mindfulness

Cyclical living to prevent and recover from burnout

I have been paying attention to the Moon cycle my whole life. When I was a child I often looked up to look for Her, and when I found Her I would marvel at Her brightness and Her shape. Sometimes She was full and round, sometimes barely visible, a small crescent. 

At a young age I learned what the waxing and waning Moon looked like (see RESOURCES for an explanatory e-book). It wasn't until my late twenties that I discovered that the Moon phases had their own energy and purpose. 

The Moon has been a guide for ages. Every year, a Farmer's Almanac is published, which lays out the Moon phases and the best days for planting, sowing, doing labor on the land, harvesting and more. When aligned with the Moon cycle, farmers have bigger crops, better harvests and less waste. People have lived with this wisdom since the birth of agriculture. 

Somewhere along the way we forgot. We run on a treadmill of achieving goals, always pushing, striving and making deadlines. New ideas, growth, and success are valued more than the stillness, where fertilization and incubation happens. This skipping of an important phase in any project, from a start-up business to writing a book to creating a successful product, seems efficient. It saves us time, and we can go on faster to the next thing in life. However, living in overdrive like this, and skipping rest and recovery, has a huge downward risk. At first, we don't notice. Until we collapse.

I had lived my life in this running, linear way for 38 years before I crashed. When I was in dire shape, in the midst of my burnout, I discovered something important. I noticed that my exhaustion was the worst at New Moon (and when I was menstruating). The depletion of cosmic and physical energy took so much that I wasn't able to move or sit up for days. 

Because I was following the Moon already, I found out quickly. I never thought this effect could be so profound, I was aware of the esoteric meaning of the Moon phases but I never really paid attention to the physical effects (or any bodily signal, to be honest). But when I started to connect the Moon energy to my own energy levels, everything clicked.

We are so used to living in 5th gear, never taking a break or allowing our body to rest. But we forget that we are cyclical beings. Especially women, because we have a menstrual cycle on top of it. 

Everything in the Universe consists of spirals, circles, and cycles. Galaxies, the solar system, the planetary movements, the Earth when spinning around its axis and thus creating the seasons, the Moon cycle, but also the cycle of life, growth, death, rebirth. Molecular structures move energy around in a cyclical motion. This is the basis of oxygen-dependent life, it's called the citric acid cycle (and it was a pain in the ass to memorize for my Med School exams, I tell you).

So, when everything is cyclical, why do we think we can just skip a phase? How can we systematically skip Winter? We need rest, recovery, contemplation, allowing new ideas to form, hibernating under the surface in order for the cycle to complete itself and start over again.

We can't skip the Winter, but we do it on a systematic basis. We have labels rest and recovery as 'laziness'. We think contemplation is 'unproductive'.

When we follow these voices, judgments, beliefs, and we continue to skip it, it leads to burnout. Burnout is nothing else than a very long Winter enforced on you by your body. When you are experiencing burnout, start with rest, not a weekend, not a vacation. What you need is real prolonged rest. This can be very scary, just have faith your nature. The cycle will start over again one day.

When you are planning a new adventure, start with rest, contemplation to be more successful. When you just finished a big project in your business or job, celebrate your success, then rest and evaluate. Learn from your experiences, and integrate them. 

Start paying attention to your energy and your cyclical nature today. Awareness prevents problems and it will help you to be more successful, and live a sustainable life. 

If you want to talk with me about this subject to find out what it can mean for you, feel free to book a complimentary discovery call with me. 

Full Moon in Cancer - 1st January 2018

For the US and Canada, this Full Moon will be on January 1st, 2018, on a Monday (Moon Day!), such potent timing! For Europe, Asia, Australia, and New Zealand, this will be on January 2nd. 

The Full Moon is when the Sun and Moon are opposite to each other and the Moon reflects back the light of the Sun to the Earth. This is a time of harvesting and full bloom. Harvesting? This feels contradictory to the new beginnings of the year 2018, right? 

It is, and I will explain this in more detail below.

The Sun is in Capricorn, the sign of authority, hard work, perseverance and financial security and the Moon will be in Cancer, the sign of nurturing motherly love, and emotional security. 

These two ways of security can easily be mixed up and mixing an Earth sign (Capricorn) with a Water sign (Cancer) will give you... exactly, mud. Difficult territories to plow through, marshes to get lost in.

This confusing line-up makes you acutely aware where your insecurities and uncertainties are. Sun in Capricorn is how we show ourselves to the world. We act, make choices and set goals aligned with what we know others want from us (our parents, school systems, mentors, teachers, government systems, banking, social structures, churches). It is the way we are programmed to feel secure, safe and self-reliant because when we act in accordance with 'the rules', we are taught to be safe and guarded. It is the socially acceptable behavior we need to uphold to succeed in life.

The Moon in Cancer stirs our deepest emotions around emotional security. We want to be seen for who we really are, and unconditionally loved! But to show to the world who we really are is scary... we fear rejection, punishment, or the loss of jobs, bonuses, love, community... All leading to insecurity and confidence issues.

This creates so much tension! 

We want to be safe, but we also want to be authentic and loved.

However, as long as we are trying to externally validate ourselves, we will never be able to live authentic lives.

The challenge is to be your own authority. To love yourself unconditionally for who you are. To make choices for yourself that sustain YOU and create the life YOU want. To do the things that make you feel happy, relaxed, abundant, loved, healthy, special, open, effortless, alive, nourished... 

