Follow the rabbit holes.
As many as you like.
They are like the fractal flowers: everything is connected underground.
Following something that appears to be a distraction is not a waste of time, if — and it’s a big all-caps IF — you can do it consciously.
Here is what happens down the rabbit holes.
You find that one small seemingly unrelated thing plants seeds for the next piece.
The piece you’ve been looking for. Or the piece you didn’t even know you needed.
You connect the dots.
You find the treasures.
You discover that all roads lead to the thing you’re trying to get to anyway.
You realize that you are not avoiding your project. You are investigating an aspect of it. Or learning something that will help you with it.
At Rally (Rally!), we delight in rabbit holes. We have permission slips written on popsicle sticks to remind us the rabbit-hole-following is useful.
And still we doubt.
But it works. Like this:
You’re working on an outline for something you’re projectizing.
Your post-Shiva-Nata brain is firing like mad.
You make your way to the Galley to get a cup of tea, and out of the corner of your eye you notice a book about labyrinths. It speaks to you.
You see there’s a section that will teach you how to draw one yourself, and then you say, “Oh no! This is a distraction! This isn’t what I’m here to do!”
But you have committed to being receptive to the rabbit holes.
You remember that there are many ways to get to the thing you want.
And now you have two possible rabbit holes, if not more.
You could choose to sit and talk to the well-meaning fear-and-guilt monsters who won’t stop yelling. You can bring curiosity and play to deciphering your internal rules that say no, working on a project has to be X and can never be Y.
That would be an excellent rabbit hole to dive into.
Because you know what? These patterns will show up in other aspects of your project and other parts of your life.
It is a worthy mission to collect information about this stuff so it can’t hold you back from your power in other, really vital situations.
Another worthy rabbit hole: you could just decide that something about labyrinthing is going to help your project.
You can actively choose this rabbit hole of learning about the labyrinth as a clear and intentional expression of choice, curiosity, receptivity, sovereignty and play.
Or follow both.
Either way, you will get what you need.
If you take fifteen minutes to draw labyrinths…
You might get the deep-in-your-body realization that your outline doesn’t actually need to be so linear.
Or that you need to work backwards — reverse engineering! Or that there are shortcuts that you couldn’t see before.
If you talk to the guilt machine….
You might get more information about how to sneak past some of the tough parts of your internal video game.
Maybe you have a new ally.
Maybe you have also resolved another fear that would have totally sabotaged this project six months from now.
But you will get something. And it will be good.
If that book winks at you and you want to follow it, follow.
Just decide that you are going to find out what is in there and how it is going to help you. Experiment. Give it ten minutes. Follow it.
And not just following, but knowing that you are going to actively engage with the rabbit hole. You are going to interact with the guilt and the fear by being inquisitive, gentle, open to being wrong about what their purpose is.
The rabbit holes take you to where you need to go. Especially when you aren’t fighting with yourself the entire way. When you’re paying attention and staying receptive to the notion that something is here for you.
The rabbit holes make the connections for you. And they do it under the surface.
One of the hardest parts of this kind of intentional projectizing that we do at Rally is trusting and just going with it.
Not treating the the monsters or the walls as distractions — because they aren’t. Treating them as part of the adventure.
The important part is that it’s intentional and active.
Not subconscious and passive.
Follow and ask questions. Follow and take notes. Follow and engage with what is happening.
The outside culture says yell at yourself for following the urge to fold laundry instead of writing that proposal.
I say: find out what is waiting for you in the laundry.
Because you can decide that there is something for you to learn, meet or discover in the folding.
Is it a quality (like peacefulness or order) that you need to fill up on? Is it the taking time out? Is it a rhythm? Is it the spaciousness that happens when you clear this pile out of the way?
There could be all sorts of things there. And so much power comes from that moment when you give yourself permission to be playful and find out.
Exceptions, caveats, play and comment zen for today.
- This practice of actively following rabbit holes is totally an advanced practice. Permission to not have to try this yet. To let it percolate and settle over time.
