As I’ve worked to get grounded after the tumult and stress of the last couple of years, I’ve caught myself several times applying the same kind of frantic doing mentality that burned me out in the first place to the introspective practices I’m trying to integrate into my life as an antidote. It’s really a hard habit to break! Once you’ve identified that you’ve burned out, I think you want to do ANYTHING you can to get healed. Unfortunately, I think sometimes that translates into doing EVERYTHING you can to get healed.
When I discovered my malaise was actually burnout, I wanted to fix it, and fast!
I dived into recovery like I’ve always dived into everything: head first — that is, with my head. I read dozens of books. If I could learn one thing from one book by Pema Chodron, couldn’t I learn many things by reading many of her books? Or, better yet, the books of HER teachers? I was working through Debbie Ford’s 21-day Consciousness Cleanse (for the second time), and The Artist’s Way, and Creating on Purpose all at the same time. It was a lot to take in all at once. And that made it familiar. But what I needed was change.
The past few weeks I’ve been trying to do yoga and zazen followed by writing practice every single morning. These practices are meant to quiet the mind. But the way I’ve been doing them just provides more fertile ground for the thinking and worrying and list-making and what-iffing that can consume my already too active brain.
This morning I skipped yoga and zazen and just wrote. I considered the various meditative practices I’d been doing:
- how did each one make me feel?
- which ones do I resist sometimes, and why?
- how do I feel after each kind of practice?
- what is it I am trying to get out of all this stuff, anyway?
That’s when I remembered that just one thing can be enough, and in truth, can even be better. Maybe doing just one thing is the change I need.
It’s not something that’s encouraged in our work cultures or home lives, or even in the “slow-down-and-connect-with-yourself” wellness industry. The book, Just One Thing: Developing a Buddha Brain One Simple Practice at a Time, which I highly recommend, includes 52 different practices! The idea is that you try one everyday for a week, and then maybe move on to the next. But if you’re like me, you’ll read the whole book straight through and then feel excited and motivated and a little overwhelmed by all the options.
I want serenity and I want it now! Won’t trying MORE things get me there faster?
Probably not. Stillness comes with effort. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not easy. But the effort is singular and focused.
So, as you’re preparing for 140 days of frantic doing, and the idea of meditating or doing yoga feels like just one more thing you have to schedule, one more thing you don’t have time for, remember that it’s just ONE thing. One thing that one day. Let that one thing be enough. That’s what I’ll be working on, too.