Hello my fellow bakers. The last few months of been a whirlwind for me. By Midsummer I was teaching several bread classes each month, building a busy acupuncture and Chinese medicine practice, baking 20 loaves of bread per week in my home kitchen. And loving it. Then one day I thought to myself “why not try a farmers market?” So I called our local farmers market, the one that Kevin and I go to nearly every Sunday. I did not anticipate how quickly it would all happen. They were intrigued that I had my cottage food license, that I baked from my home kitchen, and after I handed them some samples, the next day they called me to ask when I wanted to start. I just kept saying yes to everything. Yes to more mixing. Yes to more baking. Yes to more phone calls requesting more and more bread. Yes to more lifting dozens of cast iron pans in and out of oven. Yes to 50 plus loaves per week. By myself. Yes too more patients wanting Acupuncture. Yes to bread deliveries. Yes to EVERYTHING.
People kept asking me “how are you doing this Mary? Aren’t you just exhausted all the time?” And it wasn’t until several months in that I started really wondering if I was paying enough attention to my own needs and the needs of my family. My bread mission is so strong and is filled with a lot of love and grace, and it strives for goodness 100% of the time. Despite all of this, my body started to tell me that I was out of balance. I started feeling palpitations, fluttering, weird heart stuff. And I was incredibly exhausted. As a physician, I was fully capable of knowing that if I were my own patient, I would have told myself to slow down three months before. But I just kept pushing through it. After all, was not the love of baking enough? Wouldn’t I find the energy? People were wanting to know, to buy whole grain bread, and to learn how to bake it…why shouldn’t I be the one to teach them? To inspire and empower them?
Fast forward a few weeks later: I ended up in the hospital. For several days. They did diagnose me with a heart condition, and are testing me for several different possible causes. And although it was terrifying when it happened and I am still trying to piece everything together and wonder how this might change my life. I feel OK about it. I am conscious of acknowledging the fact that everything happens for a reason. Maybe it’s time to slow down a bit, to consider hiring someone and getting some help. To teach and not to bake 50 loaves in 12 hours (yes, I was doing that!).
On my really good days, I know the pause is not an end. It’s just to take a breather.
The whole reason why I am telling you this, is that I hope my story may influence some of you out there who are pushing the physical limits of your energy. Life is too short, my friends. We need to take of ourselves. I practice a medicine that is based on ancient principles of Yin and Yang, and the striving for balance in all aspects of life. I teach my patients this, I meditate on this daily. I was not practicing what I preach. I know this now.
When I was in school, we studied many ancient Chinese medical texts. One certainly had the greatest spiritual influence on me, and although I have lost track of it through the years, it has come back full circle once again as things do and is helping me heal. It’s the Tao Te Ching, written by Lao Tzu, a Chinese prophet. One short phrase continues to inspire me now each day: “Retire when the work is done. This is the way of heaven.” Simple to some, but not for this non-stopper. Although it will be challenging, I think I may heed his advice for awhile and see how the future unfolds. Rest. Work a little. Rest again. Maybe these pauses will give me the opportunity to write more. That is something I have missed. Maybe a commercial kitchen space with an actual proper bread oven will present itself to me, equipped with one or two incredibly assistants. Maybe I will just teach people how to bake bread for awhile and focus on helping my patients heal.
Maybe all of this. Maybe none of it. Ever still, the importance of the pause is a very real, essential practice. And I am being reminded of this now more than ever before. I hope some of you read this and understand, and maybe allow yourself a breather too. After all, it is essential for health, balance, and vitality. Just like I always say, real bread takes time. Well, so do we! So does healing. We have been taught to think that if we get a cold, we go to the doctor, and get medicine that will just make us better immediately. When in reality, the true complete healing can sometimes take longer than we ever anticipated. This is so hard for many of us. Including me. But it is also that much more profound when we are able to look back and see that the work we have done to heal ourselves, that the time we spent gracefully caring for ourselves, well, it was ALL worth it.
So, go ahead: give yourself permission to do absolutely nothing. In that stillness is where you will find the answer.