Why Taking a Sabbatical is a Political Act – by Jayne Johnson
Here I sit at the Winter Solstice, feeling my way into the dark spaces, the still point, the death and letting go of everything that is bright and shiny.
I’m letting go of……
- An attitude about life and death that no longer serves me.
- Belief systems which keep me small and less than I really am.
- Old patterns of victim mentality.
- Pretending that my actions are not political!
2017 has been a struggle for power! Both in the larger world and inside me. I read an article today about Trump and the GOP. I didn’t know what GOP stood for so I googled it and laughed out loud! This is the ‘grand old party’ and what a way to describe what it is that’s struggling to hold onto power!
Inside me the grand old party has been having a field day! The old ways, the colonial bullying, the strict parent, blind and destructive power which does not die without a ‘bloody’ fight!
I’ve spent a lot of this year struggling with chronic sciatica. The internal struggle for power that my body was expressing so clearly. It took me 6 months to listen, to hear the desperate cries of my body to STOP!
I already feel on the fringes of ‘normal’, whatever that is! I have always chosen my health and happiness over wealth and fitting in. I guess that one doesn’t have to exclude the other but there’s always a price to pay for wealth or so it seems to me looking at it from my working-class background. Here was a symptom which was offering another opportunity to go even further away from societies desperation to pull me into line. My own inner ‘society’ that tells me how things ‘should be’.
Returning from a 2 week retreat in Scotland in August I realised I couldn’t carry on with the workload I’d given myself. My back was breaking under the strain and a retreat only amplified this.
I choose to live alone and support myself financially, I choose ‘work’ in the world that seemingly gives me freedom. I’m self employed and choose my hours and what I want to do – supposedly! All this freedom and yet it feels like the opposite. I’ve become a slave to my own slave driver who pushes me to do more; work harder, fit more in, be more, give more, more, more, more…it shouts! Feed me I’m hungry for MORE! Faster, faster, can’t you go any faster! If you go faster you can feed me more and achieve more. Oh the demands of the slave driver, the engine driver, the one who pulls the strings!
Just who is this demander?! Outside of me it feels like the overwhelming speed at which information comes through emails, texts, social media which seemingly has some kind of demand attached to it. Facebook is set up to reward you if you post more posts, get more ‘likes’, interact with as many people as possible. With a life that is already filled with demands this anxiety driven ‘connection’ feeds the hungry ghost; the one that always wants more and is never ever satisfied.
Outside of me the reality of the bills that come in thick and fast, reminding me how much I must do to keep up with feeding the machine of what feels like a pretty simple life really.
I live in a very small, well insulated apartment. The cost of keeping warm and dry, the cost of feeding my physical body, the cost of ‘living’ looks like I’ve got it down to a minimum. I work at weekends running workshops and trainings and during the week have one to one clients, with very little free time for myself. I’ve built this work up over the last 15 years and in societal terms become ‘very successful’. But why am I only just surviving? The level of energy output just doesn’t match the level of energy which comes in. Now there’s all kinds of practical things I can do and you might be thinking to yourself right now – why doesn’t she just charge more for the work? That would be a logical conclusion!
Back to my back. My body speaks and says STOP so clearly that when I do stop the pain eases. Simple eh? Um well not if the ‘grand old party’ is in power!
Inside of me the old power, the slave driver that’s been in control would have me do more, charge more, increase profits, work harder to balance the books so to speak.
What if I choose something different? What if I decide to listen to the wisdom of my body and despite the fact that I’m only just surviving do less?! That really screws with the logic eh? That really fucks up the grand old party stronghold!
This in fact has been my choice. I’ve surrendered to the unknown, I’ve given up the trying, I’ve quietened the demander by taking a 3 month sabbatical from all my one to one work. That has meant the last 3 months has been spent saying goodbye to people I’ve formed strong relationships with. A deep mutual trust has developed through this very intense and very rewarding body psychotherapy client work. I’ve been the giver and receiver through these processes and my client’s have taught me so much. I am filled with gratitude, respect and humility for the presence and faith which these people have offered me.
Now it’s time to walk my talk and step into the void; to trust my body, to follow the signs, to slow down, to rest, to let go.
How is taking a sabbatical a political act? Well the grand old party isn’t in power anymore – at least in me. If I earn less and spend less I’m inviting a world in which I’m not the kind of consumer that our current political and societal ‘norms’ expect of me. This is ‘activism’! This is me taking back power and control of what I really need for heart and soul to actually live. I am not happy just surviving – I want to live and have life flow through me. Every choice I make about how I live my life is political. I choose life, I choose freedom, I choose to risk it all for real choice!