Take Me to the Most Beautiful Thing on Earth: The Dance of Family, Work and the Sacred

I got lucid a couple of months ago inside a dream in which I had been frantically, and unsuccessfully, trying to balance symbols of family life and the academic pathway I am currently pursuing.  At the point at which I became conscious, I was swimming in a vast ocean, and with great effort, I began to walk on the water.  Opening to the dream, I asked to be shown the most beautiful thing on earth.  I was whisked over the ocean, to the house where I had been playing out the conflicts of work-life (im)balance, now in darkness.  Peering through the glass door, I saw my partner and our two children fast asleep.  This was the most beautiful thing on earth. 

There are many ways that our dreams can offer layers of meaning and insight to peel back.  My family, sleeping, content and peaceful, was the most beautiful thing and place on Earth for me.  Not a massive external firework show.  Warm and reassuringly simple.  

I am reminded that sometimes in pursuing the spectacular moments in life, the acclaim and success, we can miss what is really there, right now.  Achingly fleeting.  

At the entrance to the East of the Wheel, holding together the juggling act of my life and fighting to maintain the space of this process, I think about what I must leave at the threshold.  In the dream, I walked on water with great effort.  And I peered at the most beautiful thing on earth, my own family, through glass doors.

These are the layers.

The core beliefs that I leave at the threshold.  

The belief that life is hard.   The belief that I am separate.  That I do not, or can not, participate.  

I held onto this dream for a long while.  Bowled over by it I must admit!

But what if…..

What if….  I surrendered to the currents of the great ocean without trying to walk on water? (While acknowledging the effort of having done it!)

What if…. I opened the glass doors and laid down to rest in the restorative warmth of the most beautiful place on earth?  

What if!  

 

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Earned the Right to Take Rest?

I press Stop.

Some friends who follow this blog have commented to me recently that it seems like I am perpetually tired and fighting to go on. My writing reflects this struggle with fatigue. They have a point. Young families, social housing, PhD’s and deep spiritual excavations can take it out of a woman! Never mind the entropy of domestic life. You clean it up, and it just gets messy again. Round and round we go.

I notice as part of my Wheel practice, that my initial response to the observation is denial and defensiveness. I am not tired! Or so what if I am! I can handle it all! It’s hard to admit sometimes that I am not as in control as I like to think I am.

It’s OK to press stop.

It’s OK to let my family know that tonight I’d like to go to bed early and be alone for a little while.

It’s definitely OK to do this without a drama. When we give ourselves permission to rest when we need to, it’s easy to let the people close to us know that we are doing so. No big deal. When our need to take a break is tainted with judgements about worthiness and the need to state that we have earned this rest, well, we can act up in all kinds of silly and destructive ways.

Sometimes I need a rest and in the eyes of my inner critic, I didn’t really do anything to justify it. So the lists of ‘all that I do’ come out, the whiny voice of self-justification. I feel compelled to share these reasons with those around me. I teach my children that rest must be earned. Really? And who calculates what counts as work? Was I at that meeting? What kind of cultural belief am I agreeing to when I refuse to allow my knackered body an early night because I didn’t earn it? How much time do I waste by not resting when I need to, in the name of a false belief in what counts as productivity, that is sanctioned by a wider consumer-material culture? The flip side of a cultural belief in needing to ‘earn a rest’ is the equally damaging response of taking too much rest, too much leisure, too much reward. I earned this!

I sat with a friend today watching my son walking. He mastered it about three weeks ago. And he’s really good now. Because every day he practices: he gets up and starts trying to walk. We were reflecting on how babies just get on with stuff, not because they have to or someone tells them to, but because of the sheer joy of it. They haven’t got those moral filters on. They never get tired of their work – to keep walking, to keep making sounds. Except, actually they do!  They walk and walk and walk, and then they get tired. Or hungry. Or they make a big old dump. And if we are wise carers with gently flexible schedules, we let them sleep. Or eat. Or clean them up. And when the business of rest or sustenance or discomfort is done, they carry on, from that pure place of single minded Joy. I am mindful when I follow this formula. Walk when I need to. Eat when I need to. Rest when I need to.

I’ll keep walking towards it! And tonight, I press Stop. Early bedtime, with a hot water bottle and a good film to watch in bed. I begin ten days of recapitulation exercises tomorrow, as I slowly exit from the West of the Wheel.  Visiting my Circle Partner in Denmark in 10 days time. Literally heading North!  Work I choose to do. And when I don’t stress about whether this counts as the kind of work that earns me a rest, then everything is cool in the world.

Night night xx