Too Many Things on Your Plate?
When to Quit and When to Be “Stretched”
A lot of new things have happened in my life lately. In the past month I began taking an online course, started seriously working on a business startup, and got engaged to my boyfriend.
He single-parents his 14-year old son and I also single-parent my 11-year-old son. We have a wedding to plan and two households to merge over the coming months.
Meanwhile, I still have a day job and I continue to work on a side project compiling a manuscript of my teacher’s work with the aim to publish it.
Oh, and I write on Medium and my blog, which are also relatively new things for me.
I absolutely love every one of the things and people I just mentioned. Each brings my life a lot of joy.
For some people, it may not even seem like all that many things I’m balancing. But for me, it’s a lot of things.
I’ve never been a high producer — or at least not a fast producer. I’ve had periods of my adult life when I was doing next to nothing by contrast to the life I’m leading now.
I’ve always been one who savors leisure time and has no issues with not having a project to be working on or anything that I have to do. (That said, I can also get too “agro” when I do have projects I’m working on.)
For many years, my primary focus in life was on meditating and on exploring the “inner” world. During these years, any attention I gave to the “material” world was kept at the bare minimum that would allow me to sustain my most basic survival needs and not much more.
Clearly, I’ve cannonballed back into the material world full force. And I keep wondering how the high producers of the world pull it off so seamlessly by all appearances.
While I love each of the latest new elements in my life, the overall effect of having so many balls in the air is overwhelming at times. I can’t help but drop one of the balls here or there and have to reach back down and pick it up again.
It’s hard to stay as consistent with each element as I’d like to because they’re all vying for my attention and I’m not always the best at figuring out the balance.
All the while I’m aware that we humans can overdo things and make ourselves too busy in an attempt to distract ourselves from — well, our Self — among other things.
I’ve been careful to examine my motives and make sure that’s not what I’m doing here. The last thing I want is to create “busywork” for myself.
Here’s my litmus test for when to quit a thing versus when to let yourself be “stretched” by that thing. Ask yourself:
Am I so busy right now because I don’t want to face something, or because life’s flow is simply calling for a heavier output from me right now?
Depending on the answer to that question, it may be time to drop one or more of those projects that have you running around chaotically. Alternatively, it may be time to step up to life’s challenge and let yourself be “stretched.”
Growth is never easy, but I recognize that I’m being called to grow, to learn to do more with my time than I’ve been able to in the past. It literally does feel like getting stretched sometimes, and it’s uncomfortable.
The whiny voice inside sometimes wants to go back to my easier pace of life where I had a lot more leisure and free time. But my deepest knowing is that this change and discomfort is here to help me grow.
I’m simply being called to learn to do all these things while maintaining a healthy balance.
Sometimes the “material” world challenges us to grow spiritually. And sometimes the “spiritual” world challenges us to grow materially.
I’m learning to embark on all the new additions in my life while keeping sight of those spiritual realizations that were revealed during a less busy time of life.
I trust that by allowing myself to be tumbled through this I’ll be able to do a lot more than I’m used to and still maintain awareness of who I really am underneath it all.
It’s like the Zen masters who say it’s all good and well to be able to meditate in a cave but are you bringing that same equanimity into “the marketplace?”
That’s the real test of how your meditation practice is doing. With the swirl and chaos and cacophony around you, can you still remain rooted in yourself and grounded in your ultimate truth?
Obviously, when we’re busy growing and learning new things it’s not going to feel as relaxing and easygoing for a while. When we’re being stretched to new limits, we probably aren’t going to feel as mellow.
But life sometimes calls for this “awkward phase” so we can learn new skillsets that we at our deepest know are needed in order to keep moving and flowing with the life we ultimately want to live.
Even the discomfort we encounter during these times is all part of the flow. The key is to get out of our minds and let life lead.
As my teacher, Vinn, once told me, “Life is really quite simple. Just do. Just put one foot in front of the next.”
That’s my “mantra” at the moment. The only thing I have to do right now is to focus on the step right ahead of me.
That’s really all any of us ever have to do in life.