Always this beginning:
Twelve 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, “This is a great poem to start off the New Year. There is a ceremony among some First Nations 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 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 in all manner of goals and resolutions for the New Year. Common ones are to eat less and exercise more, get started on the unfinished projects from last year and create BIG new goals for 2022. I am reconsidering all of this and looking at the first three months differently. Possibly as a time to cultivate restfulness.
Restfulness doesn’t mean feet up and doing nothing. It certainly doesn’t mean laziness. Rather I see it as wisely using our 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, close our eyes. A mindful walk through 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.
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 Calgary 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.
When we can do something like this we can give the best of ourselves. And as Whyte also says we get a glimpse of what we have already been given.
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 any changes we are curious about and I have no idea what is best for you. The truth is, YOU are the expert on you.
As for me, this new year, I am aiming for a few more contemplative and meaningful moments without rushing. Restfulness. I am curious about the possibilities.
1:) Once again we are in difficult times. Like the others, it will pass, but not without angst and suffering for many. Please, take heart! May you stay safe, yet, not isolated. We all know ways to do this now.
2:) “There may be a good reason to move quickly. there is never a good reason to rush…what happens if you soften and slow, just a little bit? Feel how that changes your experience. Your sense of yourself. Your capacity for ease in the moment.” Martin Aylward, “The Art of Slowing down.”
3:) I am honoured and delighted to start off 2022 here with you. Please accept my best wishes and my thanks for your generous and encouraging words and know I so appreciate them. A thought – if you have a favourite poem or two you would like to share, you are more than welcome to send me a copy. Warmly, Trudy
PS the photos: Both from Gottfried’s library. The banner was taken in Yellowknife in January 2003 (I think) and the second one from Gabriola Island looking across the coast Salish Sea in the general direction of Vancouver.