- This practice is also way easier at Rally because no internet! Online rabbit holes are considerably harder. Interacting consciously with internet distractions can take years of practice.
- Much of this may feel untrue. This post will probably trigger a lot of resistance. That’s because this concept is crazy counter-intuitive. We live in a culture that is all about forcing. And fighting.
- Often we don’t trust ourselves because of past experience. Interacting with those parts of us who are afraid we will get lost in depression is another useful rabbit hole to spend some time with.
- There are a lot of biggified experts out there saying that the way to get something done is to put your ass in the chair and shout ass-in-chair at yourself, to struggle. The ass-in-chair people reflect our internal monsters. They mean well. They just don’t know how to do change without self-inflicted violence.
- Find your own way. Do what works. Ignore the rest.
- Remember that people vary. And that non-violence trumps the people-vary rule. So we don’t get to use the people-vary rule as an excuse for self-abuse.
- There’s time. Even for this. So it doesn’t have to make sense right now. The rabbit holes will be there for you whenever you are ready for them.
As always, we all have our stuff. We’re all working on our stuff. It’s a process. We let other people have their stuff, and we don’t give unsolicited advice.
We try things. We flail around. We laugh when we can and it’s okay when we can’t.
I would love to hear about some of your rabbit holes.
RABBIT HOLES! This is probably the single most powerful practice I have taken with me from Rally!
One example: I was working on a project. Monsters were shouting at me that it would be worthless. I talked to my monsters. They told me they would listen to my clients if my clients liked it. I used stuffed animals as stand-ins for my clients (a wackiness born out of joyous time at the Playground!) My clients spoke to me and not only did I get past the monster block but my adorable fluffy ‘clients’ told me things that actually moved my project forward.
Rabbit Holes. thank goodness for them!and thank you Havi!
I hadn’t thought of this as following rabbit holes. It’s my way of living life. I trust that my soul takes me through whatever experiences I need to grow, to incarnate more of those potentials and capacities that are needed in my world.
Life offers a dance that is so much richer, fuller and more beautifully complex than any one path can accommodate.
To say Yes to the mystery: That’s Divine play.
Thanks so much for this post, Havi!
Beautiful — and, I believe, exactly what I needed today.
I am facing a tangled mess of paperwork at one of my work sites today. Somewhere in the background, there are monsters wringing their paws and saying, “How could you let this tangled mess happen? How can you possibly survive this?” For me, right now, the rabbit hole is something internal and emotional: a mysterious inner calm that is impervious to panic and dooooooom. The rabbit hole says, “Well. Here I am. What shall I do, here and now, that would be a Good and Helpful Thing to Do? Okay, I’ve done that. How about now? Where am I, and what is the Next Thing?”
I feel rather the way Winnie-the-Pooh might have felt if he hadn’t needed to wait to be rescued and unstuck from Rabbit’s front door. Rabbit holes!
Just wanted to quickly add my heartfelt agreement that yes, yes, being intentional and mindful and curious and playful, all at the same time, is making all the difference.
Oh my gosh. I needed this RIGHT NOW. I want to write. Desperately. But the monsters are having a complete Panic Parade. It sort of looks like a frat party gone horribly wrong. I tried to get things under control, but my voice can’t be heard over that damned music.
So I’ve found myself laying down, paralyzed. I sought solace in a House marathon and a Stephen King novel. Funny enough, it’s giving me…thoughts. Dare I say, ideas. I don’t know if I’ll be ready to handle the fear part anytime soon, but at least I can begin to accept that this could be soothing and potentially helpful, if I let it.
Note: If this is a complete misappropriation of this lovely practice of exploring rabbit holes, please let me know.
So much here.
1) Kaleena, I love your description of panic: “But the monsters are having a complete Panic Parade. It sort of looks like a frat party gone horribly wrong.” My monsters do this too, but before there was just noise I didn’t know how to deal with. I think I could imagine how to deal with a frat party.
