Recognizing that what looks like procrastination (to outside eyes) is usually a sign that either we're asking our selves to do something that's not right for us to do at all, or not right for us to do at this moment.
If you think you might be "procrastinating…" Try listening inward for the feelings of the part of you who isn't so sure that whatever you aren't yet doing would really be all right for you to do at all!
In the midst of a month that was feeling overfull and was challenging my capacity to stay in balance, a woman who'd worked with me intermittently over the preceding 18 years called me for a consultation. She wanted to process her struggle with the decision to go off the chemotherapy treatments for her lung cancer now that those treatments had begun to feel like they were killing her. Renewing her dedication to work with visualization tapes was an integral part of her feeling safe in making this decision.
Using the tapes that I'd made for her four and a half years before no longer felt appropriate. The level of health being visualized in those earlier tapes seemed beyond anything she could now reasonably expect herself to achieve. We agreed that I would make two new tapes for her, ones that would progress toward improving health in much smaller steps. I promised that I would get them done as quickly as I could. She planned to revive the many prayer circles that had supported her healing work during earlier crises and to begin her visualization practice without the new supporting tapes.
On my way home from our meeting at her house, I stopped to buy the high quality 30-minute tapes that I'd need. I was certain that I'd be able to get to the task within the next few days and deliver the tapes within the week. Yet, days passed with the project repeatedly slipping to the bottom of the heap of the January paperwork and chores before me. I felt uncomfortable about not getting to it. I felt some urgency about getting the tapes to this dear woman. Yet, I'd feel paralyzed every time I considered beginning what was likely to be at least a 2- or 3-hour project.
By the end of a week, I had progressed only as far as listening to the old set of tapes (to remind my self of how we had designed the relaxation and preparation process). I felt stymied by the prospect of recreating and redesigning the visualizations. At that point, I called Sarah and Jane (not their real names) to check in on how Sarah was coming along. I reported apologetically that, to my consternation, I hadn't yet been able to create the tapes. They were much less perturbed about the delay than I had been.
For the first few days of not-doing-the-tapes, I'd felt uncomfortable with my self. Unlike earlier times in my life, the inner critic's voice wasn't noticeably activated. I wasn't either berating or beating up on my self for procrastinating on this urgent project. Rather, I was simply experiencing an uneasy perplexity about why I seemed to be so frozen in the face of it.
Briefly one morning I had an old style "what's wrong with me, why on earth can't I just do this!" thought. All my years of working with calming my inner critic (the Hatchet Lady voice) helped me to recognize immediately that I did not have to go any further down this self-flagellating road. Instead, the self-critical thought simply served as a flashing neon sign letting me know that the part of me that was having trouble with what wasn't happening was in need of my attention.
I sat down quietly and talked with this upset-with-my-self part about what we've learned over the past many years of our healing journey: that what looks like procrastination to our own (and others') outside-eyes is usually a sign of one of two inside-eyes truths. Either we're asking our selves to do a thing that's not right for us to be doing at all (the wrong thing). Or, we're asking our selves to do a thing that's not right for us to be doing now (the wrong time).
When it feels as if something is sitting on me, as if I am frozen or paralyzed or procrastinating, I reminded her, it's likely that some less than conscious, deeper knowing place in me is, in fact, taking very good care of me. And, no matter how uncomfortable it feels to be in this place, I reassured her, I will, at some point, come to consciously understand what isn't clear at this moment about the rightness (for me) of this not-doing.
I also reminded my upset self that whenever I agree to create anything, all I can really do is commit me to making my self empty, to becoming available to and waiting for Spirit to move through me. I cannot force the flow of Spirit and I cannot create without the grace of this flow. This loving conversation with my upset self calmed me. I was able to let go of expectations, to relax into patience and into calmly waiting for the next step to reveal itself.
Three days later Jane called to tell me Sarah was in the emergency room in severe respiratory crisis. The doctors advised calling in Hospice, believing that Sarah wasn't likely to survive more than a month or so.
When I got to the hospital that evening, Sarah was under heavy morphine drip sedation and no longer conscious. While other close friends kept vigil with the sleeping Sarah, I drove Jane home to gather some things to make it more comfortable for her to stay the night at the hospital with Sarah. Jane had a strong sense that things would move very quickly now, that she needed to get right back to the hospital.
At seven the next morning, Jane called to say that she'd just awakened from a two hour nap to discover that Sarah "had passed."
Two days later, the night before Sarah's memorial, Jane called to ask me if I would speak at the service. I turned the computer on even before we hung up. Words of celebration for Sarah's life easily poured from my heart and cascaded onto the screen. This was the right thing at the right time.
Consider the possibility that what you usually call procrastination is really the sign of a deeper, wiser part of your self taking good care of you. And, consider being really loving and gentle with that part of your self.