The Art of Allowing
Magical things can happen when you begin to “allow” instead of “plow.”
We live in a society that encourages and promotes achievement. In many ways, both subtle and overt, we’re told that if we’re not achieving, we’re not fully living. If we don’t get the promotion, earn a pay raise, advance to the next level, achieve the higher degree, get the bigger house, lose the weight, gain the proper body tone, lower our cholesterol, finish the course, get published, or be recognized in a public way; that somehow, we’re not worthy. Or, maybe even worse than that — that we’re (gasp!) lazy. Laziness, above all else, is to be avoided and condemned. Maybe it’s the American work ethic that has made its way into our American psyche. As a result, we can’t rest without feeling that we’re not contributing.
It feels as if our society values leisure, only as a reward for accomplishment. “You’ve worked extra hard this week — you deserve a break.” As if rest can only be enjoyed if we’ve worked to achieve it. Do we ever allow ourselves to rest when we haven’t worked really hard? Perhaps you’ve noticed that even our vacations have become a kind of achievement. We plan our itineraries, and book our tours. We tick off the boxes of the required sightseeing destinations. Then, while we’re on vacation, we wake up early to take the highly-rated tour and then rush frantically to the dinner reservation that we’ve researched beforehand. It becomes like work, only in a prettier setting. Even on our vacation we’re achieving — it’s a kind of conquesting of our own personal bucket list.
At our jobs we’re compelled to have to-do lists. But what about our non-working hours? Generally, we have a to-do list for our personal lives as well. Even if it’s not on actual paper or written on a digital notepad, it’s in our heads: make the doctor appointment, pay the bills, clean the house, do the shopping, go to the gym, eat healthier, drink more water, write thank you notes, call Mom, call the repairman. Our lists are endless. They’re so long in fact, that if we dare to take an hour off, we start to feel guilty about those other things that we know we should be doing. In our idle time we feel we should be plowing through our to-do list. Its this feeling of guilt that keeps us from truly relaxing, from doing the re-charging that is essential for our health and mental clarity. Relaxing, for the sake of renewal, is so important. Even though we know this, it’s easy to forget, especially because we’re so consumed with worry about appearing lazy or feeling that while we’re idle we aren’t accomplishing anything.
I would like to propose we get rid of the to-do lists for our personal lives and allow our schedules to open up for the things we really need — including rest, but also creativity, romance and play. We need to start “allowing” opportunities to come our way, instead of “plowing” our way through our list of things we feel we need to achieve. When we plow instead of allow we sap the energy we need for more enjoyable pursuits. Instead of ticking off your to-do list and rushing through them one by one, try a change of focus. Begin by telling yourself that you are perfect and beautiful — that your time is precious and it is there for you to learn, grow and enjoy. Sit still in this knowing and take a deep breath. Imagine yourself supported by time and by all things. Say, “I am allowing myself to do the things that support my well-being. I am allowing time to open so that all good and right things will happen exactly as they need to. I am allowing guidance to clear my schedule so that I may support my body and spirit as it needs to be supported. In this moment I am allowing all things.”
I believe that our to-do lists will always get done. If we spend our time mindfully allowing, we can support ourselves with rest and play and creativity as well as the work we need to do in order to function in this society. Starting right now, banish the word “lazy” from your vocabulary. Replace it with the word “recharge.” “In this moment of rest, I am recharging. I am allowing myself this supportive energy so I can show-up stronger for myself and those who need me.”
When we are constantly plowing through our lives, we are operating in a permanent stress mode. This leads to all sorts of unhealthy habits — fitful sleep, over-caffeineation, too much alcohol, cravings for sweets, feelings of unworthiness, and so on. When we allow a few minutes of breathing and positive affirmation, we are allowing ourselves to be supported in healthy and healthful ways. Allow yourself the rest you need. Allow yourself to be guided. Ask yourself mindfully, “What do I need in this moment? I am allowing for all possibilities.” Maybe it’s a nap. Maybe it’s a few hours of mindless TV. Maybe it’s a session of creative pursuits — like collaging, journal writing, doodling, painting, etc. Allow yourself the time and support you need. Banish the “shoulds” and the “shouldn’ts.” You are precious, your to-do list is not a “life test” that you pass or fail. Your list of achievements don’t define your self-worth. Allow yourself to be yourself. If you are naturally slow and plodding, be slow and plodding — without apologies — without judgement. If you tend to fear the important tasks of this society (taxes, loans, bill paying, legal issues, confrontations) allow yourself to feel the fear — no apologies, no judgement. Hug yourself and say, “You are beautiful, you are perfect, you will get through this. I am allowing you to take all the time you need.” Chances are, once you ALLOW these feelings, with support, love, and non-judgement, you will probably make your way through those uncomfortable tasks much quicker. It’s the resistance and denial that holds us back and slows us down. It is the idea that we must PLOW through our tasks in order to be successful and accomplished that result in our feelings of stress.
I need to learn these lessons as much as anyone. It’s very difficult for me not to be constantly busy. I’ve realized that I am more contemplative by nature. I need personal time to just sit and think and rest. This doesn’t jive well with a full-time corporate job, a long commute and many side passions. I find that I’m much happier when I allow myself this time to recharge. When I’m resting, it’s all too easy to start the judgement machine. My personal shitty committee sounds like this: “Why aren’t you writing? Why aren’t you tackling your to-do list? Why aren’t you working on a creative project? Why are you wasting this free time? Why are you so lazy?”
When I am in my “allowing” mode, I tell myself I’m perfect. I allow myself to follow my true nature without apology. And, I allow my higher-self to respond to this Shitty Committee! (I also allow myself to translate the divine-speak of my higher-self into real language, so that it sounds like this: “Why don’t ya’ll just SHUT UP?”)
Learning the art of allowing isn’t easy, but it’s so important. Slow down. Breathe. Start a new mantra that can start a new pattern of thought. “I allow myself to be myself. I allow myself the time I need to do the things that support me. I allow all feelings with non-judgement. I allow myself to support myself.
In this moment I allow guidance.
In this moment I allow all possibilities.