2) I really like rule number seven. I will try very hard to remember it.
3) Last June a rabbit hole showed up, admittedly I was in no state to actually follow it, but even when I was better I kept putting it off, making it contingent on other stuff. Stuff that is often self-abuse stuff. Well just this weekend I decided to finally follow that rabbit hole (a three week pilgrimage on St. James way). So I think I get what you are saying, much better than with the fractal flowers, but then because of the trip any kind of image that needs a map, or could be mapped is really easy for me to get right now.
I use to do this all the time. I don’t know when it went away. I don’t know when I stopped trusting myself…
No, I do. I stopped trusting myself when I started trusting the “expert advice” you get at places like Problogger. It’s not that their advice is wrong, per se. Just not for me.
Oh, and when I started believing that everyone else’s story is my own. Just because someone else couldn’t succeed doesn’t mean I can’t.
Thank you for this. I think I was waiting for someone to give me permission to go back to being me.
Havi, thank you for this. I’m going to mull on the walls and the multitude of rabbit holes I’ve found in the last month or so. Suddenly, the little panic voice doesn’t seem so powerful, and my Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy discs may be more important than I thought. Off to fold laundry and watch!
Well, of course. DON’T PANIC! 🙂 (There’s probably more, but it’s a start.)
I love this image, of following those rabbit holes even when the rabbit himself is shouting, “We’re late! No time!” I do this with art sometimes, pulling out supplies and sitting down with them to see what comes out the other side, and letting myself go in directions I’m not sure I’ll like.
The best part is, I’ve been really happy with what’s come out of that, lately.
(So much harder on the internet, though – Youtube is an infinite rabbit hole!)
Yes! thank you for articulating this. All my best ideas come out of rabbit holes, but it’s a frustrating practice to defend. Now I shall shelve this post beside “Bolivia” for the edification of interested parties!
“I don’t know when I stopped trusting myself…
No, I do. I stopped trusting myself when I started trusting the “expert advice” you get at places like Problogger. It’s not that their advice is wrong, per se. Just not for me.”
+1 for me. Exactly.
I like the rabbit hole metaphor. Alice got a whole life-changing adventure out of just a rabbit hole. Good to be reminded that I might, too.
@Shanna – exactly! “A frustrating practice to defend.” So true and part of what makes it hard. That is the wearing-the-crown part that is so challenging. Thank you for that phrase.
Ooooo – this gives me pause. (Puppy paws!)
The outside culture says yell at yourself for following the urge to fold laundry instead of writing that proposal.
I say: find out what is waiting for you in the laundry.
This is exactly verbatim what I was just dealing with…I’m writing a proposal and want to take a break and finish soem laundry. Came here as a distraction (rabbit hole).
Off t do laundry.
Oh yes. Thanks for the reminder. And the permission.
My common rabbit hole.
Sitting to write and brain says, “You should go for a walk. Or a run! You should just go outside.”
I want to fight it. “No,” I say. “It is time to write.”
Then I stare at the blank page.
When I remember that it’s OK to follow the voice outside, I find the words I was waiting for.
No resistance here, just lots of relief.
Permission to explore the rabbit holes!
I didn’t realize how much tension I had by forcing myself to resist the rabbit holes until I gave myself permission to explore them and noticed the lightness and peace and clarity that followed, and that’s just in the few minutes I took to absorb it.
So many blogs and posts and articles that promise to help you find happiness tell you the only way to do it is to:
Quit your job.
Travel the world.
Start a blog.
If you’re not going to do that, then you’re not ready to be happy.
Or that the way to find focus is to seclude yourself from everything and everyone and turn off your internet and stare at a minimalist, blank screen of a word processing software.
These methods may be the very best thing for some people, and I’m a firm believer in the “use what works” principle, but trying to force myself to conform to someone else’s brand of non-conformity is counter productive. And my attempts at forcing focus not only felt like punishment, torture and solitary confinement, but they also triggered a resistance inside me that dug it’s heels in and said “No. I won’t focus and you can’t make me. Put the music back on and go watch the snow fall. It’s pretty and soothing.”
