Our lives present us all with palpable "breaks" from time to time - no matter who we are, how fortunate and abundant we feel, or how deeply we may struggle, we are all given opportunities to pause at some point throughout the journey. How long that period lasts will vary due to any number of unique circumstances. The nature of this break could be physical or mental, external or internal. Perhaps we suddenly have a wide-open calendar for an entire two weeks, or maybe the anxiety that seems to relentlessly press down on our chest finally eases up a little. There are infinite examples of how this break can manifest, but regardless of what it looks like, it is a universal experience.
There are essentially two things we can do when presented with this opportunity: we may monitor our surroundings anxiously waiting for "the other shoe to drop" - we recognize this resting period as temporary and, in constantly reminding ourselves of this, risk wasting these precious moments immersed in worry. This is what most of us have a tendency of doing. The clouds of depression are lifting? Well, now you're anxious thinking about when they'll strike down again, because you know it will come back eventually. School's out for the summer? Better keep a countdown on the brain for how many days you have left and watch as it dwindles. Before there is even time to enjoy a new change of pace, it's been ruined by our human tendency to think ahead, to look anywhere but directly in front of us.
That's the first option. The second is to use it to our advantage, to use it as preparation for whatever is about to come. Much easier said than done.
I talk about personal "seasons" a lot on Lead to Gold. In fact, I have an entire podcast episode that dives into the concept. But to keep it short for the sake of this conversation, it helps some people to relate their inner landscape to the physical seasons we see on planet Earth. Our personal "summer" looks like steady contentment, feeling whole, feeling mostly energized and excited to get out into the world. I think of it as the season of full abundance and celebration of aliveness, just like our natural summer, teeming with energy and life force. Then, eventually, we'll experience a period of exhaustion, of retreat, of release - in our personal "autumn," we start to back away and clean our systems of what no longer serves a meaningful purpose. An internal winter may mean deep rest, stillness, quietness, or it could go further into a mental darkness; it could be synonymous with depression, isolation, burnout, or lack of motivation. Spring is where we begin to feel the sun again, where opportunities arise...where seeds are planted. The sacred break most often presents itself as an initiation to the inner spring, when conditions are perfect for creating an abundant season ahead. We are being given space and time to create something new. But how do we know when this moment arrives?
Personal seasons are not necessarily cyclical like the natural seasons are - there is a tendency for one to follow the next, but not always. To really get in tune with this, we must first observe our inner landscape with as much openness and honesty as we can muster. Are we feeling steady, content, abundant? We are likely in our summer (even if there is snow covering the car). But in a matter of days, we could begin to feel the sensations of burnout and find ourselves in the middle of an internal winter. To recognize this sacred moment of opportunity, of gentle, comforting quiet when it comes about can be quite difficult if we are not aware of our body's seasons. To take full advantage of this preparatory period, we must spend time getting familiar with all the feelings as they come and go. We must understand what our inner landscape is doing and respond with intention, feed it what it craves. When we are content and energized, we allow ourselves to celebrate; when we are exhausted and agitated, we take deep care and find rest. We honor the subtle nudges and we answer the calls. And after we've practiced, in a particular moment, our soul will whisper to us, "I'm ready for more."
When we find ourselves here, we acknowledge the level of preparation it requires. It feels a bit like accepting a quest. When we can hold the responsibility instead of quake in fear of an unseen future, we build our bravery, our resilience, and our potential all at once. We lean in and ask in response, "What is it, exactly, that you need from me?" and the answer will be entirely individual and unique.
We may have a pretty clear idea of what our future holds - for example, I knew coming into this school year that I am going to be presented with more persistent grading work than I have ever had before. I'm teaching a much higher level course, and I will need to know my shit before attempting to teach it to children. I could be terrified of this (and trust me, I have been), but what makes the process more bearable is accepting that this is part of what my soul meant when she told me she was ready for more. I am ready, too. What will I need to do to prepare for the work? And how will it feel after I've accomplished it?
On the flipside, though we might have a specific trajectory in mind, there will always be curveballs we could never predict. The future holds endless mystery, as we well know - some of the mystery is beautiful and exciting, some is heartbreaking. We may soon see raging success, or the sudden death of a friend. We may be on the brink of a promotion or an unexpected layoff. There is no way to know for sure. But there is the opportunity to prepare. All it takes is the willingness to lean in where we don't necessarily see something to lean on.
By preparing for the future, whatever it may bring, we actually aren't waiting for the other shoe to drop. We are instead giving ourselves the shields for moving through fear and uncertainty. We are scared and we are doing the thing anyway. Taking this time to sort things out, get clear, get focused, and armor up for the great unknown is quite the opposite of anxiously awaiting for something bad to happen. It's acknowledging that, yes, something bad may happen, but what if we're blessed with something amazing? Either way, it's okay. We're ready.
So take a deep breath, and give in to the trust fall. Isn't that the essence of life, really? Isn't it all in some way an acceptance of fear and a surrender to mystery?