Resting When It’s Hard

Resting When It’s Hard

If you’ve been reading my work a while, you’ve probably heard me talk about internalised capitalism: the equation of our worth with our productivity or with what we produce.

You see, capitalism is built on three principles:

1. The pursuit of infinite growth on a finite planet (#climatecrisis).

2. The artificial creation of scarcity, to drive said growth.

3. The devaluation of beautiful, living, complex systems to lifeless resources. (Think jungles, or the forest, or even our own bodies).

When we live inside a system where these principles are normalised, we internalise this message in a myriad ways… one of the most obvious being that feeling of never doing enough, and struggling to rest, unwind or take time off.

I got a friendly reminder of this the other week when I woke up a few hours before my 26 hour flight to Australia, horribly unwell with Covid.

Now, I was lucky.  My airline was willing to cancel my flights and give a full refund, and I was able to rebook for a few weeks later.

So all I had to do was rest… simple, right?

Except – like many of us – those thoughts crept in…

All my emails! Surely I could send a couple today.  

I haven’t written a newsletter! I was going to do that on the flight.

I need to reschedule those meetings! My diary has completely changed.  

OMG, resting is boring. Also, the house really needs cleaning – I could clean, right?

It’s so unprofessional to change all these bookings… what will they think?

Round and round and round.

Different variations, some more anxious, others more sad, all telling me that there was work to be done, and yes I’m sick, but not that sick that I couldn’t do the things.

Once, I would have believed these voices. (I remember years ago, on my fourth bout of tonsillitis in as many months, chomping down painfully on steamed broccoli and hitting the gym because no sore throat and fever was going to keep me down! Besides, I was doing healthy stuff right?!)

This time, I offered myself the grace of rest.

I’ve spoken a lot lately about how the work of “Getting Free” is a practice. It’s not a one time event or single moment, but the active choosing of who and how we want to be.

It’s letting go of all those “shoulds” and stories of urgency, and honouring the truth of this moment.

I heard those voices, those stories, those “shoulds” telling me that things are urgent! And aren’t you bored?! And are you even that sick?! and chose to offer myself the medicine I needed.

It wasn’t that I didn’t hear these stories… it was that I chose not to invest in them.  

I know what happens when I do (#burnout #illness #exhaustion)

Instead, I chose to offer myself the rest and ease I want for all of us.

To stay on the couch, under the duvet, and leave my out of office on a couple days longer than I even needed.

Now, not all of us have the privilege to be able to do this.

I was raised by a single mother who for a long time did not have the resources or support to take a day, let alone a week, off.  But I also know that so often even once we have the privilege to do so, that we struggle with the practice.

There is no virtue in ‘keeping busy’ or ‘pushing through’ though. Morality, goodness and worth are not attached to how much we do.

And as changemakers, whatever it is that we want for the world, we must be willing to offer it to ourselves.

This is how we seed change into existence.

So if you’re in need of a little rest this week, or this virus creeps up on you soon too, here are a few reflection prompts for you:


1. What does your body want right now? Sleep? Water? To stay inside or go out? Note, notice your bodily sensations and feelings when asking yourself what you want. There’s a difference sometimes between what our mind wants, what we desire, and where our body is at.

2. What’s the worst that could happen from putting on the Out of Office this week and just being?  Is this thing truly more important than your health and wellbeing?

3. Can you offer yourself the grace of being human? Of being a living, breathing being that needs food, water, sleep, care and rest?

Love & courage,


Gracious Limits

Gracious Limits

This is a Guest Post by Carol Wilson, the Founder and Transformative Conversation Guide for Table Grace which seeks to create space for life-giving, transformational conversations, story-sharing, and resourcing for individuals, families, small groups, congregations, and communities. For more information, contact CarolWilsonTableGrace@gmail.com.

Gracious Limits by Carol Wilson[1]Steve Hartman recently shared the story of 89-year-old Allen McCloskey in an On the Road segment for CBS News. Mr. McCloskey’s neighbors described him as a “special guy” who is “out there to help everybody.” Steve Hartman said he would make a great candidate for kindest American. 

In the segment Mr. McCloskey was surprised by his hometown of Galveston, Indiana with a dinner in his honor and the presentation of the Guinness World Record for longest career as a gravedigger as he is now in his 71st year.  He doesn’t want to retire because he wants to make sure that the graves are dug carefully with square corners and with care for the persons affected by his work.  In addition, Mr. McCloskey is known for doing thousands of odd jobs across the years and is especially known for never sending a bill.  When Steve Hartman asked him about this, he just laughed.  Steve Hartman described Mr. McCloskey as unassuming in persona and profession and yet a bold beacon for anyone in search of meaning.  One of his neighbors said it best: “Allen has figured out what life is about.  It’s not the money that makes him happy. I truly believe Allen has figured out where enough is at. He’s found enough.”