And a monster yelled back “NO. Sit down and write something GOOD!”
Because that’s very conducive to productivity.
Looking forward to my next rabbit hole!
Love this! For me, my trip to Rally! *is* my rabbit hole. In order to make time/money available I decided not to attend the annual wedding/portrait photography convention in Vegas – where I would have interacted with photographers, taken photography business classes, and of course partied and seen old friends.
But it just didn’t feel right, I subconsciously was looking for excuses not to attend, and I felt drawn to Rally! And a way opened up for me to do it, and I thought “well, we’ll just follow this path instead and see where it goes.”
I still don’t know what I’ll work on while I’m there. But it’s all fractal flowers and I think this was just the rabbit hole that I needed!!
I read this post this morning and had to come back to say that I loved the idea of permission slips written on popsicle sticks so much that after work, I went to Hobby Lobby and bought popsicle sticks so I can make some.
Two things come to mind.
1st, “trusting and just going with it” reminds me so much of studying math in college. Often I found that I wouldn’t *really* get something until I was studying the next thing the following semester. Then the previous semester would make total sense. It didn’t bother me, but I knew a lot of people who struggled against it.
2nd, I just read something this week sort of about time management. What seemed really useful to me was the part about not spending time learning stuff you aren’t ready to implement. It was a call to learn only what you need at the moment, then take action, then learn the next thing…
For me, I think learning can be a distraction, a way of procrastinating or delaying progress with the thought I need to know all of whatever before I can proceed.
I’m fond of rabbit holes but I’m going to try to be more mindful of some of them.
I’m with Jillian….my impending trip to Rally! is causing quite a stir inside me.
The part of me that knows, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that going to Rally! is the next best thing I can do for myself is at war with the part of me who thinks I don’t *deserve* to do someting so decadent for myself when I’ve just quit my job (well, career….) and have no current source of income.
“What is it even about?” and “What is the ROI here?” vs. “I will know when I get there and start rally-ing.” and “I need this.”
I don’t know if it is a rabbit hole, per se. I don’t really have a direction right now, so going to Rally! isn’t interrupting or interfering with anything. Hmmmm, the more I think about it, I don’t think it is a rabbit hole.
Anyway! I am going to be more gentle with myself about *distractions*, and I’m going to be more mindful of what I am doing when I decide to investigate a rabbit hole.
The most powerful word/thought for me is “I choose to do this”…. I am the chooser! I get to choose for me, no one else gets to do that, dammit! I don’t have to justify anything to anyone, and especially not to the chick in my head who is not very loving right now.
Thanks again Havi 🙂
This really speaks to me! I think I’ve been already doing it someties, and I know inside that it’s working, but it’s nice to have a name for it and think about it some more.
You, via posts, continue to be one of my most compassionate and helpful companions through the wilderness of shattered life after John’s instant unexpected death. I’m in (another) “stuck” place and find myself constantly doing Sudoku. Decided today, before reading about Rabbit Holes!, to stop ASSUMING this was an escapist shameful waste of my existence (wasting “time” no longer makes sense to me). And guess what? Learned that this activity is reinforcing LOTS of excellent qualities that I don’t normally associate with myself … like
persistence, even in the face of a really TOUGH puzzle/life situation;
step-by-step problem solving (as opposed to linear leaps of intuitive insight);
abstract thinking (in the form of play) that requires making an hypothesis and following it through with committment far enough to know if it produces harmony/truth (all the numbers lining up) or discord/untruth;
realizing that arriving at the “wrong” answer, is part of the blessed truth; etc etc.
Also, and perhaps most importantly, I realized that I am so much kinder to myself when my coping and behaving and grieving look like coherent articulate ‘therapeutic’ work. Not so much at times like this week. But, right now, in this present moment, I choose to embrace the unwashed-pajamas-all-day-Sudoku-fiend as a wise and worthy-of-respect part of me. It’s okay to have wildly unconventional parts! In life, in grief.
