When the Universe hits you over the head…

It’s probably time to pay attention.

It’s no secret that this time of year is exceptionally busy and stressful for me. The return to classes, the realization that another summer has passed, and that I have not accomplished nearly as much as I wanted to by September, grant deadlines, etc. etc. etc. I could go on – but you all have your own challenges and stressful periods in life and, well, this is just mine. This is how it is – and how it will be – if I want to continue to have this life that I really do love.

And yet, how I approach this time of year is one thing that I can change, and that I want to change. Almost every year I vow to do better, to take time for myself, to remember to find the spaces of peace in the chaos of daily life.

And every year, I abandon that, often without even really trying. Despite my best intentions, I just return to the cycle of overwork, of impending burnout, and of crushing fatigue.

This year, though, I think the Universe is getting fed up with me.

Case in point: I have seen more references to breath in things I’ve been reading than I would have thought possible. Poems, blog posts, newsletters, tea bags.

Yes, tea bags. Evidence from last night’s:

Mmm, hmm.

Then there was the newsletter I read on Sunday, which had the sentence, “I hope you’re breathing.”

The clincher, though, was 5AM Joel’s email yesterday, which included a beautiful poem by john roedel. I won’t paste the whole thing here (the link below links to the whole poem) but it included this part that jumped right out at me…

there is no yesterday in your lungs
there is no tomorrow there either

there is only now
there is only inhale
there is only exhale
there is only this moment

there is only breath

and in that breath
you can rest while your
heart and head work
their relationship out.

john roedel

So, yeah. Message received, Universe, thanks. I’m going to try this breathing thing and see if it helps smooth out the transition back into the chaos of the academic year. I’ll let you know how it’s going – I know the best laid plans and all that. But, well, when how you’ve always done it doesn’t really work, maybe it’s time to consider a new approach.

The world is so heavy right now. Perhaps breathing is the best place to start… I hope you take the time to breathe, too, to try to shed some of the burdens we’re all carrying. I’ll be breathing right along with you.

12 thoughts on “When the Universe hits you over the head…

  1. I used to be like that. Thinking that next autumn (or whatever season was the busiest) I would do differently, but it never happened. Then I became more miserable and started thinking about how to fix my life, which made me even more stressed and I went into full burnout.
    Please find ways to breathe, for real.
    The world truly is heavy now, that’s a clever way to put it. I ignore it and focus on what inspires me… the only thing I can do to stay sane.

    1. I think you’re right, Susanne, and I need to start to ignore some of the news and noise that’s constantly swamping us these days. I am a news addict – always have been – but it’s just too much right now. I do take my time to breathe in the evenings – I have my tea-and-reading-and-dessert-of-course time before I go to bed. Because really, every day needs tea, books, and ice cream. Otherwise, what is the point? My other goal this weekend is to start making it a regular practice to go to a park / arboretum / natural space for at least an hour. Without looking at my phone. Your photos of nature inspire me and remind me of how important that is to our mental health. Take care of yourself, too, and remember to breathe…

  2. Well, I’d argue ‘breathing’ is the most important thing of all. I’ve been implementing some bedtime meditation recently (which often focuses on breathing and calming exercises) and let me tell you, I feel like it’s made a world of a difference. Maybe this would be something you’d like to try? Maybe the universe is on to something.

    1. Yep, I would totally agree that without breathing the rest of it pretty much doesn’t happen. 😉 So… what meditations have you been doing? Do you like a particular app? (I tried Headspace and the guy’s voice drove me bonkers.) I do read at night before bed and often will fall asleep with iPad in hand. So maybe shutting down 5 minutes earlier and trying meditation might be a good alternative!

  3. Yay, I’m glad you are on 5 AM Joel’s email list, too! He’s so great. 🙂 Things have felt so hectic for me, too, despite my best intentions. I still generally love the ‘new school year’ fall energy, though, overall. But I am sure it’s up there with the most stressful time for anyone in academia. 🙂 hang in there!!

    1. I know you’ve been going at breakneck speed, too, Kae, with the kids and practices and activities, and … yeah. I don’t know how you do it, honestly! I love the energy of back to school – totally with you there – but man, on top of everything else, it’s just a lot this year. Hope you’re hanging in there. It has to smooth out soon, right? 🙂

  4. I could sure use this too- I’ve been so caught up in moving and making the most of everything that if I don’t stop to breath soon I know I’ll burn myself out like I’ve done so many times before. I really love that poem..I’m going to print it out or incorporate it into a painting. absolutely beautiful- thanks for sharing it.

    1. I know… I get going, the momentum is carrying me forward, and often the only thing that stops me is literally hitting a wall. Burning out. It’s not sustainable, and of course I have known that for years. The challenge, for me, is building time to breathe into every day, rather than just when I hit crisis mode.

      Part of me wants to make that short bit of the poem (read the whole thing if you have not, it’s absolutely beautiful) my desktop wallpaper and / or the lock screen on my phone. I love that you want to incorporate it into a painting. I’ve never been an artist, so won’t risk ruining it by trying to become one now. Ha!

    1. Thanks for confirming that it was definitely a sign… Over a week later now, and I’m not *quite* there yet with the breathing. But I hope to get there soon. Let’s go with, it’s a work in progress. Always!

  5. Yes, yes. Breathe! Obviously, we’re *always* breathing, but these reminders to breathe are so much more than that. Deep breaths are just so good for us, for centering ourselves, for releasing stress. I know how much better I feel when I do a nighttime meditation (which I am wholly out of the habit of), and this is a good reminder for me to get back to them. <3

    1. Those deep breaths are so important. I used to start my day just sitting with my hot coffee / tea, listening to music, and breathing. It was a lovely way to start the day, and maybe one way I can remind myself of the importance of pausing and taking those deep breaths. And, it’s interesting that both you AND San have suggested night time meditation. I’ve not been able to maintain a “real” meditation routine before, but I’m wondering if (with some tweaks to make it more, well, “me”) I might be able to figure it out this time. 🙂

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