In a course on Cultural Wayfinding, we discussed the concept of internalized capitalism.  It’s the shaping of our way of being by the priorities of capitalism and is experienced as a sense of urgency, scarcity, and never being enough. In my small group, we discussed it as the air that we breathe that leaves us feeling exhausted, unsettled, and always pushing through life.  Our course members are seeking to identify the cultural systems that shape us so that we can name them, see them, feel them, and then make conscious choices about how we participate in them.

Long ago I was introduced by a professor to gracious limits, a phrase I have carried and shared with others across the years.  When I first heard this concept it was contrasted with complete freedom, which is often seen as the desire of the human heart.  Yet, this professor suggested, complete freedom is chaos.  Without limits, we don’t know what is enough, where we are safe, where to stop, and how to recognize consequences for going too far.  Gracious limits, by contrast, let us know the playing field, the boundaries that give us security to know that within the recognized limits we can move freely and without worry or anxiety.

Gracious limits is an image I’ve often shared with persons who were entering into a role of supervision or with parents who were seeking to guide their children.  Until our conversation on internalized capitalism, I had never applied it to the limits and grace we give to ourselves to thrive. It was an aha moment to recognize that naming the limits of my time, ability, and energy isn’t being less than I “should” be.  Taking time to breathe, to rest, to reflect, to replenish is what gives all of us the space we need to be able to maintain our sense of self, our freedom to make choices, and to reduce the anxiety that tends to generate a desire for control over our life circumstances or over the lives of others.

Internalized capitalism has led me to believe that our worth comes from productivity, our importance comes from busyness, and that even our personal experiences are defined in terms of limited resources. How fascinating, then, to meet Mr. McCloskey who has “found enough.” Here is a man giving generously to his community, who is beloved and generating good will, who chooses to continue his work because of its value to him and to others and who is known for his kindness. He moves slowly, he speaks deliberately, he is unassuming in his expectations of others.  This life he models is one of generativity, of breathing into the world a spirit that leads to compassion and connection. Mr. McCloskey knows what is his to do and the gifts he has to offer.  There is a grace in him that seems to guide his choices and shape his interactions. In stepping out of urgency and lack, he has found ways to give generously and joyfully. He embodies what gracious limits look like, not restrictive, but freeing to receive and share, to work and rest, to care and receive care. 

As Steve Hartman closed his segment over pictures of Mr. McCloskey receiving hugs and sharing laughter with his community, he offered this summary: “Strange thing about finding enough, you often end up with more than enough.”  Gracious limits set us on the path to the freedom of enough and recognizing what really matters, a gift to ourselves, our community, and all creation.

Carol Wilson

Table Grace

August 10, 2023

Reflection Prompts:

  • Share how you experience the internalization of capitalism in your daily life. Notice the “shoulds” that you carry with you and the stories and drivers behind them.
  • Share a time when you experienced rest or a sense of enough. What did that feel like in your body? What did it sound like in your way of speaking?
  • What is one step you can take that moves you toward the freedom of enough and recognizing what really matters?

[1] “Local Hero”, On the Road with Steve Hartman, CBS News Sunday Morning, August 6, 2023.

Seeing the Water

Seeing the Water

Have you heard this David Foster Wallace story? There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says “Morning, boys! How’s the water?”

And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes “What the hell is water?”.  

It’s great, right? I think we can all relate to it.

Most of us grow up in environments where we’re not taught how to see the water and yet, it’s one of the most valuable skills we can have.

The water, depending on context, can be many different things.

It can be as small as family dynamics, or as big as capitalism & patriarchy. 

One of the first ways I learnt to see the water was travel.  I spent a lot of my 20’s backpacking, and I was fortunate to go places as diverse as the Colombian Amazon to the Wakhan Valley to the Arctic Circle of Norway. 

My family could never understand my love of travel so much (particularly to more remote places), but as someone with a non-traditional education, it became a form of learning for me.

Travel taught me the many different ways of being human. 

It showed me patterns. 

And it taught me how to see the water. 

Because in each of these places I saw the patterns of our interconnection.  The shared love we all have for our communities & family, music and art, our shared questioning and searching for something divine. 

But also the patterns & interconnection of injustice.  

The burning of the Amazon isn’t an isolated problem of South America. It’s directly tied to a global economic system (ahem, #capitalism) that requires infinite growth, that is founded on our disconnection from the Earth and each other. 

