The value of downtime

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Down time?  “What is that anyway?” you may be asking with a smile.  

Here in America we praise those that have little need for downtime.  We admire those who have “it all figured out” and chase egoist dreams relentlessly.  We understand the necessity of sacrifice to achievement.  We understand that working and playing hard….good!  Spending time with little immediate accomplishment….bad!   But do we understand what the real value of downtime is as we go about living life? 

I’m not talking about laying on a beach getting wasted in the sun with no thought about our life path at all.  I’m not talking about shopping for the greatest pair of stiletto heels and a martini with a good girlfriend. These too are necessary times for many of us.  What  I am speaking of is the downtime that we allow ourselves for reflection and measuring our lives.  Time taken despite what may be going on in our career, the world, the immediate circumstances of our lives or for our loved ones.  That downtime is what we allow when we think that clarity surrounding our life’s pursuits is important because what we do and how we do it may matter to ourselves and to others we interact with and impact.   Downtime is the time we take to “get it right” truthfully rather than pretending we have everything figured out “once and for all”.  

That downtime sounds important so why do we allow so little of it for ourselves?  Culture works against us of course but it’s a losing battle for downtime just in the living of a modern adult life.  It’s tough to find “reflection” when we are living busy and productive careers and seeking a full personal life. We live in an ego driven society and starting over isn’t easy for most of us.  It’s far easier to keep plodding a selected course than to do the work required for changing our lives. I’m not judging.  I confess that there were entire decades of my life that I spent with almost no downtime at all. I spent no time on reflection.  I made plans as a young person and then worked hard to those goals without once checking to ensure they were still goals I truly found worthwhile. As a reformed overachiever and a light worker….I look back at my earlier decades with an understanding of corrections that I could have made long ago and in a less painful way

I do not think I am alone.  I think most of us do this.  We are perhaps afraid to allow ourselves time for reflection.  If you worked very hard for a very long time at one thing…it’s not easy to change course.  It is a difficult thing to change.  Our fears keep us doing what we already know how to do.  Downtime is often spent on celebrating our achievements rather than reflection of what we want to accomplish next and what change we need to initiate as we ourselves change. We don’t have to judge ourselves for finding little downtime.  We just need to understand that we need to take downtime and then be brave enough and value ourselves enough to do it.  For without downtime to reflect on our path, our decisions, our relationships, our spirituality, our passions, our role in this world….how do we check our plans for necessary correction and change?  We don’t is the simple answer.  We can spend a lot of time working hard at the things that someday will not matter to us.  Some of us spend a lifetime doing great things for our ego’s that just don’t matter at all in the final looking back.  We all need to be reminded to take our downtime and the value that it may bring to our lives.. 

I am writing this blog from the rediscovery of it’s value this past week.  I am a light worker.  If you know what a light worker is you will know that I spend a lot of time helping people find clarity, peace, joy and light.  I spend a lot of time thinking about my role on this planet and in this miracle of a life that I have been given. I think about how my energy impacts the world.  It sounds wonderful right? It isn’t always.  Though I am a light worker…it’s not all peace, love, light and joy.  I hear peoples lies, problems, sorrows, guilt and worries along with their dreams and wishes.  I feel them actually.  I am also living with my own dreams and wishes.  My life dream requires interaction in the world as I build relationships, seek a love life as well as maintaining and nourishing my family and forge friendships.  Some people disappoint me.  Some people open my own wounds up and cause pain. Though I do have light, joy and peace…. I struggle as much as the next person. Some days I wake up completely drained from the energy that I have spent shining light as I go about living in this human existence.  It is downtime that allows me to restore, reflect and change so that I grow to the light with purpose and clarity. 

In every life it is the down time that helps us find the necessary corrections, changes or additions and gives clarity and light.. There is complete truth in the famous quote “The life unexamined is not worth living”.  I personally know this truth from the living through workaholic decades of business success at the expense of all else.  I know this truth from the working hard at maintaining certain relationships that failed no matter how hard I worked to maintain them.  I know this truth from seeing a bit more of the total picture of my life and my purpose on this planet. I know this truth from finding my way to spirituality. 

Assuming you can value downtime how do we find it in these busy lives we lead?  How can we have downtime that helps us find clarity? That’s personal to you of course.  Meditate. Write in a journal.  Sit by a lake and think your thoughts.  Climb a mountain and think about your life as you look out at the vista you surmounted.  Swing in a hammock and day dream. Find the downtime that works for you in the life you are choosing to live.  Allow your thoughts to purposefully flow through the people, pursuits and dreams of your life.  What are the things that you chase?  Is what you are chasing still what you are working at in this moment?  Were things left behind things you need to find again?  What do you believe?  What is the meaning of this life you are living. Are you happy with what you are doing on this planet?  Are you happy?  Are you loved? Are new paths opening for you?  Be brave enough to ask yourself these questions then to make changes.  Allow yourself to reflect until you find the answers that create the need for changes.  

Without reflection you will not check your course for necessary correction.  Without course corrections…you might as well throw away the map to your life because you are not traveling with purpose or clarity. Without purpose and clarity our actions lose relevance though we still accomplish outworn and irrelevant things. Accomplishing outworn and irrelevant things is a waste of the miracle of a life you have been given. Little joy will be found in living your life without reflection. Joyless and empty accomplishments and relationships are exactly that…..empty and joyless. 

