More Playing, Less Working, Please!

One of the neat things that is starting to really come into focus as a result of my own healing through Somatic Experiencing the last couple of years is the dilemma about productivity. Lots of things are coming into clearer focus, but this just happened today, and it kind of took me by surprise.

In the beginning, when school started with kindergarten, there was work. And there was the trying to work like others seemed to. And then being exhausted, unhappy, and falling down. And there was beating myself up until I got back up and did it all over again. And sometimes feeling a surge of energy from the sheer willpower of it, or from the moments of high that come with getting in the groove of workaholism.

After successive realizations/awakenings over the last decade, it became easy to see the destructiveness of buying into a generic idea of productivity. I have seen how others were trampled and I lost connection with them and myself and the present moment by my pursuit of a cleaner house or a better work product, or a more perfect  ___________ (holiday, meal, yard…anything, really). With practice, I’ve been able to soften in these mindless pursuits a great deal, and be in the present, and value the process at least as much as the product. This has been wonderfully healing to myself and others.

And yet, the questions still plagued me. How much to do? How busy to be? What’s the right answer? What’s the right perspective on productivity? And what do I do with all the messages I get from “out there” about how I should be sqeezing every drop out of life and pursuing success with every ounce of my being? Am I wasting potential? Will I regret it down the road if I don’t work enough or hard enough?

And there I am, driving to Mansfield on a beautiful winter day. Everything is coated with snow from last night, and there’s a misty fog. It’s like something out of a storybook. It’s nearly two hours’ drive just to ski for two, and it’s a weekday, and I’m noticing the familiar guilty feeling popping up. And then I notice the stream of garbage that trails in the wake of the guilt: all the times I heard “lazy” and “slob” and “daydreamer”, and how in some strange way it makes sense to me to also notice that I feel scared that I could be punished in some way for pursuing fun while most others are working today. My car could break down, or I might injure myself, or be ill, or beset by some other malady, and I should know better. I would have deserved it.

Then, as I simultaneously puzzle over the new awareness of the fear and start to push away the ominous thoughts for fear I’ll attract the bad things just by thinking about them, curiosity at that moment says WAIT A MINUTE…

“HOW IN THE STATE OF OHIO does my car possibly breaking have a damn thing to do with skiing today? Or with having fun? Or with being bad, lazy, a slob, or a daydreamer, for that matter!!!?” Silence.

“What if cars breaking, or getting sick just happen?” Silence.

“What if it doesn’t matter how freaking much I work or play or achieve or don’t?” Silence.

More silence. There it is. THE VOID. The thing all the spiritual teachers and pointers are always talking about. It really doesn’t matter. The truth of it rings from deep inside. Something inside my core trembles for a minute, then comes to a rest and a feeling of some kind of greater settling or peacefulness sinks in.

And just like that, there’s another level of realization. It feels so obvious. The old belief/trigger/pattern is about my worth being tied to achievement. But they are not connected. There’s no right answer to how much to work. I work as much as my body (not the ego) says work, and play as much as it says play. I do my best to stay within capacity and use my inner guidance (not the ego) to aim toward the things that seem to call to me. And sure, I could also probably still be more efficient or organized, and watch less tv, or do less mindless internet surfing.

And what about the voices, the messages, from “out there” that say I should do more? It feels so incredibly simple right this moment. They don’t matter. Comparing myself to others or to some imaginary standard, even my own best days, will never lead to peace. It can, however, lead to greater “success”, and more struggle, and possibly more money, and less rest, and less balance, and less grounding. And I can do all that, if I want to.

Right now, I’m just gonna ski as long as there’s snow. Spring’s right around the corner, after all.






About Cynthia M Clingan

Cynthia Clingan is a licensed professional clinical counselor in Columbus, Ohio who offers somatic psychotherapy, spiritual coaching, and meditation and mindfulness instruction.
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