The suffering of Afghanistan and the surrounds is not a ‘them’ problem. It’s directly tied to neocolonial policies and power politics of the global north (which are founded on the same belief patterns of patriarchy, capitalism & white supremacy). 

And the struggles many of us experience in day to day life, and consider normal – that’s right, I’m talking about burnout, perfectionism, shame-cycles, imposter syndrome – are not actually normal.

They’re a product of a toxic culture, that likes to individualise and otherise systemic injustice.  

As changemakers, I believe our work is in learning to see the water of our culture, and learning to recognise patterns. 

Travel’s one way, but it’s not the only one. 

We can all practice this by asking the right questions. 

Who benefits when I’m burnt out or exhausted?

Who or what goes unchallenged?

What pattern might there be here, where can I see this story in culture? 

Seeing the water is the first step to Getting Free. 

From there, we can learn to hand the story back. 

To steward our power.

And lead our communities from the world as it is to the world as it could be. 

Abundance Practices for Changemakers

Abundance Practices for Changemakers

I come back to the work of abundance because scarcity – like shame – isn’t a driver for a more just and regenerative world.

Capitalism will tell us that scarcity is a driver of innovation, a force behind creativity.

But I wonder where the stretches of our imagination and creativity could lie if we were to rest in being safe and satisfied? If our needs were met, what would still call upon each of us to be created or born?

Abundance is an experience we have not collectively felt for a long time. It was removed from our systems, the word branded as new age fringe, or woo.

Now is its time for reclamation.

So here are some simple abundance practices you can begin, designed by and for changemakers.

1. Share Resources.

Our world enforces scarcity in part by teaching us that everyone ‘needs to have their own’, and removing our shared common resources & spaces.

So let’s rebel. Join a:

  • Shared tool shed
  • A library
  • Community garden
  • A clothes swap
  • A co-op
  • A Pay It Forward group.
  • Stock (or use) a community fridge
  • Attend free concerts, lectures, seminars and webinars.

2. Beauty.

Find symbols of beauty, and place them everywhere.

Enjoy fresh flowers & art.

Fill your home with beautiful things (whether from a thrift store, travels or elsewhere). Beauty reminds us of what matters.

3. Money.

What makes you feel like there’s enough? What makes you feel abundant? How much do you need to thrive?

Consider practices like:

  • A certain amount of cash in your wallet,
  • A dedicated savings account & practice (regardless of amount)
  • Donating to people & causes that move you
  • Surprise gifts for friends & family
  • Spending money on what you actually desire.
  • Subscribing to papers, magazines & patreons you care about
  • Supporting the arts
  • Contributing to a pension fund
  • Ethical banking (divesting)

A note: Money is often wielded unethically in the name of capitalism or power-over structures, but is not the same thing as capitalism itself. Billionaires should not exist, and simultaneously struggle does not serve the you or the world. Much of our experience with scarcity relates to money, and so cultivating an abundance practice with money – ethically, with care, intention and honouring collective values – is not at odds with anticapitalism or changemaking.

4. Practice Pleasure

As the wonderful adrienne maree brown says, ‘pleasure is not one of the spoils of capitalism’.

The more we can practice pleasure the more we cultivate a sense of enoughness & satiety: requirements for true collective abundance.

This might be eating a blueberry, enjoying the sun on your skin, watching the birds, drinking a latte, enjoying touch & sex, a slow yoga practice, dancing, singing or dinner with friends. Take your pick.

5. Use the ‘special occasion stuff’

Light the candle.

Serve the nice glasses & plates.

Put the dress on.

Wear the sexy underwear.

Open that nice soap.

Drink that champagne in the fridge.

6. Ask for more.

This might seem counterintuitive, but many of us aware of the injustice of capitalism are conditioned to ask for less (this is doubly particularly so for women, queer folx and people of colour).

Asking for more (money, time, resources, respect etc) is about knowing what we need to flourish, and believing that it’s possible.

Because your thriving is not at odds with a more beautiful world. Indeed, it’s a requirement.

What would you add? Let me know on Instagram here. 

Self Help, Collective Liberation… and Capitalism?

Self Help, Collective Liberation… and Capitalism?

I often say that self-work is world-work, with many layers to its meaning.

I believe firmly that the two are interconnected.  That all the self-work I have done (therapy, coaching, plant medicine, seminars, books, meditation, travel) has benefitted the world and my activism.

Without it, I’d still be carrying infinite amounts more shame, guilt and rage. I would still be a greater part of cycles of violence and harm, approaching conflict with a combative lens.  I’d still believe in my powerlessness, rather than embracing my own agency.

