So I went to a session for folks with farm dreams last weekend. It’s not that I want to be a farmer, per se, but I do want to grow beneficial, beautiful plants for the rest of my life. My path leads, unmistakably, back to the garden. The thought of a blueberry bush waiting to be planted, the possibility of comfrey breaking through the soil, pulls me out of bed with a pure kind of joy nothing else ever has. But what I remember most about the session is a panel of renowned, veteran farmers from the western part of our state talking fervently about their burnout.
The long-term exhaustion and diminished interest in work we call burnout may be a symptom of working towards countless trivial goals, day in and day out, that don’t resonate with our deepest divinest desires, but may just as easily be an effect of working relentlessly towards goals that do. I’m beginning to consider the possibility that there is such a distinction, that burnout isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Burnout may result from a wholehearted devotion to the pursuit of truth, clarity, love, beauty or whatever the case may be. Although it’s tempting to question our dreams after glimpsing the fatigue and disappointment of those who come closest to embodying them, it seems paramount that we don’t take that as permission to give up. What follows is a collection of advice, mostly for myself:
- When the project of your dreams begins to take root, let it consume you like a love affair.
- When you feel authentically compelled by something, let it trump your expectations.
- When a mission or purpose inflames your soul, let it reduce you to ashes.
And when you get burned out, draw inspiration from this Chinese proverb: “Never do anything standing that you can do sitting, or anything sitting that you can do lying down.” In other words, it’s not about being insanely efficient, or multitasking like your life depends on it. You’ll likely never create a resilient, invigorating bond with your dreams until you master the art of finding stillness.