Finding My Centre

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Tomorrow my seven month sabbatical ends and I return to work. I am feeling a mixture of excitement and anxiety. I am excited to see my colleagues. I am incredibly fortunate to love my work and my team. It means a lot to me to contribute to something bigger than myself and to help make a positive difference in the world. There have been less opportunities for me to do so since being on leave and I am looking forward to getting back to it.

I am feeling anxious as I was quite overloaded and stressed before I left on this break. Between supporting aging parents, parenting a teenager, working full-time, and managing a household on my own, I was tapped out. There is only so much time and energy to go around and I was consistently running on empty.

Once I stepped away from work, I genuinely expected most of my stress to disappear; and, in practice, I was surprised to learn that this was not the case. As the famous quote goes by Jon Kabat-Zinn, “Wherever you go, there you are.” I definitely experienced less external pressure, once I left the office, but I managed to quickly fill this gap with internally driven pressure and worries.

The human brain is a funny thing. Once an issue is removed, it adeptly replaces it with another, if you are not careful. It does not naturally rest in a state of ease. According to Buddhist principles, this tendency is called the “monkey mind.” The term that refers to the natural human inclination to feel unsettled, restless, or confused. I came to realize that cultivating rest and ease is an active, daily practice. It starts with paying attention to the internally driven pressures, determining what is essential, and then letting the rest go. It requires allowing for some things to fall off of the table.

During my time away, I have learned the value of rest. For me, rest has always been a “nice to have”, or an act of indulgence while I am on holiday. I now understand that rest is something that must be scheduled in, and committed to, along with other priorities. I cannot function efficiently without it. It is the gas that fills up my tank. Although it is challenging to find time in a busy life, rest takes many forms, including something as simple as fifteen minutes of reading, or a short ten minute nap. It does not have to be a big thing. Little actions add up to having a big impact.

Despite my reservations about ending my sabbatical, the reality is the person who is showing up at the office tomorrow is not the same person who left. And when one element in a situation, or relationship changes, the whole dynamic shifts. I bring back with me a range of new experiences and perspectives that will help me to protect my heart and mind from returning to a state of overload. I just need to take it one moment at a time, find my centre, and remain gentle with myself during the transition.

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