Finding Space for my Soul to Rest

space for my soul

She reaches her hand out to me several times as we watch together, needing a touch of comfort. The film is based on the true story of young Ugandan girl who becomes a chess champion in the middle of poverty and struggle.

“It hurts so much,” my 11 year old says and I understand. She is not seeing the one who overcame but the many still mired in pain, poverty, hopelessness.

I suspect my youngest daughter might be a highly sensitive soul just like her mama.

According to Heather Dominick*, 20% of us are born highly sensitive. I happen to think I am both an introvert and a highly sensitive soul (take a free quiz here).

I was raised by parents deeply concerned about alleviating suffering and social injustice (though I don’t think they ever used that term). I knew from an early age that there were kids in Africa not eating that day. Little people in India that only attended school because of child sponsorship. Moms and children over in the nearby town houses who needed bags of groceries sent over.

I heard about the addiction and suicide rates that ripped apart homes in the neighboring reserves. I learned that some of my sisters had come to us neglected and abused.

What I didn’t know was what to do with the incredible weight of this knowledge of pain and suffering. I felt small and powerless and had no idea how to process my grief.

Being highly sensitive in a noisy world can feel easily overwhelming. It can provoke anxiety, I think, in many of us. As a little girl I’d come home from school and seek refuge in my room, decompressing from the hours spent around noise and people. As a teenager I took the edge off my anxiety and strong emotion through drugs and attempted to simply opt out of life.

As an adult I chose life but still have needed to learn to thrive in a world that seems to favor the extrovert, the higher energy, the crowd lover, those less drained by constant external stimulation – the “80% world.” I’ve slowly learned to love myself, to stop the numbing, and to respect who I am as a highly sensitive introvert and the truth that I can never quite seem to keep up, emotionally or physically, in this fast-paced, hyped-up world.

My soul needs space to rest.

Five years ago, on a long drive, I hungrily listened to Quiet: the power of introverts in a world that won’t stop talking (affiliate link). It was so affirming and encouraged me to walk with greater confidence in who I am. The course The 12 Entrepreneurial Laws of Joy and Ease, geared toward quieter or introverted folks, gave me hope that I could find a way to step out and do the work I feel called to while respecting the way I am knit together.

We are created for a purpose. We want to help create a kinder, more compassionate world but feel inadequate for the task, maybe even a little too broken.

But there are amazing gifts that come with being a highly sensitive individual. We tend to be called as therapists, coaches, healing practitioners or teachers. We are artists and writers. We are often empathic, intuitive, deep listeners, feelers, thinkers, spiritual by nature, always learning and picking up on subtleties, with a strong desire to see justice prevail.

Does this sound familiar to any of you?**

But in order to thrive or maintain our health as we love and serve our families and communities, in order to do the work we feel so passionate about, we must learn to create space for our souls to rest.

I learned to navigate this over the past twenty years of raising kids, homeschooling and tending to home and now I must learn anew as I engage more online, write, and work with women in various capacities. I am so grateful for the work I get to do but for every hour I engage with people I need several more in quiet contemplation – thinking, processing, puttering, ordering my thoughts and world.

I feel like an incomplete, scattered, unhealthy version of myself if I don’t get this space to breathe.

Social media is an important part of my work, and likely part of yours, and I think a real gift if we use it wisely. A complete distraction and energy drain if we do not. And I wonder if, for the sensitive soul, navigating the always connected, pulsating online world is even more of a challenge than for most.

Social media allows us to build community, to find kindred spirits, to learn and engage with hard questions and current events. Blogs inspire and challenge, online shopping and bill paying saves time (and help us avoid line ups and crowds of people!), we have access to interlibrary loan and online classes and research at our fingertips. So many beautiful things.

But more of a good thing is not always better.

Too much online interaction might mean opting out of building local relationships and community. It might mean never really living life because we are always watching what other people are up to. It could mean never doing the hard work of formulating our own thoughts and opinions because we are too busy scrolling through comment sections.

Social media can mean being exposed to an overwhelming amount of anger, violence, and need that incapacitates rather than motivates. And too much time online can be just one more form of running and numbing.

So I create space for my soul to rest.

1. I create time blocks for learning and thinking which informs my work and helps me feel calm and whole: 1 hr/day to read and think with my morning coffee; a day for Rest & Reflection & Reordering each month; I do not book clients on Mondays but use this time to putter and learn.

2. I have established some new social media rules: 1 day/week no social media; 1 week off every two months; I leave my phone behind when possible on my walks with friends or family.

3. I create time blocks for deep, meaningful work (here is a podcast that discusses deep work) and keep my phone out of site during these times (keeping our phone in our line of vision makes us up to 11x less productive- here is a podcast you might like).

4. I remind myself daily that more isn’t always better, to take joy on this journey of mine; I remind myself to keep my eyes on my mission which is to offer hope and encouragement to others and let that be enough.