There is no authority but yourself.

You are in charge. You can choose whatever you want. You don't have to be afraid. This is what the Full Moon in Cancer wants to tell you, that is what you can access now. The harvest of your personal journey over the last few months shows you what is important to you and who you really are. The truth has surfaced and now you can make aligned choices.

You can create everything you are longing for when you know what you are longing for and what you truly need.

This year, resolutions stated at the beginning of the year are not as powerful as they could be. Ideally, intention setting is most powerful at the New Moon (just after Dark Moon).

During the next two weeks, now that the stressful busy holidays are over, take some time for yourself to think about and feel into your resolutions, plans and goals before you plunge yourself into the new year and burn out on restrictive resolutions (diets, sports regimes, socially 'acceptable' behaviour, not doing ...) that come from guilt, stress, fear, or 'shoulds'. 

The next New Moon will be on January 16/17th. To create intentions for this New Moon, aligned with your goals, your needs, and deepest motivation, you need clarity first. Only then your intentions and resolutions have transformative power. Make sure to add self-care rituals into your day as well.

The 12 Sacred Nights of Yule (midwinter)

On the 21st December, I will be celebrating my 39th Sun Return, also known as my birthday! I'm honoured to be born on this day, the Winter Solstice, or Midwinter. Although my birthday was often shaded by the busyness of Christmas, I was fascinated by the date *21-12* and the fact that the night was so long and the day so short. It felt like a special day to me for different reasons... 

Having lived with the Wheel of the Year for the last 10 years I realised more and more what this day is really about. It is truly the darkest day of the year and it is comparable to the New Moon Phase, when the moon is not visible. During the Yuletide (December 20th - December 31st) we are invited to retract, contemplate and explore our inner worlds. 

Nowadays, the period after Midwinter is a time of celebration and gathering, but historically they were a sacred time of silence, reverence, closure and looking forward to the new year. For the people in ancient times, it was the most difficult time of the year, cold, dark, without knowing whether the light would return. Their faith was challenged and to hold the vision of the light of the Sun, candles and fires were lit (a.k.a. Christmas lights!). 

Some of you may be familiar with the 12 Nights of Christmas. Originally, these 12 Sacred Nights were not associated with Christmas but with midwinter, or Yule (that's where Yuletide comes from). 

These 12 Sacred Nights are known for the insights, dreams and visions about the coming year, when we are aware and open to the messages. A lot of these messages come to us through our dreams, where the unconscious mind is thriving. 

Last year, I wrote down the dreams I had on each of these 12 consecutive nights. Each of the 12 nights corresponds to a month of the coming year. I read them back recently, and it’s almost eerie to see that my unconscious mind was already knowing what was going to happen, sometimes in great detail, sometimes through a general theme. It was a year of many changes that I couldn’t have predicted with my conscious rational mind, like quitting my job, finding my purpose, creating a new business, completing a yoga teacher training program, meeting new friends from all over the globe.... 

Looking back, it was in my Yuletide dreams already... 

As a birthday gift to you, I created a workbook, to share with you this powerful tool for accessing your inner knowledge during the 12 Sacred Nights of Yule

You can download the workbook by subscribing here.

I hope it will give you direction and clarity for the new year to come, and that it will help you find more space for yourself, peace and quiet during the frantic days around Christmas.

Blessed Yule! 

Willemijn

An Englishman in New York

That is how I felt yesterday, traveling to Amsterdam for a training. I had to commute for 45 minutes by train and metro, using the busiest commuting lines during the morning hours, changing trains at the city center's financial hub station, Amsterdam Zuid (South). People were rushing by, on their way to work, dressed in corporate suits and high heels, using laptops and phones on the train. Almost nobody made eye contact or looked out of the window. 

I had to wait on a platform and suddenly I had this strange feeling of being in a movie. People around me were fading into sliding lines. I saw myself, standing like a soft pillar of peace and silence between movement and rushing energy, conscious of my surroundings and looking up close from a distance. 

I suddenly felt like an Englishman in New York. 

I speak the language very well. I have lived a similar life myself, traveling by train for years and years, day after day to the same station, studying, working 80 hours a week in the hospital. Moving to another job, the rat race, driving in busy traffic, rushing to the next meeting, making the next deadline. 

Suddenly, standing still in the midst of it all, on the platform, I saw the emptiness of it all. The unconscious movement, sounds, flow of data, people, information, all rushing towards the same deadline. The end of life (because, you know, that's the only deadline everyone will eventually make). 

Thinking about all these people and being conscious of their lives (they must have family, friends, struggles, challenges, homes, household chores and groceries to do), I realized that it is so important to live the life you love. The possibility that all those people rushing by might not be happy with what they do, caused an overwhelming sadness to take a hold of me. 

How can we be more aware of what we are doing? Why are we running so fast? How can we be more mindful of our day?

The simple answer is: PAUSE.

Take a break from your work and breathe deeply, feel into your body, look out the window every now and then (preferably often). Take the next train. Don't 'grab' a coffee but truly enjoy it. Go outside during your lunch break and find a park. Sit on a bench for 5 minutes and watch your surroundings. Connect with someone.

Don't make pausing another task in your busy schedule. Pause, to be mindful and to feel. It helps you make better decisions. And maybe you'll discover that you too are an Englishman in New York.