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A couple of years ago I came across a story on National Public Radio entitled “You aren’t lazy. You just need to slow down.” As a self-titled procrastinator, it naturally piqued my interest.
Growing up I heard all sorts of messages about myself being lazy or being a procrastinator, to the point that as an adult I finally just took it on as part of my personality. Devon Price, the psychologist behind this new research, said in the NPR story that:
Laziness is usually a warning sign from our bodies and our minds that something is not working. The human body is so incredible at signaling when it needs something. But we have all learned to ignore those signals as much as possible because they’re a threat to our productivity and our focus at work.
Similarly, I’ve heard messages like “You’re too smart to be this lazy.” “You could be doing more.” “If you have time to lean, you have time to clean.” At different points in my life, it was easy to drown out the noble voice inside telling me that I am loved and worthy just as I am. However, the Baha’i teachings helped me change that outlook. Baha’u’llah’s writings, like this one from his mystical book The Hidden Words, say that we are all inherently worthy and loved: “O Son of Spirit! Noble have I created thee yet thou hast abased thyself. Rise then unto that for which thou wast created.”
I concluded from that beautiful message to humanity that my worth never needs to be proven by how productive I am.
I have felt so embarrassed, confused, and frustrated with myself at different times in my life because it has seemed like just as I began to gain momentum on a project, I would come crashing down. I shared these feelings with a close friend, and she told me that it seems like I am trying to run a marathon with a broken leg.
Her theory is that once I take the time I need to address and heal my broken leg, I’ll be able to run that marathon. Her advice made a lot of sense, but you can’t fix what you can’t see. I realized that I couldn’t just fix this problem with a catch-all pop-psychology approach, which usually consists of some combination of meditation, yoga, diet, and affirmations. While these broad strokes can be helpful in general, I needed to get into the nitty gritty to see what exactly I was dealing with.
So I began to take an inventory of what this metaphorically broken limb represents. During that time, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, which explained a lot, yet there seemed to be an underlying issue pointing toward not having an awareness of what I needed in the first place. I decided to go back to basics and looked to this sage advice written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Baha’i Faith:
… you should not neglect your health, but consider it the means which enables you to serve. It – the body – is like a horse which carries the personality and spirit, and as such should be well cared for so it can do its work! You should certainly safeguard your nerves, and force yourself to take time, and not only for prayer and meditation, but for real rest and relaxation.
Also, I considered this similar counsel:
The Guardian was also very glad and deeply comforted to learn that your health is improving, and that gradually your energy is being restored. He wishes you to be very careful not to overtax your strength, and take all the necessary measures for your speedy and complete recovery.
I found it surprisingly hard to take this advice about resting and relaxing. After all, being a self-proclaimed procrastinator, I never felt like I was working hard enough anyway – so why did I suddenly deserve rest?
Ultimately, I felt my answer arrived in my diagnosis. I now had cold, hard proof that something was not working physically, so why not try rest and relaxation? A lot of tough decisions came next, including temporarily closing down my private practice in mental health. Over time, I gleaned more insight into what my needs are – and the fact that I am worthy of them no matter what.
More recently, I’ve been focusing on what brings me joy, healing, and peace: Mothering my four-year-old daughter; sharing my love of Baha’u’llah with those who are interested; serving on the Local Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is in Bergen, Norway; working with my husband on his music career; and making time to read, write, and tell my story to others who may need to hear it.