Let me set the scene for you: I’m lying back on a zero-gravity garden lounger on the stone terrace that separates the Old Rectory from the sprawling green lawn that rolls away from the house for some fifty meters. The lawn sprawls away into the overhang of the wall of trees that softly shades the spearmint green of the grass into a dwindling palette of shaded greys and muted blacks. The irony of the vibrant morphing into the gloomy isn’t lost on me knowing that on the other side of the fence that borders the immense lawn and gardens is the Litcham church cemetery.
I’m back in England. It’s been a year and a half since I’ve been here, the place and people I have been coming back to annually for the last twenty years. It’s rare to have people in one’s life who have consistently and uninterruptedly been present, in all respects of the word, for almost thirty years. I am beyond grateful to be privy to that rare blessing, and have been coming back to England to spend time with her, her husband and their two boys (one of whom is my godson), all of whom I consider to be my extended family.
I’m here in July, which is somewhat of an anomaly considering I usually make my jaunts over in the dead of the January winter. That period of the year is usually down-time for me career-wise, but after five years of exposing myself to the cold damp that introduced me to the James Herbert-esque weather condition known as freezing fog, I decided to explore the warmer clime of early July.
I’m surrounded by wild lavender shrubs, serenaded by cooing doves and pigeons and, in the distance, the low-rumbling swishing of passing cars. The sun is out, warming the legs of my jeans as bumblebees, drunk from the pollen of the lavender, dive bomb past my head. I’m relaxing, which might sound typical given the nature of my work, but the last 7 months have been anything but relaxing. Since January 2016 I have succeeded in promoting my latest book, A Year In The Light, and have done more teaching in classes, workshops, teacher trainings and conferences than ever before. I have also over-scheduled myself, running myself relatively ragged until two months of antibiotics were required to help me regain the balance in my health and life that I had lost in the pursuit of helping others. You know that expression, “The carpenter’s cabin is the one most crooked?” I’m repairing my cabin. Again.
And so I am here, with no intention of working or committing to anything other than relaxing for the next two weeks. And yet, with the seemingly easiest of tasks before me, I find myself once again applying everything I have learned and taught. A daunting task now that it is just me and my thoughts, no distractions or commitments.
My mind is entrepreneurial by nature. I am my own boss, and am passionately dedicated to my career of guiding others down their paths, helping to facilitate their journey. I am constantly thinking. About the next project, students and clients, scheduling, the administrative side to my business, and countless other facets of my career. And that’s just the stuff related to my work that keeps my mind whirling. Add to that courses and continuing education, my relationship, friendships, family, my dog, life, etc… It’s a lot for one brain to process, and I know that I’m not alone, that we all download and store copious amounts of data that either stays stored, gets extrapolated for some purpose or another or pops up in the randomest of moments to remind us of the connectivity and non-randomness of life. And I’m having trouble unplugging my thoughts from the “doing” outlet they are normally plugged into so I can replug them into the “being” outlet where there’s no need to plan the next project or consider how to keep my marketing fresh and compelling.
I woke up last night at 3am, still on Montreal time, but slowly acclimating to the UK time zone. After a few minutes of realizing my thoughts were wandering into aspects of my life that would keep me awake, I did what I always do and refocused on body sensing, the art of noticing sensations in different parts of my body. This exercise of focusing the mind usually lulls me into sleep within minutes. It took longer last night, and I was aware of the extra effort it took to drift back off into sleep.
Today I keep noticing the pull towards doing; filming something for my YouTube channel, starting the new online course I’m enrolled in, working to put together next year’s yoga retreats. With the intention of not working, I instead pulled out a novel from my friends’ bookshelves and started reading, only to observe my thoughts wandering away on a path of their own.
It will take a few days for me to successfully unplug and replug. The process is, quite simply, fascinating, regardless of how much time I’ve spent in my life practicing the art of concentration. It’s an art that demands one always remain a beginner, and I, once again, find myself at the starting line.
This is the closest to work I’ll be doing for the next couple of weeks, and an essential step in my detaching, as writing usually allows me to process and then let go. If your email goes unanswered, trust I’ll get to it once I’m back home. My absence is intentional, and sorely needed for my sanity and the sustainability of my work.
Your work? Notice your thoughts, in any and all moments. Notice how you unplug and replug, from one outlet to another. For myself, I’ll refocus my gaze onto the bee-populated lavender and the music of Turin Brakes drifting out from the front door of the house.
Peace to us all.