Harvest time: it’s OK to have a rest

Posted on: August 3, 2020

Today is Lammas (or Lughnasa in Ireland), the ancient Celtic festival that comes midway between the Summer Solstice and the Autumn Equinox. Traditionally it marks the first harvest of the year, when the corn is ripe and ready to be gathered in.  Whether you’re a dedicated veg grower or all you’ve picked so far this year is the odd roadside blackberry, the idea of harvesting is powerful.

August is also a time in the year to pause and rest – the peak of summer. The first half of the year from winter to summer is effortful: starting with the hibernation of winter, putting forth new shoots in the spring, leading into the full bloom crescendo of summer. This is a powerful moment to reflect on our journey so far this year.

Six months ago coronavirus was a vague rumble on the horizon, another of those Asian flu things happening on the other side of the world and a mild inconvenience to my plans to run a women’s leadership programme in Singapore. None of us had the faintest inkling back in early February what a tumultuous experience the first half of 2020 would turn out be.

And it’s not over yet. Already I notice myself anticipating the autumn and winter with some anxiety: Will there be a second spike? How will I cope with social distancing when the days are cold, grey and short? How will the economy be affected?

Yet now it’s August. The sun is shining; we’re allowed to visit the beach and swim, meet friends and family in moderation and go on holiday. We’ve survived hard lockdown, home schooling the kids, working virtually and loo roll shortages (remember that? – feels like a lifetime ago).

To be honest, for the last couple of weeks I’ve been at my limit, addictively stuck in “doing” mode – work, caring commitments and pushing projects forward (“Just one more thing and then I’ll stop…”) – struggling to give myself permission to take a break.

I’ve finally let go and allowed myself to pause and harvest some fruits from this year, such as:

  • I’ve moved my coaching and mediation practice entirely online and I’m pleasantly surprised that they work even better on Zoom than in person

  • I’ve spent 4 months’ quality time living with my 94 year old mum through lockdown and now handed back to her excellent carers – plus introduced her to the joys of Netflix and iPlayer (although watching the steamy drama Normal People with her was probably a step too far)

  • I’ve stuck religiously to my twice weekly Zoom Kundalini yoga classes with the phenomenal Carolyn Cowan – keeping me on an even keel when I’m about to “lose my blob” (as she so eloquently puts it). As someone who’s never been able to sustain a meditation practice for any length of time this feels like a real achievement.

Remember – the best defence against any illness is a healthy immune system, which is strengthened by sunshine, fresh air, rest, good food enjoyed in the company of loved ones, touch, laughter, movement, expressing feelings, community and belonging.

What would our projects, teams, movements and organisations be like if we matched them more consciously to the rhythms of the seasons and pleasurable activities rather than demanding a mechanical uniformity of performance day in day out? Whether you’re leading yourself, a team or an organisation, you have the opportunity to create greater coherence and alignment in all your projects by tuning in to the seasons. 

So during August please find a way to slow down and create ease for yourself and those you influence. Whether or not you choose to take your holiday now, give yourself a break from having a tight schedule and pushing hard towards goals.  Come the autumn you’ll be glad you did.