or 9 hours a day through will. For instance, it takes no will at all for me to prepare and present my Friday webinars at Wellspring Alberta because I love doing them. I am preparing a conversation and finding a poem and music to complement the topic. All things I love. Friday is my Wellspring day and it is topped off by spending an hour with wonderful people. I don’t take on competing purposes that day and I am rested and rejuvenated and filled with delight when the day is done. It allows me to be present.
Wednesday is blog day. No matter what else is going on I have that to look forward to. I often do it late in the day but I kind of like that too. It gives me an excuse to indulge my inner night owl.
When we can do something like this that we love, we can give the best of ourselves, and refresh our spirit at the same time.
In the spring when the sun is coming up early and the evenings are getting longer and the earth is coming back to life is time enough for considering some of my more audacious goals. I might take advantage of spring fever instead of demanding constant service from my willpower. Will power is important but we demand a lot from it and I want to modify my thinking a bit – give it a break.
So, my wonderful readers, each day is a new day.
We don’t need a new year to make changes we are curious about. We can start anytime, ready or not. Furthurmore, I have no idea what is best for anyone else. We each need to pay attention to our own inner voice.
As for me, this new year, I am aiming for a few more contemplative and meaningful moments without rushing. Still, I have a big audacious project in mind that I will work on in small blocks of time. You can be assured this work will involve effort, enjoyment, dedication and a certain playfulness.
I am curious about the many surprises and possibilities of 2023. Are you?
1:) “We spend January 1st walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives…not looking for flaws, but for potential.” ― Ellen Goodman
2:) I am honoured and delighted to start off 2023, here with you. And I am reposting the poem and thoughts I wrote about in previous years, in the first week of January. Please accept my best wishes and my thanks for your wonderful selves. May you have a New Year filled with purpose, courage, laughter, people who love you and things to do that lift your spirits, no matter what else is going on. Warmly, Trudy
PS The photos are all recent and taken here in Ottawa and in Vancouver. Note the last two cookies receiving an honourable send-off at the seaside near Vancouver.A deep bow, Rob.