And so I start back at the beginning of this blog and say….what is the value of downtime? What is the value of clarity of action, thought, intent and change that comes with downtime? What is the value of light and clarity compared to empty, dark and joyless existence? I think it’s just about priceless.

The simple light that comes from complicated darkness is clarity.

 

 

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Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes…..

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It’s a cold Chicago winter morning In the middle of the cold month of January.  I walk down Madison avenue and my neighborhood gymn window is chock full of determined souls filled with their new years resolutions.   I look at the grim faces. Gazes lock onto me as I walk by and though few faces are happy…they are resolute.  

It’s only a few weeks into the new year.  Most of us made resolutions to change “something” about ourselves.   I wonder how many treadmills will still be occupied by the second cold week of February.  How many resolved souls will find the way back to pizza in the next few harder weeks?   Changes that seem simple in the aftermath of a holiday season of gluttony become more complex as the weeks speed along.  We start missing our old pleasures and sins. Habits are actions we have chosen to cope with the patterns and wounds of our lives…no matter what that habit may be.  It really shouldn’t be a new years “resolution” that we make.  Rather than a vow to “change” a habit… we should instead vow to look at the underlying reason we select the actions that become habits. 

The woman that drinks too much wine in the last day’s of a bad relationship is really inebriating in order to escape the painful clarity that loss is just ahead. She drinks to pretend that she didn’t choose a relationship that turned out to be broken.  She drinks to pretend to be happy as long as she can.  Acceptance of failure isn’t easy to embrace.  

The man that can’t wait for the 11:00 lunch break to go stuff a zillion calories into his every expanding gut is not happy and fulfilled with his job. The food is comfort in an otherwise meaningless day.  He is afraid to look at the truth because he made all the choices to be spending his time meaninglessly.  He has to hold himself accountable for those choices and then change his life if he accepts that clarity.  It is so easy to enjoy the double decker salami and crispy potato chips with a bad ass brownie.  It is the biggest pleasure he can find in the midst of a long empty day.

The 18 year old that drops out of college to smoke pot and hang out with friends is really afraid of making any choices at all.  Numbing the fear is easier than examining a lack of confidence.  Perhaps the insecurities started with absent or overbearing parents that assisted in undermining confidence from an early age.  Perhaps the fear started when the child observed others failing in their life choices.  Dropping out and playing video games is comforting. Dealing with the fear is frightening.  Pot makes the drop out easier.

If we accept that habits and addictions are the result of dealing with our life patterns we start understanding how true change can occur. Facing those underlying fears and wounds is the only way we change. It still takes willpower but at least we may implement change that returns light and joy to our lives.  We lessen the need for our addictions and distractions with truth.   Changing the “habit” without changing the life pattern is rarely successful.  We don’t like pain.  We don’t like fear.  We would rather find some distraction and pleasurable activity to avoid dealing with pain.  It’s a natural protective reaction though that reaction often gives rise to other damages  You can only eat so much chocolate cake without exchanging bad relationship pain for a body image crisis. 

As the weeks spin by and the treadmill gears turn I would wish for everyone to look at the habits they are correcting.  Why did the habit begin with regular choices?  A habit doesn’t happen overnight.  Smoking one cigarette doesn’t create a smoker.  One glass of wine doesn’t make an alcoholic.  One badass brownie doesn’t create a fat ass.  It’s the need to indulge in those pleasures to mask other fears or painful realizations that causes the habit. The truth is that life would be less pleasant without occasional indulgence.  Wine, chocolate, comfort foods are good things.  The use of those indulgences to mask the light of truth is not a wise choice for anyone. 

I know of what I speak.  This year of 2014 is the year I return to dating. I had a long hiatus.  It was necessary.  I am bringing all my fears, insecurities and past wounds into this quest for companionship, sex, fun and partnership.  I have to examine them regularly in order to simply be in joy about dating.  It is hard sometimes.  I don’t always want to keep dating.  Sometimes I find myself  thinking “aloneness” is not so bad and why did I think I wanted to have to face all these fears?  I have a very full and joyful life.  But I also believe that life is better shared.  Therefore I must examine my underlying insecurities, fears and also my dreams in order to make wiser choices and avoid future pain.  I am resolute. II am in the light of my truth.  I am hopeful. 

Examine the reasons for your habits and light will shine into your life.  If you eat because you don’t like your chosen career you are wasting the valuable moments of your life.  If you are drinking to numb painful relationship change ahead you are wasting the valuable moments of your life.  If you are dropping out of life to avoid a confidence crisis you are wasting the valuable moments of your life.  If you spend all your time alone you are missing out on valuable moments of love and connection.  What could you do with that time?  What light could you bring to yourself and others if you spent that time more meaningfully?  Would facing your fears allow love, passion, joy and light into your life in a more complete way? Yes.  Absolutely. Does that take work?  Yes.  Absolutely.  Is it worth it?  Yes. Absolutely.  Shine the light of truth into your new resolutions for 2014.  Make the changes that change your life.  Make that your new habit and love and light will follow. 

The simple light of truth comes from the complicated darkness of examining our habits.