Taking time for yourself, taking time to be.
Do you need to be doing something productive all the time or otherwise you feel like you’re wasting your time?
A few weeks ago, I was hanging out with a new group of people that I had recently met. These were all professionals, most of them in academia, very interesting group of people. A much-anticipated spring had just arrived and had brought warm, sunny days. So, as one does around here, we got to talking about the weather. As I heard one of the ladies say that she actually preferred cold days, I found myself wondering how that could even be possible. She went on to explain that on cold, windy days it was easier for her to delve into work. Let me just point out that she was not referring to regular job hours; she was talking about doing work after finishing her job hours. She said that on sunny, warm days she just wanted to be outside, so, instead, this made it easier for her to stay inside and work. Now you may be wondering “where is she going with this? “
As I was thinking about this exchange, it occurred to me that many people tend to feel guilty when they take time for themselves. I think this lady mentioned it as she talked about how she felt: Being outside on a pretty day “doing nothing” when I could be inside doing some work and being productive just makes me feel a little guilty. Have you ever heard anyone say anything like that? Have you said that?
Doing nothing. Just being.
Some people have a problem with “doing nothing”. Many people seem to have an attachment to being “productive”. Don’t get me wrong, I am a very responsible person and I make sure I get everything done when it needs to get done, and I understand and involve in work ethic and reaching goals. However, it seems to me like more and more people are obsessed with being productive, and regrettably forget about actually living. They keep working towards a tomorrow, always striving, always reaching, never arriving, completely missing today. They are the ones always complaining about time, as there never seems to be enough time in the day for them. And that is because they are not present in the moment, even though now is all there is. What are they trying to prove? If you have ever felt like this, rest assured you’re not the only one.
We tend to live our lives feeling that we’re not good enough (on a subconscious level) thus need to do things to prove that we are worth it. During our upbringing, there is a moment (early in childhood) –just around our school years start- when just being doesn’t cut it anymore, and then comes the moment when we feel that we need to do things to prove that we are good enough to earn the love that we should deserve, so we think we need to get better grades, we need to run a little faster, we need to lose a little more weight, we need to make more friends, and so on. One thing all these different events have in common is that that is the time when we start comparing ourselves to others. Then, we lose touch with ourselves and begin following others’ desires and/or notions of what constitutes good actions and right decisions, looking for approval and acceptance in the form of (conditioned) love from others, thinking we need that to feel better about ourselves. Fortunately, there is always an opportunity to return home, to return to who we really are.
We tend to forget that we are human beings, not human doings. How often do you give yourself a chance to just be? Spend time with yourself, be silent, find yourself, deal with your thoughts and your feelings, get comfortable in your own skin, rejoice in your true spirit. Find moments to reconnect with yourself and be present, right here, right now, for there is no other place where you need to be. Be mindful. Make it a priority to make time for you to spend with you and just be, get to know yourself and love that person unconditionally by telling yourself “it’s okay”. Whatever thoughts you may have about who you are or what you’ve done, tell yourself “it’s okay…(to think/do that)”. Cultivate your relationship with yourself because it is the only way you will know what you really want in life –not what others want-and what really matters to you. Once your relationship with yourself is strengthened, all your other relationships will naturally follow. It all starts with you.
Then, make time to spend with those you love, for, what else really matters in life if not the relationships we have? Find the joy in “doing nothing” while spending quality time with family, friends, acquaintances, neighbors, pets, or anyone you meet. All that positive energy that you get from joyful interactions boosts your immune system and helps keep you strong and healthy. Relationships feed you, too; they are your primary food, actually, so you need to take care of them, beginning with the relationship with yourself.
It all begins with you, with accepting and loving yourself for who you are, not for what you do or for what you wish you were. This means that you need to get to know yourself well. Drop your preconceived ideas of what you think you “should” be like for they are most likely not your own but a result of your environment. Take time for play, for joy, for silence, for stillness, time for just being, and let go of the guilt of not doing things. This is what being productive is really about, it’s about making life matter. Life is not meant to be logical, but mainly meant to be enjoyed. It’s about making your relationships be the best they can be by giving them all of who you are –beginning with the one with yourself. In the words of my (very wise) brother, if you are not happy today, where you are, right here, right now, you will never be. If you are doing things to get somewhere to then be happy, you’re doing it in the wrong order. Be present in your life today, for there is no tomorrow. What are you waiting for? What kind of life do you want to live?
Look around you and open your eyes to all the love that surrounds you.