It’s Got to Ebb If It’s Going to Flow

I heard this adage the other day, and it came on a day when I really needed it.  Being in lockdown for so long has been tough.  And for me it comes on the heels of a few really challenging years of injury, loss, and a big move across the world.  So, it should have been obvious to me that my creative energy would be in a bit of an ebb; my brain, heart, and spirit had to prioritize healing and managing stress.  But I still was being quite hard on myself for having twelve (12!) half-written courses on my desk, and no energy to put into them.

I have been talking to myself about procrastination and productivity, when I should have perhaps been sitting with the truth that sometimes we need to ebb before we can flow.

Like all things in nature sometimes we need to rest, recover, hibernate, withdraw, gather our energy before we can flow again. In our culture of ‘cracking on’, ‘smashing it’, ‘go hard or go home’, it can be a challenge to accept that life, like all things in nature, has its balance.  The flower petals need to wither and fall so that we can have new blossoms, and new seeds, in spring.  Waves must retreat so that they can return.  We must exhale so that we can inhale.

Sometimes resting is the most productive thing we can do.

I was reminded of this in a few conversations with yoga teachers this week who were suffering a bit of burn-out.  When we burn the candle at both ends, we end up with no fuel to burn.  So, even in the world of yoga, we have to be judicious with our use of energy. We have a lot of energy going out to others, so we have to ensure that there are times that we regenerate that energy.  We can draw that energy and inspiration from other activities like our own practice, or learning, play, creative pursuits, or just time doing nothing.

The funny thing about it is, while I can know this intellectually, I can still feel that part of me that is calibrated for doing rather than not-doing, for being productive, making progress rather than listening to the whispers that I need more rest time.

Do I fear that if I retreat, I might disappear?

But, surely as spring follows winter, my creative juices will flow again with a bit of time and space, and perhaps some additional ‘fuel’ from my other pursuits.

So, this is my practice right now – ebbing.  It amuses me just saying it out loud. But I’m going to really drop into the ebb, embrace it, and then see what flows from it.

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