Rest like a renegade: using strategic reflection to change the world

This month we’ve been talking all about balance.

We’ve covered the ways our bodies and the natural world are predisposed for balance.

We’ve discussed methods and tools for rebalancing our nervous system, and we’ve explored practices for balancing the natural environment around us.

We’ve reminded ourselves that balance is already available to us - it’s not something we have to discover, or figure out, but rather a natural rhythm that takes over when we start paying attention to our bodies and our intuition.

If you’ve been following along on instagram you’ve heard about my favorite techniques for re-establishing balance. At their core they all come down to the same thing - making the unconscious, conscious.

By becoming conscious of our body’s unconscious programming towards balance and harmony, we can begin to consciously align our lives and our actions with this natural rhythm.

OK, you might be thinking, all this is great. But why do I care so much about being in balance? How is that going to help me improve my relationship, or accomplish my dream of starting a business? How will focusing on balance help me to change the world?

For those of us who are determined to achieve our goals, these internal changes can feel unimportant or irrelevant to the mission at hand. We are people who back our dreams up with action, and slowing down can be a tough sell when we have so much left to do!

But you don’t go around willy-nilly taking action. You take action with a plan, right?

Well, what’s your strategy for rest and reflection? Do you have a plan? Or do you just wait until you run out of steam, collapse or get sick for a few days and then get back on the hamster wheel?

Growing up, my household didn’t have very many rules. My parents, especially my dad, held the perspective that treating me as an equal would foster responsibility and independence. The one hardcore requirement in my family was school. I had to do well, I had to try hard, and I had to make use of the advantages my intellect and education were affording me.

My school was pretty hardcore. They’ve made movies about it. It was a private all-girls school on the Upper Eastside of Manhattan. They trained us to be smarter than men, to speak up always, to enter every meeting more prepared than everyone else in the room. Girls would come back to visit from Harvard and complain their classes were too easy.

I learned from the time I was very little that if I wanted to make a difference in this world I would have to know more and study harder than everyone else, and I would need to learn how to make it look effortless. I spent nights in 6th grade up until 4am writing papers, only to receive an A- for no reason. The message was clear: don’t ever let it be good enough.

Growing into a fully-fledged human in an environment like that definitely left me with some programming to work through! Rest was a foreign concept and something I began to teach myself in my early 20’s. Even at college with plenty of time to rest, slowing down felt impossible. I would stay up all night reading books I didn’t have to read. My body literally didn’t know how to power down.

I think many of us who come from environments where output, work and intellect are valued over other things struggle to find the value in rest and reflection. Even as we recognize it could benefit us, I know for myself when I first started trying to implement it my brain would just go crazy.

Teaching myself to rest felt like I was setting off an atomic bomb in my brain. A million thoughts of all the things I could be doing, should be doing, would immediately run through my mind. My breath would shorten and sometimes I’d even get headaches. I didn’t feel worthy of rest, I didn’t feel I’d earned the right, and I imagined I would feel ready once I reached a theoretical ‘someday’ where my goals had been accomplished.

People told me not to place my value in my work; they reminded me that I had value as a human being, that I was worthy of rest simply for existing. I understood that - what I didn’t know how to convey was the deep desire in my heart to make the world a better place, to improve upon it and enhance the lives of others.

I’ve found this sentiment runs through most of my clients as well. The desire to keep going, to focus on action and save rest for later, comes not so much from a belief they are unworthy of rest but more from an urgency to achieve their dreams.

Again, not so much because they attach their self-worth to their dreams. More so because their dreams fulfill a deep need, not only for themselves but for the collective. When you have a longing like this in your heart, rest cannot come close to the joy of knowing you’ve made someone’s life better.

Because I see this so often in my clients and I’ve dealt with it in myself, I thought it would be really beneficial to talk about strategic reflection!

What I’ve found is that by creating a strategy in my life for rest and reflection, I am actually able to move towards my goals more quickly, with less effort and more efficient, precise action.

I’m writing this today to let you know that rest and reflection don’t have to slow you down -- when incorporated strategically, they can actually speed you up! Or at least keep you going at a steady pace, without burnouts and unnecessary illness.

Our bodies are designed to flow back and forth between rest and action. Here in New York, our environment spends equal time blooming with flowers and stark with the cold. Neither one is better. Staying on either side nonstop is unsustainable. The energy, the power to grow and take action, is accumulated during the period of stillness and rest. If you just keep going eventually you run out steam.

Strategic reflection is different than simply resting. It’s a conscious prioritization of stillness and inner alignment at key moments, moments when it would be easy to continue ‘doing.’

It is a decision to value unconscious information such as intuition, body sensation and neural programming as much as we value external realities and tangible action.

Strategic reflection is the key component to maintaining balance in our lives today. Our modern world prioritizes action and output. It is up to us to create balance, by choosing to value internal wisdom as well. Just like the balance between action and reflection, a balance between conscious and unconscious knowledge is needed to live a truly satisfying life.

So, how can you make reflection and rest strategic in your life today?

If you’re in NYC I hope you join me for this month’s conscious breath experience.

I’ve found conscious breath to be an amazing tool for prioritizing reflection. It’s a clear time commitment: one workshop, once a month. And likewise the benefits are clear!

You don’t have to wait until you burn out to rest.

You don’t have to wait until you feel miserable, to start caring for your inner world.

What’s something you can commit to this month to prioritize unconscious wisdom and our need for balance?