Lessons in Listening: Reclaim your time, find spaciousness

We recently adopted a rescue pup, Miss Agatha Jane, from Mississippi. She goes by Aggie for short and has won the affections of all family members, minus our feline duo. As I write, she is patiently waiting for a few belly pats before she settles down to sleep. Ahhh, the life! All the time in the world for belly rubs, naps, walks and raucous play in the backyard.
She inspires me tonight, as I have become increasingly more curious about time and busyness. Hands down, the number one challenge to self-care voiced by my clients is time. Or more specifically, lack thereof. It is why we don’t exercise. It is why we don’t get enough sleep. It is why we don’t choose healthy food. It is why we don’t spend time with the people we love. The list goes on.
The question is how I can support my clients to use their time in a way that truly reflects what they value in life as they move toward greater health and happiness. If one of your values in life is family, do you create time in your life to be with them? When you are physically present with them, are you fully engaged — listening with your ears, eyes and heart?
My clients often approach habit-change with a regimented strictness; yet sustainability is difficult in a constricted state. Instead, consider this question: How can we create more spaciousness in our lives? Spaciousness to wonder, to restore and rebalance, to nourish our bodies, minds and souls. A spaciousness that allows us to truly care and connect to each other and ourselves. Here are a few ways in which I am creating a life of meaning through spaciousness.
Stop wearing the badge of busyness
At a meeting last year, Middlebury College Chaplain Laurie Jordan declared, “we must ban busyness.” Amen to that! Have you ever noticed that when people ask each other how they are, the answer is often something in the line of, “good, but so busy!” Language creates and perpetuates culture. Let’s start a revolution: when asked how you are, don’t just say busy with the sigh of self-importance and resignation. Show up and own the life you choose. Here is one of my new answers: My life is good; I am choosing to focus my time on playing my fiddle and having dinners with my family. What could your answer be?
Say no
My motto: If I can’t say, “Hell, ya!” then I seriously consider saying no. Consider this life your special “Choose your own Adventure” opportunity. When you say no (or no thank you if you’re feeling polite), others may initially bristle at your boundaries. But in time, they’ll also start to feel the freedom to listen to their hearts and choose lives full of their own adventures. Here is the most simple and direct three-step method on how to say no: Open your mouth. Say no. Close your mouth.
Create time for non-doing
There is freedom in unplanned, unscheduled and un-obliged time. It creates the opportunity for accessing our deeper wisdom and love of life. I  have family friends that recently chose to make Sundays their official family day. I will admit, I initially felt that bristle mentioned above. They are creative and warmhearted people and I love spending time with them… but not on Sundays. Their choice gave me the opportunity to reflect on how I spend my own time and provided me with the impetus to commit to my own journey.
And with that, I’m out. I have made my belly-showing pup wait long enough. Time to snuggle!
Laura Wilkinson is a Nurse Practitioner and Integrative Health Coach at Middlebury College. Learn more about her and her coaching at middlebury.edu/middleburyintegratedhealthcoach.

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