My face was flushed, eyelids heavy against the light. My skin burned hot and my insides baked. It was noon. Upper 90s. Not a cloud in the sky. This was our big New Mexico mesa-top moving day, lugging boxes, furniture, bags, and buckets down the 50-foot hike of sand and protruding rocks that leads to our new house.
We had rented a U-Haul and could only get it booked for this auspicious day, Summer Solstice and Full Moon, and one of a string of incredibly hot and dry days that had fires raging in three southwestern states, ours included.
Wildfire Sky, Photograph by Brea Fisher
Now that fire was burning in me, as I set a box of books like bricks onto the floor. I was a moving zombie, a walking dead mover of things in the sun. I was out of my mind with heat and work, lifting, carrying, hiking, and setting down. Passing my beloved along the path, with no more than a faded acknowledgement of his presence in the way back corner of my mind.
I took a water break and ran the faucet over my head. Next was my shirt, and when I put it on, my skin instantly absorbed its coldness—cooked it. I knew something was not right, and my man told me to take a break, drink water, cool off, take it easy, don’t take the heavy ones, and walk SLOW.
I had no choice. The heat had gotten in me and I was a puddle somewhere inside myself, melted.
When you’re given the option of rest or collapse, it’s easy to choose the option you need in order to survive.
It’s when you’re beat, but still going because you’ve got a deadline that will get you into trouble.
I rested for a while, but we had a ton of work to do, and only so many hours to get it done. I kept pushing.
After a grueling 13-hour day, we made it home and I fell into bed. I slept for a full day and half, and spent the next three days too sick to even think, lost in a delirium of bed tossing and groans.
And that, my friend, is the gift of both getting very ill and having a massive physical workday kick your butt.
See, all throughout the long moving day, not a single thought of anything other than the task at hand had gone through my mind. I was totally present. Focused. Centered on what was. I was being here now.
Moving is one of the most stressful, if not The Most Stressful thing a person can do. So, needless to say, up until that day my brain had been filled to the brim with Gotta Do This-es, Don’t Forget Those-es, and the notorious How the Hell am I Gonna Do Thats. It was such a relief for my mind to rest into the grunt work of the day.
And when I got home? I still couldn’t go back to my To Do Lists, worries, concerns, and questions of when and how. My illness had flipped the power switch of my brain to OFF. I was off the hook for as long as I needed. I could rest. I could only rest.
And so I did.
When your mind pushes you too far into the red of the big THINK, the body will pull you back, every time.
I was forced into rest even though my brain would have balked so badly had it been able to get through all the smoke and haze of that heat spell.
My question for you is this:
Where in your life have you been spending too much time and energy thinking or doing? Where do you need to give it a rest before your body says, “You’re done.”
Take some time right now, turn your focus inward, and listen. You can do this while continuing to read, if you are sitting or standing in an environment that is peaceful.
Be still, get quiet, and feel inside your body.
Notice how you feel physically. Take note of tensions, places you are holding in your muscles, or places where you are relaxed.
Release all attempts of the mind to label these sensations as good or bad. Simply take in the data without any judgment.
Next, ask yourself how you feel emotionally. Do your best to identify one or two emotions for how you feel. (This is harder than you’d think if you’re not in the practice of it, so be patient with yourself and try your best.)
Now. Ask yourself, “What do I need?”
Wait to receive an answer that feels charged, like it is coming from your deeper You—that part of you that is still, and focused, and quiet.
Create an intention around that need and affirm it to yourself in the form of a concise, positive statement. Something like,
“I will relax my mind and trust that everything will get done,” or,
“I am adaptable. I allow life to flow how it may, knowing it is for my greatest good.”
When you’ve declared your personal resolve you can release your focus and go back about your day, but I want you to pay attention.
Remember your intention and notice ways your body is showing you what you need. Listen to its signals before they become alarm bells.
The practice of tai chi teaches us to listen more deeply into the body in order to sensitize ourselves to its messages.
When you don’t listen, you miss what your body is telling you; to really hear, you’ve got to get quiet, be still, and rest the mind.
Keep this in mind as you go about your busy summer days. Do your body a favor and listen up before you burn out.