Winter has returned. Here in the Bay Area it is getting dark earlier. Last night I was struggling to connect myself to work I thought I needed to do right then, and instead, I ended up watching the lovely Japanese anime Weathering With You directed by Mokoto Shinkai. I realized it was time to do something different in terms of how I hold work and rest instead of setting myself up either for struggle (and burnout) or failure.
So, I am playing with a new map of the day where I set aside evenings for reading, cooking, making art (outside of writing), baking, dancing, meditating. Hygge activities. Doing ritual. Enjoying a few hours every day that are about replenishing the well, not about being productive. Nourishing my nervous system, instead of running myself hard and then feeling flat and thin and stretched.
It has been a dear wish to try to create a rhythm in my life where I don't have to do this kind of hard, breathless running (which only serves capitalism and disconnection). One way in which I work with rhythm is through paying attention to my energy as per my moon cycles—and, still, this voice within that says "go, go, go" does not let me fully pause into the dark of the cycle. I want to lean into the wisdom of the cycles more, knowing that I have only a few more years of moontime before my body changes. I would love to be able to protect this time as much as I can as more activities get added to my plate next year, what with returning to teaching university courses and initiating more projects aligned with my own direction and vision.
For now, letting my evenings be for reading, replenishing feels like a way to honor the dark of the winter, and also to recognize that life is made meaningful through more than work. And, work too is sacred!
A couple years ago, I was having dinner in the Bay Area with another South Asian practitioner of yoga and Buddhism. They were not at all comfortable when I used the word "ambition," which felt disaffirming to a part of me that is ambitious. (There is a certain understanding of eastern spirituality in which the self is seen as a fallacy, and its goals can only be dissolved into the ocean of non-attachment. May I suggest this precept too, contextually located, derives from a worldview that is patriarchal, casteist, and hierarchical?)
In this, as in all areas of life, I am striving to come up with my own both/and understandings and models. Despite being quite private and valuing my private time immensely, public engagement matters to me. For me, the key is aligning ambition with a vision and mission that are based in a story of the Earth/us that I want to help bring forth.
This alignment, on the one hand, is a way to steer myself away from perfectionism and the voice of the small self that whispers lies of not-enough. On the other hand, it also sets me on a course of internal coherence, that I am not just going through a long never-ending list of to-dos. (I can turn grim and Saturnian in that way, and how lucky am I now to have a cat in my life who teaches me to prioritize play, who comes to fetch me if I'm toiling away too long when it is our time to play.)
The sweetness of life balanced with the diamond edge of growth. A continual rebalancing. Equilibrium is found in motion!