Whether it’s for deep transformation, some stress relief or anything in between, when a client decides to come to coaching or a friend says he’s starting a six week mindfulness course, I always do an internal hop-skip-and-a-jump of celebration. I think, Yay, good on you! How awesome to be taking that time for yourself and to be choosing you!
It’s not always easy to make those commitments of time, money, energy – and sometimes it’s a real big leap of faith too. I just know it is something to celebrate and acknowledge – and perhaps particularly because taking time for yourself and choosing to work on yourself is still a minority activity. It’s not the norm, not encouraged, and rarely celebrated in any mainstream way. We’ll toast to someone buying a new house, getting a new job or partner, but not for deciding to see a therapist!
If you’re reading this post, it’s likely you’re part of that minority that’s interested in their own evolution. And if so, welcome. Being a proud member of the evolving minority, I feel it’s important to talk about the kind of time we need to claim for ourselves in order to do our own personal transformation. (And look out for Parts Two and Three on this topic coming soon).
I recently took a Friday off after a busy week, in order to work with my healer/coach, to rest, to journal, to meditate and just be. I was standing in the kitchen preparing lunch early that afternoon and an epiphany about some resistance and fear that had been coming up for me about the next steps I want to take in my business. Earlier that day I’d been freaking out about my plans and changes (more on this another time) and as I made my salad, pure clarity about what the fear was really about slid into my mind like a shaft of sunlight. Illumination!
I just love those moments of insight that open a doorway to really letting go of old patterns and fears. And I’m really aware that my aha moment was able to flow in because of the space I’d created for it – by having nothing much to do and nowhere to be that day.
I had space, and so did my mind and inner wisdom. This is where so much of the transformation takes place; in our quiet awareness.
In that space we get to SEE what’s there. And you can’t transform, heal or strengthen something you don’t know about.
And because I had the time, I was able to sit down later on and journal about my new awareness and then do some healing around it. Sometimes I might put the issue on my ‘spiritual to-do’ list for my next session with my healer coach, but in any case, it’s captured, named and ‘booked in’ because of the space I’ve made for it.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t get these insights so easily when I’m busy and active.
What are we making time for?
Personal transformation comes from the alchemy of your self-awareness, of being grounded and connected, and from doing the healing and change work necessary to heal and release the conditioning, patterns and wounds that keep you from being your authentic self. That means making time for –
Self-awareness – building your capacity for living mindfully, and becoming more aware of how you are being, feeling, thinking and responding in your life. Taking time to reflect. Bringing compassion and curiosity to what you notice. Ultimately, this means slowing down, being mindful and paying attention (often helped by meditation) and taking time to journal and reflect.
Being grounded and connected – Having even a small spiritual or nature-based practice each day that helps you to get fully into your body, ground yourself, and be more connected to your higher self / God / All that is. Change or transformation doesn’t just happen in a therapy session, it happens when you show up for yourself by sitting to meditate or breathe and connect. It happens when in a yoga class or sitting under a tree (look at Gautama Buddha!).
Healing and change work – Whatever the modality, my experience is that the deepest work is often one-to-one with someone who can guide you through transformation. This is by far where I’ve done my deepest work, and it is the coming together of my awareness, readiness and willingness to be guided – along with someone who can guide me and see even more than I can.
The alchemy comes as each of these elements support the others – the self-awareness supports the healing work, staying connected deepens the work, and the healing work builds more self-awareness and centeredness, and so on it goes. And each of these elements requires some of our time and attention.
When I found myself in bed with glandular fever five years ago and unable to work, taking time to heal myself suddenly got very real. As well as some recovery time right then, I took six weeks off at the end the year, and planned breaks in advance through the year after that. I’d learnt the hard way what happens when you don’t take regular breaks and don’t take care of yourself. It took me a while, but I slowly learned to make space and time for transformation.
And it wasn’t just about taking physical care of myself. In fact it was – and still IS – taking care of my spiritual self. Yes, there were physical factors involved in me being unwell and I’m still getting to the bottom of some of those even now, but I know now, it was VERY MUCH about my spiritual growth.
It was about how I see myself in the world, how I think I need to be and show up for others, and what it really means to cherish myself. And that, as the old saying goes, is a journey. Learning to cherish yourself is not a five minute job, but it’s worth making all the space in the world for – because it leads to more deeply knowing and nourishing yourself, which in turn leads to the relationships, fulfilment and flourishing I think we all truly yearn for.
Clients will sometimes say to me after coming to coaching for say a career change or relationship goal, “I didn’t realise this was going to be a spiritual process, but now I see that it’s exactly that.” And from that place of understanding they transform their career or their relationship, or their life. Not bad for a spiritual journey, right?
Learning to cherish yourself
is not a five minute job,
but it’s worth making all the space
in the world for.
Claiming the space makes all the difference
The biggest challenge for most of us I think, is that we don’t stop. We’re so busy lurching from one task, event, job, person, meeting, school pick-up, lunch date, washing pile or board report to the next, that we don’t have time to contemplate our navel, or our soul’s desires, for a moment. We’re in doing mode, not being mode. And besides, most of us were brought up to value busy-ness, action and doing over sitting quietly or resting (often referred to in our culture as ‘being lazy’). We have a lot of conditioning to shed before taking time to Be becomes standard procedure.
Even if we’re taking some time in the day to simply sit quietly, it can be a little like ‘skimming the surface’. I kidded myself about this for a long time. We actually need to be able to go quiet enough for our inner wisdom/higher self/the voice of God (take your pick or use your own reference to the all-that-is) to get a word in edge wise.
Some days we might think to ask for some insight or pray for help while we’re on our meditation seat or in the car driving home from work, but we don’t always get quiet enough, long enough, to LISTEN.
We skim the surface too when we read a great book and have a profound insight around something or identify a daily practice that really resonates with us, and DO NOTHING TO FOLLOW UP. Maria Forleo says “insight without action is absolutely useless.”
You can read all the books in the world, and if you don’t DO anything to take your insights forward, if you don’t sit quietly often enough, or if you don’t do the deeper work around those patterns and fears you’re identifying, you run the risk of being at a spiritual standstill. Or on what my grandmother used to call a slow boat to China.
It doesn’t take nearly so long to grow when you are watering the seeds and bringing in the light.
A word to the parents out there
I’ve heard so many parents over the years say to me “It’s hard to get some quiet time with the kids in the house”, and a couple of my clients have very real challenges around this with severely autistic children etc. But most do not – they’re simply not accustomed to claiming space for themselves, setting boundaries with their kids, or helping their children learn to self-soothe and amuse themselves (age dependant of course – I am under no illusion what this is like if you have one or more kids under 2yrs or even 5 yrs!).
I’m not a parent yet and I don’t profess to be an expert on this, but I have observed many parents and families over the years who take time for themselves and who don’t, and I know this to be true:
When you claim time and space to look after yourself, when you take time to be quiet, and when you make it clear to others how important self-care is (by making it happen for yourself), you teach your children to look after themselves.
You teach them self-care.
You are role-modelling self-love.
This is priceless.
And there is evidence everywhere right now that our children (and the world) needs this very badly.
It’s not selfish to take time to do your own work.
It helps everyone.
PS. How can you start making more space? Catch Part Two soon where I offer some suggestions, and talk about making it okay to spend money/time/resources on personal + professional growth. In Part Three I will talk about how to be okay with not being ready – and why transformation can take time.