But self-work in our culture has often been coopted by capitalism.

And self-help without collective liberation, without a vision for the freedom & love of all, is often just capitalism in disguise. 

So this week, I wanted to highlight some common self-work teachings that bring big-C energy, and offer a little more nuance to them.

1) Manifestation.

The first is the big one, manifestation.  I believe that our thoughts shape our reality, that the stories we tell ourselves about what we can and can’t have matter.

I believe that we can and should create lives that are flourishing, and that we have far more power than we let ourselves believe.

And I believe if we’re teaching ‘you can have anything you want’, without also understanding & framing it:

a) in the context of the climate crisis & wildlife loss we’re facing; &

b) that what really matters is that we manifest things that bring us joy, meaning & fulfilment, not just the endless pursuit of ‘more’…

Then it’s capitalism in disguise.

2) Enlightenment as a one-time, singular, personal experience. 

Freedom, enlightment, liberation – however we call it – ultimately is both inner and outer work.

The inner work to know, love and experience who we truly are. Outer work to create the conditions to express who we are safely and authentically in the world.

As Lilla Watson famously said, our liberation is tied together.

3) “You’re responsible for everything you experience”

Nobody chooses to experience illness, grief, sexism, racism, trauma, war, poverty.

This message doesn’t address the reality that sometimes bad things happen, and it’s not our fault.

Rather I believe we have agency over how we respond to our experiences, not everything that happens.

In acknowledging our agency, we understand we have the capacity for inner power and freedom, even if not externally yet.

4) Personal growth as an endless quest for self-improvement

It’s easy to become consumed with ‘fixing’ ourselves.  To orient our lives around our pain, to believe if we just do the next course, read the next book, join the next online course, that one day we’ll feel better about ourselves.

We’re searching for freedom & healing in the arena of scarcity and not-enoughness, and we can’t find them there.  Healing is wonderful, but as @iamtonijones powerfully sings, it is not our purpose. Maybe it’s time we ‘stop orienting around pain and start organising around pleasure’.

So this week I want you to get curious about your self work. 

How does it benefit you? How does it benefit community?

And how can you add a wider collective lens of justice & liberation to your inner work?

Laura x


Name the System

Name the System

Getting Free 101: Name the SystemWe have a tendency in our culture to download system problems on to individuals.

The most recent example I’ve seen (sorry North America!) is the basically-mandatory tipping culture here, solving the low wages of the service industry & gig economy with the individual responsibility of the consumer.

But this takes place in bigger ways too.

Take burnout: the rate of burnout we see in the world today is not a result of individual failings or ‘not toughing it out’. It’s a result of work & financial systems radically out of sync with our wellbeing. #capitalism

Or mental health: the rate of emotional distress & anxiety we see in the world today doesn’t lie just with individual circumstance, but with a planet increasingly in turmoil, compounding generational trauma and disconnection from community, meaning and the language of our emotions(And if you haven’t read this article yet, I recommend itor another interesting one here). 

Climate change is another great system problem sold to us as an individual problem. If we just recycled more, bought solar panels & LED lightbulbs the sixth mass extinction surely wouldn’t be happening.

There’s also rising debt and stagnant incomes.

Inflation and retirement age.

The list goes on.

And there’s a problem with framing system problems as individual ones.

First, the status quo remains. Nothing really changes because we need to be working collectively as well as individually.

Second, the emotional weight this causes. When we download the weight of collective systemic injustice onto individuals, the results become obvious:

Apathy. Burnout. Overwhelm. Stress. Scarcity. Resentment. Feeling stuck. 

So what can we do about this?

A lot. But we start with recognising and naming the system.

If you’re wondering whether something has collective roots to it, you can ask:
1. Who or what benefits when I have this problem?
2. Is this feeling or experience shared across a large or increasing percentage of people?
3. If this problem were magically gone tomorrow, what would be different in the world?

Once we recognise system roots, we can start to do the work of 𝑮𝒆𝒕𝒕𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝑭𝒓𝒆𝒆.

Because system problems need system solutions, but they also have a mindset attached from where we can begin.

Because until we change the thoughts, attitudes & mindsets that uphold the system, we’re destined to recreate it.

Until we challenge the beliefs that hold it in place, we’re unable to imagine a more just or regenerative world.

So if you’re noticing burnout, perfectionism, imposter or ‘not enough’ syndrome – start taking a look at where the roots might be in culture, and how we can start to challenge them. 

***NB:  Experiences referenced here like burnout & mental health are complex, and often have roots in both the personal and cultural.  This message speaks to our relationship to culture, but recognises each individual experience is different. 

Laura x