Letting The Voodoos of Ambition Sleep

Some days we are so ON IT, aren’t we? Focused… productive… knocking out things on the to-to list BING BANG BOOM… and then feeling quite accomplished and proud of ourselves. It like, on those days, we are well-oiled machines, churning along, firing on all cylinders.

I don’t know about you, but I get approximately one of those days a month. Maaaaybe two (and almost exclusively when I’m ovulating). The rest of the time I’m firing on about three-quarters of my cylinders – and, ya know what, I’m pretty okay with that. The 110% I used to give was unsustainable. Now, 75-80% feels like the right level of intensity. It’s enough effort to show up well and make a difference, with enough space for the critical elements of reflection and rest.

I like my routine “baggy enough to live in,” as the writer Matt Haig describes it, so I tend to approach that empty space less as a carefully orchestrated and executed ritual and more as a causal buffet. I pick and choose my self-care, working in a few elements at some point in a day, mixing and matching as the mood strikes.Sometimes that looks like 20 minutes of morning journaling with a candle burning in my line of sight followed by an evening bath to wind down; other days it’s an hour on my yoga mat during which I move, breathe, and sit quietly for meditation; other days it’s taking a break from work to curl up with a soft kitty and a warm blanket for an afternoon snooze on the couch. (Or is it a warm kitty and a soft blanket? I’ve got both.)

Sometimes, though, tending to our own mental and emotional gardens demands a whole day where that can be the non-negotiable rather than the filler, the priority we plan our time around. We need that precious time to allow, as Mary Oliver says, to let “the voodoos of ambition sleep” so we can access the inner temple.

If you need a day like that, take it – and unapologetically, too. Get your exercise in, your nature, your prayer, your community, your quiet reflection. Honor your inner craving, your solitude, your need to create or your need to be still. No need to wait for Saturday or a time when no one else needs you, for making time for your own nurturing and growth in a time of uncertainty and change is necessary, not frivolous.

To move closer to the life you dream of you need a nourished, cared-for body; a sharp, determined and unburdened mind; and an uncaged soul that is free and empowered to lead the way. You need to be in tune with all the elements of your being, speaking their language, so you know when to push and when to rest. Self-care, Self-nourishment, Self-healing, Self-love—all of this is the work of your lifetime. It’s what makes the rest of this (gestures broadly) possible and, dare I say, enjoyable.

This life journey you’re on must not be a trudge, a relentless death march, or you risk losing not just your motivation but your very ability to move forward. Remember, the journey itself is a sign of commitment to your deepest Self, a raised banner shouting your liberation, a celebration of your very soul, a healing of your past and your future both. Treat personal growth like a miserable grind and it will feel that way; treat it like power and joy and watch what happens. This is your freedom unfolding.

Today I’m flying low and I’m
not saying a word
I’m letting all the voodoos of ambition sleep.

The world goes on as it must,
the bees in the garden rumbling a little,
the fish leaping, the gnats getting eaten.
And so forth.

But I’m taking the day off.
Quiet as a feather.
I hardly move though really I’m travelinga terrific distance.

One of the doorsinto the temple.

-Mary Oliver

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