It’s summer in Northern California. All around there are signs of growth and ripening. Summertime often ushers in a period of gentle expansion for plants and people alike. It’s a time when energy organically moves outward toward blooming and blossoming. It’s often a time of opening and extending, as is reflected to us by the natural world. Just think of all the flowering plants and shrubs that share their beauty and bounty during the warmer months. Imagine the inner impulse of those resolute vine tendrils you see, always reaching and stretching to the light during the sultry summer season.
I’ve been finding myself pulled out into the world the past few months, as well. Summer can bring out my social, playful, adventurous sides. The world beckons, and when I’m not working with amazing students, clients and colleagues, I’m called out into sunshine dappled forests, days at the beach, parties, picnics, quiet walks and tea in the park. And, to be honest, the last thing I want to do is sit at my computer any longer than I have to. Even to do things I typically enjoy, like writing and making digital art.
I was starting to feel a little self-critical about taking such a long pause from blogging. I’ve been inundated with messaging, especially aimed at those of us who are self-employed that says: “be consistent, be reliable, be predictable.” Yes, I totally get the logic in that. That can be pretty sound advice. Yet, I have also learned that, ultimately, what I really need to do is trust my own natural rhythms of gentle expansion and contraction, introverting and extroverting, efforting and allowing, even when they don’t match up – to my own expectations; to the imagined expectations of others; or to the recommendations and standards I encounter “out there” in the world.
I’ve learned that my own “best practices” have to take into account simple, fundamental, yet easily over-looked things. For example, I have found that balance, health, well-being and sustainability have to be at the center of any “best practices”. It’s seems obvious, but can be easy to forget in the midst of the daily string of details involved in managing any modern life. In any given moment, it’s easy to believe I need to be blogging or marketing, or connecting, etc., when what I really need to be doing is resting or recharging, or doing something to replenish myself.
I am constantly paying attention to what I need, (sometimes on a minute by minute basis), to help me stay in a place of balance and ease, and stay out of those (all too familiar) inner and outer places of struggle, overextension, and exhaustion. Overextension is not the same thing as expansion. That bears repeating. Overextension is not the same thing as expansion. Gentle expansion feels light in the body, in the heart and psyche, whereas, overextension feels heavy, draining, and depleting.
Here’s a few tools I use to help me discern whether I’m expanding in a beneficial way, or overextending myself. First, I think about a task, goal or situation and see if it feels light or heavy in my body. If it’s light, then I will typically move forward with it. If it’s heavy, I know I need to dig around and uncover a bit more about what’s motivating me in the first place, and what might be blocking me.
Asking questions can be really useful. You may want to try asking yourself:
- Do I really want to do this, and if so why?
- If not, why not?
- Do I need to do this right now?
- What are the (potential) benefits if I do it, and what are the (potential) costs if I don’t?
- Do I think I need to do this because someone else said it was a good idea?
- Or does the inspiration come from my own inner self, from my “gut”?
- One of the simplest and most revealing questions is: “Am I doing this out of love, or out of fear?”
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but rather, it’s meant to be a springboard for you to start coming up with your own questions and prompts to get underneath goals and actions to find out what’s motivating them in the first place, and what may be tripping you up.
I’d love to hear about any ways in which you uncover your motives and tame the sense of overwhelm, while opening to times of expansion. I invite you to leave a note below or reach out by contacting me. Here’s to gentle expansion and days filled with the warm glow of summer!