I’ve been very busy lately. I launched a large yoga research project at a local school; I sold my house; and I’m dealing with a host of personal and professional obstacles. And while there’s nothing wrong with being busy, I’ve noticed a pattern that’s been coming up for me—a pattern that I think many of us fall prey to.
Tell me, does your life look something like this?
Wake up with just enough time to get to work. Skip lunch because you have a meeting or phone call or appointment. Rush home from work so that you can make it to ____________ (fill in the blank with something like “the gym” or “my night course” or “my son’s soccer game” or “hockey practice”). Get home with just enough time to flip through an hour of reality TV before you drag yourself to bed (or pass out on the couch).
If your life follows this pattern, don’t worry, you’re not alone. As a culture, many of us have been trained to fill our lives with busy-ness.
But I would like to point out that, as Rich German often says, “Busy-ness is a form of denial.”
In other words, we often keep ourselves super busy because we are denying the work that really needs to be done. For example, maybe you need to spend time on some serious self-reflection so that you can figure out what it is that you actually want to be doing with your life. Or maybe you need to spend more time with your spouse. Or less time in front of the TV.
One of the most common issues that people raise when I talk to them about following their passion is that they don’t know what their passion is. They say that they don’t have any talents or hobbies, or that no one would pay them to do what they love to do. My question is:
How on earth are you supposed to know what your passion is when you don’t make any time to explore it?
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Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Insist on yourself. Never imitate. For your own talent you can present every moment with all the force of a lifetime’s cultivation, but of the adopted stolen talents of anybody else you have only a frigid brief extempore half-expression.”
In this TED talk, author Elizabeth Gilbert describes how some ancient philosophers believed that creativity comes from a divine spirit within each of us. The Greeks called this spirit a daemon, while the Romans called it a genius. In other words, instead of forcing ourselves to create by keeping ourselves busy with classes, books, and TV, we need to make space for creativity to move through us. You need to create an environment in which your muse (or daemon or genius) feels comfortable enough to enter and inspire.
I’d like you to take a moment to think about what this optimal, muse-attracting environment looks like for you. When do you feel most inspired? Is it when you’re playing an instrument? Or writing? Or spending time with your family? Now, compare this environment to the way that you’re currently living your life. Do you make room for your inspiration? Or do you pack your calendar so full that you don’t have time for anything else? Perhaps your genius is sitting patiently, just on the edge of your consciousness, hoping to eventually be let in.
Make room for her.
When I ponder these questions in relation to my own life, I notice a few things. First, I feel most inspired when I’m in nature. I do my best to spend as much time as I can outdoors, but sometimes, I treat this time as something to check off my to-do list. I’m happy to give myself time outside, but then I feel like I need to fill that time with something. I can’t just go for a walk; I need to be walking to a specific spot to read a book or have a picnic or write a blog. I can’t just lay back and stare at the clouds, because that means I’m not accomplishing anything.
The same pattern often happens when I make time for meditation or yoga. I meditate and/or do yoga almost every day, but sometimes, these practices have become so routine that I go through them without really being present. My mind is often elsewhere, thinking about all the work I need to do.
There’s no space for my genius to enter when my mind is preoccupied with the trivialities of day-to-day life.
I think that the most insidious form of busy-ness occurs when we overbook our calendars because we’re denying a core truth—usually because we’re afraid of what that truth is trying to tell us. For example, you might be keeping yourself busy with work and friends to avoid the fact that you aren’t happy in your relationship. Or you might be signing up for too many extracurricular activities because when you spend time at home alone, you realize that you really need to quit your job or deal with some of your personal issues, but you’re too scared.
What’s the answer to this predicament?
Make room for your genius.
Spend time alone. No agenda. No to-do list. Nothing set in stone. Grab a journal and a snack, hop in your car, and drive without knowing where you’re going. Spend an entire day in a state of flow, where you do whatever comes up for you in that moment. Spend an hour looking at the stars. Go on a solo camping trip or vacation. Turn off your phone. No TV. No internet. Go an entire twenty-four hours without speaking.
Some of these things might sound scary. As someone who’s done everything on this list, I can assure you that, sometimes, they are. At first, your mind will be racing, “Give me something to do! Give me something to do!” But if you give yourself some time to sit with the discomfort of doing nothing, eventually your thoughts will calm down and you will make room for your muse. Most of my best ideas, blogs, personal transformations, and life altering decisions have come from engaging in these types of activities.
So I ask: What do you need to do to make room for your genius? Share with me in the comments below!
Bethany Butzer, Ph.D. is an author, speaker, researcher, and yoga teacher who helps people create a life they love. Check out her book, The Antidepressant Antidote, follow her on Facebook and Twitter, and join her whole-self health revolution.
If you’d like tips on the topic of manifesting your dream job, plus some personal instruction from Bethany, check out her online course, Creating A Life You Love: Find Your Passion, Live Your Purpose and Create Financial Freedom.
*Image courtesy of greystaticmedia.com.December 1, 2013