So this month, the topic was Downtimes/slumps/Fallow periods. I think these are things that we all face, in pretty much all areas of our lives. Things move in waves, sometimes you are at the peak and sometimes you are at the bottom, but they are always changing and moving towards the other end. I chose to title this post Downtime, because I think that slumps and fallow periods have a really strong negative connotation, and while it definitely can feel bad when you are in them, I think they are a vital part of the growing process and prefer to look at them as rest times, or downtime!
I'm sort of an obsessive type person. Doing things in moderation is something I have to work at. When I get drawn to something, I dive right in, and want to surround myself with it. If it is a new show, I want to watch it all day. If it is a new practice, I want to do it for hours. If it is a new subject to study, I will look up everything I can find on it, devour anything I can read, and take copious notes.
Sadly this often leads to burnout. I will get a bit brain fried, and have to step back. No matter how much I may still be drawn to a thing, just the thought of doing it may make me feel like not doing anything at all.
It used to really frustrate me, these high and low periods. I like things all tidy and finished and complete, and when I would rush in, and then turn away, it always felt like I was only doing things partway and giving up. What I have found is that most of the time, this period of not engaging in the activity actually leads to a better understanding of it.
I think that when I am utterly steeped in something it's like being too close to something: it's hard to get an objective perspective of it. I am so consumed by the thing itself I can't see how it applies or interacts with other aspects of my life. By take a step back, by letting it fall to the wayside as I do something else, it's like putting a pot on the back burner. The heat may be on low, but it will still continue to stew, and the flavors will only intensify. If you try to cook everything on high, you end up with lots of burnt outsides and raw insides.
This stepping away process works very well for me in regards to creative problem solving. If I have an issue that is really giving me trouble, I will delve deep into it for a period of time until I have exhausted all my thoughts and resources on it, then I will deliberately turn away. I will sleep on it, and not seek it out for a few days. At the end of that time, I can come back to it and look over my notes or rethink it through and most times I have a good solution that comes to me quite quickly.
I also find it very helpful when learning new information. A perfect example is songs or chants. I can put a chant on loop, listen to it for a day straight, have the lyrics in front of me and chant along, and at the end of the day, I still might flub the words when I try to chant it on my own. If I then put something else on to listen to, don't look at the lyrics for a few days and then come back to it, I can normally remember all the words just fine.
I think that we all have a certain amount of resources, energy that we draw on as we go about our day. And not just one type of energy, but different energies for different things. I can spend all day doing errands and running around, and still feel fairly energized when I get home and want to exercise, because, for me, they are different types of activities and they draw from different pools of resources. And sometimes things are just so powerful they drain all your pools. I find this very true when I am giving of myself or when I am very stressed. If I am spending all day in a hospital or doing caregiver work, I will just feel absolutely drained and need to do something luscious for myself, something decadent that makes me feel refilled.
That is something that is key for me: learning to listen to what my body, mind and spirit need and to honor the ebb and flow of the energies within me. Instead of focusing on how empty I feel at times, I try to look at what would fill me up. I have recognized this empty feeling since I was a child. I deep hollow all encompassing feeling that would come over me. For a very long time, I sort of sunk into it, and just wallowed in it. Which only fed into the emptiness.
I definitely find that I can fall into a pattern, either of stillness or movement. And either one, taken too long and too extreme becomes hard to break from. If I am too busy, eventually I will sort of break down, and just have no desire to do anything at all. Conversely, if I have spent a lot of days just sitting around, watching tv or wasting time, then I start to feel like I absolutely have to do something, anything, just to break free of the pattern. And each state has it's own momentum, so the longer I have been still or busy, the harder it is to slow down or speed up.
Ultimately, I think that there is are two types of turning points: there is a balance point in the middle, and then the apex point at the top. Staying near the balance point and alternating states may keep you from the deep stillness, but it also keeps you from the great heights. Pushing to the edge means you have more to climb and more to fall. I still haven't figured out which one works best for me, but I do know that staying balanced is harder for me to maintain.