Humans are incredible self-healing organisms. One of the ways we can maximize this natural capacity for homeostasis is by learning how to reduce the effects of stress. Stress doesn’t need to be a bad word. Stress is in many ways a positive thing. Certainly it is vital to our survival and to our growth. And, ironically, we actually need a certain amount of stress in order to learn how to manage it well. The trouble comes when we deal with chronic stress and we forget how to rest and to play. Put simply, if we want to work hard, it’s worth getting really serious about rest. We cannot be “on” all the time. If we are keen to be successful, if we are passionate about making a difference in the lives of others, or if we are an artist who is constantly drawn to exploring new creative frontiers, it’s worth finding our “off” switch and flipping it fairly regularly.
I come from a large, energetic, athletic, and hard-working family. We are a pretty driven bunch you could say. And whether we are together or apart, we all tend to put a lot on our plate simply out of sheer enthusiasm. I’ve inherited from my parents and from my siblings an enormous amount of self-motivation for which I am grateful. One of the unexpected gifts of moving to Stonington is that the island has its own built-in rhythms to support those of us who are the movers and shakers and who like to charge full-speed ahead. And from what I can tell, just about everyone on Deer Isle falls into this category!
My work puts me in a leadership role. Leading retreats and teacher trainings, even standing in front of a classroom of people for an hour or two, requires that I am 100% on. This is intense. It can also be lonely. But as the years go by I am slowly learning how to balance the demands of this role with my deeply human needs. And this is really the challenge for all of us who are passionate and work hard at whatever we do.
We all need rest – not just the physical rest of sleep. But rest for our minds and hearts and souls. Kerry calls it “charging up.” Others call it hibernating, retreating, unplugging, disconnecting. It’s my favorite strategy for preventing burnout and from now on, I’ve decided I am going to call it “cocooning”. Cocooning is such a cozy word and it perfectly describes my felt experience of winter in Maine. The days are shorts and the nights are long. The fire burns steadily and even though it is cold outside there is a blaze of heat that pours out from its glistening coals all day long. My appetite surges and I savor my food. Kerry and I let ourselves sleep as if we were an actual bear couple in hibernation. And there is extra time for snuggles and cuddles and love. I get to enjoy the kind of daily long practices on my mat that light my imagination on fire and cradle my soul. I read authors whose words carry me home to the deepest part of myself and replenish my “inspiration well” as I like to call it. I physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually cocoon. Sure, it can be scary because there is no money coming in. And the knee-jerk response would be to sit in front of the computer and try to think my way into new programs, new content. But that is not how it works for me. My ideas are not born sitting in front of a computer. They are born in the spaces in between, in the silence, in the pauses – in the suspended breaths of a pranayama practice or a sweet savasana that lures me to the edges of sleep, or on walks in the woods behind my tall guy, or staring out the window of his pick-up as we cross the causeway at high tide and watch the waves lap up against its banks.