I discovered a new phrase this week: downshifting. The Schumacher Institute defines downshifting as “a phenomenon whereby individuals voluntarily pursue a simpler lifestyle of reduced material consumption, sometimes involving a change in work-life balance, in order to allow more time and energy for the non-materialistic aspects of life”.
Apparently the idea has been around for quite some time, but with the pandemic having turned pretty much everyone’s life upside down, we’ve all had the unexpected opportunity to examine what we’re willing to trade off as the months and years of our lives tick by.
Downshifting doesn’t necessarily means we have to cut back on our material comforts or our income level. But giving more attention to cultivating our hearts, our minds, our spirits and our bodies can only enhance the quality of our lives.
As it happened, I noticed how I was pouring way too much energy into a project I had very mixed feelings and overly fraught expectations about. At the end of several days, after spending way too much time in front of the computer screen, I felt so drained of energy that I couldn’t appreciate much of anything around me.
I had fallen down the rabbit hole of doing, doing, doing and my being was suffering.
This wasn’t the way I wanted to be spending my life! I had to step back and ask myself some pointed questions about the quality of the effort I was putting into this project.
Although I did actually wanted to turn this idea into a reality, I could feel how my thinking about the way I should go about it made me pinched and tight.
And my sense of creativity and play had disappeared.
So, I took a stop. I walked away from it. I needed to revive, first of all, and then start wondering how else could I get this project off the ground with less stress, less efforting.
So I downshifted. And I put my focus on those “non material” aspects.
I desperately needed to use more of my faculties besides my intellect. I needed to snuggle with my cat, watch the clouds go by, eat a good meal, have a meaningful conversation. Look at art. Read a poem. Not think. Let myself feel. Sense. Express. My soul needed caring for, and that’s what I did.
When my soul felt restored, I went back to my efforts with a different perspective. My project wasn’t any less important but I made sure I was approaching it not to the exclusion of everything else but as part of a larger whole. As a result, it was no longer demanding but inviting.
The way I began to give my project life no longer became the draining effort it had been. Instead, I made sure there was plenty of room for what really mattered to me to infuse how I went about the task of letting this dream come to fruition.
What I was doing wasn’t about money or recognition or how I imagined I would feel about the results. Instead, it was about being present to all of life as it was showing up through this project.
Do you have areas in your life that are sapping you of energy without your having the opportunity to put things in perspective and see the bigger picture of your life?
It all begins with noticing when things feel off.
And instead of pushing yourself through til you can’t think straight, you take a stop and ask yourself,
What do I need right now? What will help me remember what’s really important above all else?
And then let yourself follow that inner wisdom.
Because when you take the time to ask, the answer is already built into the question.