Today, like every other day, we wake up
empty and frightened. Don’t open the door to the study
and begin reading. Take down a musical instrument.
Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.
I recently had a birthday. I spent a day completely relaxing with people I love. I hardly did anything. I listened to music, cooked, read and just appreciated the quiet and peace of the day. Listening to the Beatle’s song “Blackbird” blare on full volume, I had a sense that there are so many intricacies that we barely pay attention to. The velvety guitar progression coupled with Paul McCartney’s clear voice made me feel held by the natural world and all of its full of light and darkness, brokenness and ethereal beauty.
Every moment is full of emotion and possibility, but we glaze over moments in the pursuit of accomplishing or escaping. Especially in this current political climate, it is easier to ignore our fear than to sit with it mindfully and find the beauty around us. When we feel afraid, we ‘open the door to the study’ instead of playing our musical instruments. We cover our true selves with defensive facades so that we will be protected.
It is hard to appreciate anything around us when we are stuck in this small version of ourselves. We don’t see what’s important. We leave. Perfectionism is a way of checking out and it’s also a coping mechanism to deal with the often frightening and sad nature of our lives.
When we leave, our inner children—who have the ability to live in the moment and appreciate it–get buried under layers. Instead of savoring, we plan. Instead of choosing to hear what our partner is saying, we think of a response. Instead of feeling our pain about the state of the American healthcare system and mindfully attending to this pain, we shut down. We neglect and abandon the children inside of us who need our attention. We miss our lives, and put up a defensive layer that distances us from others.
There are times when I feel that it’s difficult to hear what people around me are saying because I’m so focused on some task I need to accomplish. My vision becomes narrowed very quickly when I’m stressed. Hyper-focusing is how we have survived and avoided predators. Our very genetic makeup predisposes us to perfectionism.
But the more we become aware of what we are doing and how it is robbing us of our lives, the more we can embrace the present moment. When I ask perfectionistic clients to consider what their lives would be like it they had achieved perfection—when they attained the perfect body, the perfect relationship, an amount of money or success that would make them feel comfortable—they all tell me that they could finally relax if they had met their goal.
This response is hugely telling—it is so clearly that what we really want isn’t the money, the success, the job, the accolades, or the task list to be completed. We really want to be in the present moment. We really want to feel free to love, to be ourselves and to enjoy. This is why we love vacations—because we finally give ourselves permission to relax and take a break from the chatter in our minds.
There are some days when it is so easy for our inner children to emerge and we can play and rest and connect to the world around us. I recently felt so in touch with my inner self that I was grasping at this self—I didn’t want to let it go. But my birthday also made me realize that we have a choice to give ourselves permission to let go and to do what we love. We can allow ourselves this vacation on a daily basis; to play and have fun. This is, after all, what our lives are all about.
Take a break. Make your life your priority, not your success. When you feel yourself getting overwhelmed, this is when you actually need to reconnect with yourself. You’re not going to get anything more done going at a million miles an hour. You’re going to be more effective as a person when you are healthy and balanced and allow yourself to experience this life.
I urge you to take an entire day off of everything. Disconnect from technology and social media. Engage with the earth, plants, music and poetry. We used to have Sunday as a day of nothing—now do we don’t have a single day devoted to rest.
As you relax, make it a point to mindfully focus on the things in this world that are truly beautiful. As an old friend of mine recently quoted to me from the Rumi poem above, ‘we are kissing the same ground.’ And even with all the suffering around us, there is so much to kiss.
Emma Kobil is a licensed professional counselor practicing in Denver, Colorado. Her philosophically informed therapeutic approach focuses on helping creative and perfectionist individuals practice self compassion. Learn more about Emma, or schedule an appointment, at mindfulcounselingdenver.com.