In honor of the autumnal equinox this year, September 23, 2019, I want to invite you to begin to do less.
Equinox is the day of the year when the daytime and nighttime are equal in length. For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, it means that the days will grow shorter and the darkness of night will grow longer until winter solstice in late-December.
Look here for a helpful visual describing how equinox fits with the seasons and solstices.
A day of balance and the lesson — less is more
Equinox is not only a day when the length of day and night is equal, some say it’s a time of balance for the masculine and feminine energies. I see it as a chance to balance the active and receptive energies — do less, open and receive more.
As the days grow shorter and darkness longer, there is a calling to pull back on the outward activity and move toward reflection. Instead of dismissing this feeling with habitual productivity, this season asks you to take a pause.
During fall, one of the best ways to set the mood for inner exploration is spending one night a week not turning on electric lights or digital devices after the sun goes down.
Where I live, the sun sets just after 7pm. That gives me a few hours to calm, quiet and allow my body to naturally sink into the evening’s rhythm. (Dimming lights also allows your body to produce higher levels of melatonin which aids in restful sleep.)
Who doesn’t want more of that?
The payoff of a skilled pause
Pause isn’t the absence of doing, it’s the most powerful doing there is.
I used to worry “pause” meant only stop. And as a chronic overachiever and hyper-producer, I wasn’t too comfortable with that.
I figured pausing was an indulgence I couldn’t afford since I had so much to do. And, as a result, I had so much to do because I couldn’t afford to pause. (Did you spot the vicious cycle there?)
I’ve since learned that Pause isn’t the absence of doing, it’s the most powerful doing there is. Sure, it can be a time of rest and doing nothing, but it can also be a time of intentional action — to get clear and receive insight.
That’s what I call a pause payoff.
A skillful pause can make space for insights that lead to breakthroughs. Pause can provide an opening for new ideas and inspiration. My best breakthroughs consistently come when I’m in a receptive, pause state of mind.
Here’s how I do it.
A pause prescription in five easy steps
- Find time for pause each day and keep a notepad handy to capture insights. The notepad is critical. You’re priming the pump and signaling to yourself, I’m gonna get some goodies today.
- Decide how you’re going to pause. Do you prefer a morning meditation or an evening reflection, or maybe you want to take a walk and let your mind wander?(Love that.)
- While you sit or walk, start observing your thoughts. Thankfully, there’s no need to “empty” your mind. In fact, I often listen to meditation music from Insight Timer or affirmations just to keep my toddler-brain occupied. Then I hang out with what’s happening underneath all that noise.
- Reflect or wonder for 10–15 minutes. Just watch your thoughts without engaging them. In between the mind’s monologue and reminders of things you forgot to do (write those down too), you’ll receive traces of insight, impressions, images and/or impulses. Don’t edit. Write down even the most unrelated thing as it comes to you. Note all the thoughts or words that stand out from the other ordinary ones: do this first, look up so-and-so, wouldn’t it be fun if….
- Finally, find some time to explore these hunches during that day. Usually, you’ll find the meaning snowballs as you follow it and synchronicities start to happen.
Go ahead, be inspired
In our modern life, it’s easy to overlook the natural rhythms of seasons and of daylight and darkness.
As someone who has spent more than 20 years in corporate life, I’ve been conditioned to be always-on. I’ve experienced the rewards of busyness and the depletion that comes when you prioritize productivity at all costs.
Let this equinox inspire you to celebrate the turning of seasons and remind you to balance your being with your doing. For most of us high achievers, that means doing less. With pause, it also means getting a lot more.
As each day gets shorter, revel in the quiet potential of your own personal pause. And prepare, with happy expectation, for the birth of new ideas and insights that follow.
Let me know what breaks through.