5. I make sure I am connecting with people who truly know me. Who can help me see when I am tilting off balance; those with whom I can hash things out and who can remind me that I am loved but also help me laugh a little more.

I’ve wasted a significant portion of my life wishing I were different but now see clearly that each of us is hard-wired and gifted for a purpose.

Finding space for my soul to rest allows me to show up joyfully and effectively to do the work I am called to do. Do you need to find more space for your soul to rest?

Krista xo

*I listened to Heather Dominick speak on the Global Stress Summit 2017

**IN’s and EN’s of the Myers Briggs Type Indicator make up the majority of HS People; on a recent informal poll on my FB group, a third of you who commented are IN’s and EN’s

Learning to Listen for a Life of Purpose, Health & JOY

learning to listen

I knew within two weeks of meeting my husband in Québec that I would marry him. It was not a logical choice – he was a Francophone on a student visa from West Africa and didn’t speak any English; I spoke limited high school French. He was a carnivorous athlete; I a vegan book lover – about as unathletic as they come. But there was an unshakeable, unmistakable knowing within me. We married a year later and this summer will mark 23 years of sharing an imperfect but beautiful life together.

Maybe the right choice cannot be determined by logic alone.

When I stepped into each of the two homes I have owned, I knew instantaneously they were to be mine. They were imperfect to the naked eye, and in both cases our initial offers would be rejected. We would need to temporarily walk away. Yet stepping into them I had experienced a deep knowing that I was home and in the end the sales closed peaceably without us compromising our finances or forcing circumstances. These humble homes have prospered us financially and sheltered us as we walked through seasons of struggle.

Maybe the right choice has nothing to do with ease or perfection.

Five years ago I felt a clear call to return to studying. It did not make sense in terms of finances or energy. I was homeschooling three kids, living on one salary that already felt tight; I lived in constant pain from a childhood hip deformity and was awaiting a total hip replacement; my dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer and I would want to travel to spend as much time with him as possible. I would be diagnosed with an autoimmune disease in the middle of it all.

A gut decision that looked completely wrong provided a lifeline to me in the midst of a raging storm.

There have been countless times in my life that I heeded an inner knowing and bore the fruit. And just as many that I disregarded what my intuition was screaming to me – because of fear, because of what others might think, because I wasn’t quite ready. There were times I thought I had heard right but then shifted my gaze from my internal compass to the worries and challenging circumstances outside of myself and allowed myself to be pulled off course.

Learning to listen is a journey: a process of building trust, offering ourselves forgiveness, living eyes and heart wide open.

Learning to listen has called me to break up with wine; to begin eating meat after two decades of vegetarianism; to take breaks from my blog or social media when my soul feels weary. It calls me to use my voice persistently with doctors when something does not seem right in myself or with a child; to take personal responsibility for my mental and physical wellness when it would be far easier to defer to another. To let go of a relationship when I am fighting for life and she wants to stay where she is.

Learning to listen means saying yes to scary opportunities that align with my mission and saying no to so many more even if this permanently closes doors to me. It means choosing to offer others the same respect I desire for myself even if this means being hurt or disappointed on occasion. It means walking up to a complete stranger because I see in her a kindred spirit and being gifted with one of my most beautiful relationships ever. It means asking for help when I am in trouble and cannot do it anymore on my own.

We need to learn to listen.

Slowly but surely, as I let go of running and numbing and learn to listen and respond to what I hear, I move closer to freedom. Joy deepens. I begin to walk with greater confidence; not an assurance that I will avoid mistakes or challenge because these are all part of the messy journey, but a trust that I don’t have to fear the process. Sometimes I listen and don’t get an answer right away. So I sit with my impatience, curious, and choose to just do the next right thing that I already know. And then the next until the answer comes.

Waiting can be a critical part of learning to listen.

I invite you to sit, take a few deep breaths, and listen in right now. Notice where tension or joy live in your body. What have you been ignoring or hiding from? Are you filled with negative self-talk and could you replace this with a kinder truth? What is that thing you have dreamed of doing but suppressed out of fear; name it and hang out with it for a while. Maybe you are faced with a terrifying decision and you have no idea what to do. But if you shake off the fear, the outer expectations, the inner judgement, can you hear even a still small voice directing you to one small step? If you tend to only see your struggle or failure, allow yourself to notice one thing you did well today.

Learning to listen is a beautiful, life-giving act of self-care.

If I could offer you two primary gifts, one would be the gift of choosing to love yourself as is and the second would be the gift of learning to listen. To trust that you are the expert of your own body. That you have so much innate wisdom woven within you already and that if you learn to listen you will be directed to that which you most need in each season.

Learning to listen will guide you to a life of purpose, health and joy.

Krista xo

*This article was originally published at hyperbiotics.com

*Photograph taken by magpie3studio