Do you get sick? I don’t know what that feels like – because I don’t get sick.
Sure, I may willingly let myself crash at convenient times, such as after final exams or a major project at work. But that’s just because I need the rest. Before you know it, I’m back at it.
I just don’t get sick.
Until I did.
It was at the beginning of a busy week, in the middle of a busy season, at the end of a busy year. I was run-down, with what felt like, at least, unforgiving deadlines. The whole being was tired. Usually, I only let this happen at a time that’s convenient. This time, though, was not convenient. And since I was already losing sleep at the thought of not making deadlines, missing an entire day to sickness did not feel like an option.
As I rested in bed through pure necessity, my mind turned on me. Thoughts of self-criticism arose. I must be weak. I must just be looking for attention. What a coward!
While talking with one of Clear Sky’s founding teachers, Doug Duncan Sensei, I prefaced our conversation with, “This is so weird, I don’t get sick.” Doug Sensei responded, “You mean, you muscle through instead of acknowledging the symptoms and resting?”
Ouch. He was right.
All these years, I had been ignoring my body.
In that moment, I realized where I was lacking self-integrity. I’ve always been great at honoring my external space and the needs of others. I often step forward to help and I rarely miss deadlines. Good for me. But have I been honoring my inner space?
I realized there was a deep fear at the bottom of this pattern:
If I took time to rest, others would judge me and be angry.
Does that resonate with you?
By listening to that fear, I was choosing to ignore my body. In fact, I only listened when it screamed and demanded my attention, like now. I’d taught it to act like a child who can only get attention with a tantrum.
I decided I want to be an adult who listens to the integrity of their inner voice. So, for the next three days, I slept in. The self-critic was still present – these patterns don’t disappear overnight – but I chose instead to listen to my body’s quiet request for rest.
Here’s what the experience taught me self-integrity and honoring my inner space:
1. Recognize you’ll never get it all done
We will die with things still on our To-Do list. So, it’s up to us. We can either let these external pressures and measurements determine our reality, or choose to do what we can in this moment, with presence and integrity. And breathe.
2. Create space
Speaking of breathing…. Once you’ve recognized that you can’t possibly get everything done, create some inner space so you can be present with what is in front of you. Perhaps that’s going for a walk, or having a tea break at the same time every day. Whatever works for you. For me it’s making a weekly schedule that creates space for me. With everything mapped out, I don’t feel anxious about something on Monday, because I know I’ll have time to do it on Friday.
3. Stay present
By giving myself the space to lay in bed while sick, I could be present with the voice of my inner critic. In the past, I believed it, but with space I could now see it for what it was. So, yep, keep watching that breath. Now you’ve got tools to have space from them, just stay present with whatever is arising and don’t believe it.
It’s amazing how something seemingly small can feel so profound. For years, I let imaginary voices become so loud that I couldn’t hear the quiet inner wisdom of my being. This simple conversation with my teacher taught me that honoring my inner space means acting with integrity – and for this, we need the space to listen to the quiet voice of inner wisdom and compassion, instead of that of the loud angry critic.
OK. I guess I was sick, after all. I admit it.