It’s the Sacred Pause time of the year, as we enter deep winter after the solstice and exhale after the holidays. Everywhere the invitation to reflect and gather ourselves, as we cross the threshold of a new year.

My Sacred Pause time came unexpectedly early this December when I got sick with Covid. I feel quite humbled and altered by the journey, joining the ranks of so many of you that have already traversed this territory.

Although I felt utterly miserable, I never doubted that I’d survive. Nonetheless, it felt like quite an encounter with death. It was daunting to grapple with my body hosting an entity that has taken the lives of over six million of my fellow human beings, my privilege being a primary difference between my outcome and theirs.

I have never experienced such deep exhaustion or known that I had the capacity to sleep that many hours a day. Every day for two weeks, on my back under the thick burgundy faux fur blanket on my bed, crossing my hands over my heart as if I were lying in a coffin.

Surrendering to the undertow of oblivion. Floating through shards of dream images jumbled, in liminal spaces between waking and unconscious.

It occurred to me that the longing I’ve had throughout my post menopausal years for more rest, spaciousness, and time to do nothing, was being emphatically answered. It was the deepest and longest experience of non-action I’ve had in my life.

Covid completely disabled my Hyper-Achiever, silenced her constant dialogue about Doing-More-Efficiently. Because let’s face it, when the house is burning down, the dirty dishes in the sink become irrelevant.

Covid also paralyzed my Multitasker. The tapestry of thoughts and doings that pattern my moments became a single thread. One thing. At a time. Very slowly. Basic. Sequential. Sit up. Pause. Stand up. Steady on your feet. Walk to the kitchen. Drink a glass of water. Return to the couch. Exhale. Recover from all that.

My schedule simplified to a day going by, measured in the light outside the window. Dawn. Mid-day. Dusk. Dark. The circle repeating, round and round we go.

I found Covid to be a nasty critter. I encountered my own ferocious impatience, willfulness and hostility. I didn’t recognize myself. I was pissed off, mean, sad, and then depressed.

Because Covid really didn’t give a shit that “I never get sick” or that ” I bounce back quickly.” It flattened my assumptions for a quick bellshapped recovery. Instead, it parked in my system for days with no discernable progress or improvement.

Days I spent chasing distractions (Netflix- Novel-Nap-Repeat) trying to keep the beast of negative thoughts at bay and get through another day of feeling like crap. Another day of being battered by a behemoth of a bug, telling me that my resistance was futile.

As Byron Katie says, “When you argue with reality you lose, but only 100% of the time.”

Here’s the interesting thing: I fancy myself an expert when it comes to downtime. I’ve designed a life and career that affords me a great deal of freedom. I’m empty nested. Even having a pet feels like too much of a dependency to take on right now.  I feed the wild birds and they’re remarkably forgiving when I forget.

But Covid revealed to me that even though my outer world may be still, my inner reality can be full of agitation. Sometimes I’m like a duck who appears to be gliding on the pond serenely but under the surface my little flippers are feverishly paddling.

When it comes to spaciousness, my growing edge clearly resides in the interior.

Covid pulled me like an undertow into a place deeper, quieter and more empty. It was paradoxically a relief and an anxiety. I know how to duck under the white water of the wave but this was more like diving all the way down and laying my belly on the sandy bottom, where the crashing is distant and the current gentle, for as long as the breath will hold.

During the worst of my two weeks, a Wendell Berry poem, “I Go Among Trees,”  found its away to me. An excerpt:

I go among trees and sit still.
All my stirring becomes quiet
around me like circles on water.
My tasks lie in their places
where I left them, asleep like cattle.
Then what I am afraid of comes.
I live for a while in its sight.
What I fear in it leaves it,
and the fear of it leaves me.
It sings, and I hear its song.

This illness taught me something about fear and how to breathe in the depths. It answered a call I didn’t realize that I’d been making to Emptiness. And when I said, “OK got it! Thanks. That’s enough. Ready to move on now,” it held me fast in its own authority and timeline.

It acquainted me with death and, fittingly at the end of the year, asked me to reckon with patterns in my life that need to die. Let whatever needs to go, go.

It showed me my hubris around health, something I tend to take for granted. You are human. You are vulnerable. There are no guarantees.

My gradually returning vitality feels like a rebirth. A message to Get On With Living and let this experience become the compost to fertilize new growth. What do you plan to do now with your one wild and precious life?*

Having experienced a kind of forced stillness, I’m also coming away with a strenthened muscle for surrender, a capacity to drop quickly into deep rest and let it envelop me. That feels very useful and I hope not to lose it.

I share my story with the hope that it inspires you to look back on the challenges and victories of this last year with an eye toward witnessing yourself in all that you have moved through.

What will you name as your accomplishments? Can you also acknowledge and honor your disappointments?

What has become clear to you after your journey through this past year?

What are you letting go of? What are you calling in?

Who’s on your team to support you, love you, reflect your brilliance back to you (and who’s team are you on)?

How will you take exquisitely good care of yourself this year?

Thank you for being part of my circle; I cherish our connection even if we haven’t met. Because it’s energetic doesn’t mean it isn’t real.

I wish you a gentle and joyful entry into 2023. Remember to do it your way, with the time you need for sacred pausing. I look forward to a new year of travelling the Shakti Woman Way with you in our commitment to awakening sacred feminine power, in our bodies, lives, businesses, and communities, as a gift to the world.

With so much love to you,

Lisa Schrader

B&W photo credit: Emanuele Vitale