My son Patrick was born 31 weeks prem*. My waters broke way too early, and after a couple of days in the hospital I went into labour, where I was hooked up to a monitor.
Occasionally I was unplugged from the monitor and allowed to sit in the shower. Those moments of feeling the hot water flow over me felt like a refuge from the work of giving birth. I almost felt bad spending so long in there – shouldn’t I be soldiering on?
It turns out that in this relaxing and letting go was when the major dilation happened, and it actually made the labour shorter. This was a huge surprise to me, as I had felt like I was slacking off somehow! At the time I still had a mindset where you achieve only through effort and willpower. This deeply personal experience of the power ofbeing instead of doing was transformative.
We live at a time of great change with huge demands, and it feels the only way we can get on top of it is to strive and push and force the outcomes we want. We grind on over the top of so much anxiety and stress. It feels that if we pause for a moment we will lose momentum, lose ‘our edge’. We will be undone.
However, the opposite is true. When we lay down the bag of rocks we are carrying on our shoulders, and rest a while, new possibilities emerge and new pathways become possible. This seems deeply heretical in our action orientated, externally focused western world.
I want you to know that I understand how the idea of making time and space for change is really hard. I’m a person who signed on for a large mission with impossible deadlines – it doesn’t get much bigger than ending hunger. I’ve had targets and goals that actually had life and death consequences if they weren’t met.
In my experience, the times I soldiered on weren’t me at my best self. I wasn’t as effective. My responses to changing circumstances were often reactive. The ideas and strategies that had worked in the past no longer cut it, yet I was too busy to see this.
When I look back, new directions and thinking happened when I paused. Like a pilgrim wandering through the harsh desert, when I put down my bundle and drank from the well, the change and growth I needed had the space and time to be revealed.
So how do we create this space to allow for change?
- Take some actual time. It doesn’t have to be a week in an ashram. Take an hour and sit outside. Daydream. Block out time in your calendar. I know we’re busy, but cramming stuff into our lives with no space for reflection is actually slowing us down.
- Be present. Be mindful. The title of Ram Dass’ classic book Be Here Now is your friend!
Be – avoid the temptation to shove a whole lot of doing into every minute you have.
Here – right here. Are you sitting? Feel the chair on your bottom. Feel your breath coming in and out.
Now – the past has gone and can’t be changed. The future will never come. There is only this eternal present moment.
- Find a guide. Others who have walked this before you can be incredibly helpful. This may be through a mentor. Or through books and poetry!
As humans we are wired to grow and evolve. Change is always with us. It can’t be stopped. It can only be navigated as honestly and courageously as possible.