Namaste, Dear One,
and thanks … for cyber-walking with me.
This is wonderful.
The most important part for me, I think, is the part about doing it consciously and mindfully. I think the way I resist the “No! You must focus!” monster is to space/blank out as I follow the rabbit hole. Allowing myself to be mindful means that I’m actually choosing to do it.
This will take a while to absorb. My distractions are so CLEARLY monster initiated. I suppose it is the MINDFUL element of rabbit holing that is the key. So I’ll talk to the monsters and check what is really going on and then…burrowing I go.
@Kathleen Avins – LOVE the image of the monsters wringing their paws.
PS built a blanket tent this morning. Just before I went to work. I left it inhabited by a three year old. I was JEALOUS. Hopefully will still be there when I get home!
Totally an advanced practice… Bad tv is a
badnot helpful rabbithole. Laundry, when not accompanied by internal ‘nobody appreciates me’ monologue, is a YES lovely, calming, meditative practice.
I love following rabbitholes, but often I suspect it’s because I like the ‘guilty/naughty/not-doing-what-im-supposed-to-be-doing’ thing…. Surely more grownuppy to just own my choices and follow the same rabbitholes w/out the guilt? Maybe some of them will lose their appeal… Maybe I’ll find OTHER ways to make myself feel… indulged… that don’t need to take so much time out of my ‘focus’ thing…
I’ma gonna need me some mindfulness gloves, maybe my scratchy loofah ones from the shower, to keep me reMINDed of being active and mindful next time I dive in…
PS I must say, by the way, that obsessively browsing the archives of the fluent self NEVER fails to be rewarding!! A truly delightful rabbit WARREN!!!
Thanks so much Havi for this post – and offering a refreshing (and nurturing) approach to a common dilemma.
My own “rabbit hole” excursion (well, to be honest–one of MANY in the past couple of days)…has involved a visit from (and subsequently WITH) my inner “wild-screamin’-banshee-woman-self” who spontaneously erupted yesterday afternoon.
She’s offering me some lovely lessons and new understandings – and assuring me she was simply testing her wings in case there had been a REAL emergency to deal with.
Oh Havi! It is so comforting and softening to read this post. I found this life saving blog thru the internet rabbit hole which is a bot of a miracle in itself. The way you freely give these tools. So much love. I feel like you have given me a mega sized digger that has helped me to dig mass amount of debris off of myself, you have given me an arsenal of flash lights and torches to find my way out of many dark caves and using these tools I have created a space that is always getting bigger and more safe and relaxing. Thank you thank you thank you!
WOW. I get so caught up in KT talk that I forgot you were here Havi!
Walls not being a distraction…omgosh BING! Of course! Much the same way that the walls of this room don’t distract me because they are there to define the space I am in, MY walls also don’t have to distract me but just be there to define whatever it is they are there to define. Wonderful stuff.
This post resonates with me SO much. I had this exact experience last week of following an internet rabbit hole (uh oh warning danger danger!)which led me to the right brain business plan and the video launch which led me to finding out about Julie Stuart and Making Ideas Visible which led to a MAJOR moment of BING for my Thing.
I feel as though I’ve been doing this for my entire life and in 3 minutes you helped me give the practice an identity.
My rabbit holes consist of blog hopping and then a mix of old journal reading. It is within both of these practices that I am able to get back to what makes me feel good. Recenter, and be fully present with my work or just living.
Most of the time the internet rabbit holes happen at my day job, where I show up to help others, but mainly to pay the bills. But I happen across posts like yours, that change the entire lighting of my day.
My journal rabbit holes, happen when I am immersed in my craft of paper crafting and I get into this story, that I know links back to an experience I had some odd years ago, and then I’ll jump into my journals and track down that one sentence that I feel I need to reconnect with.
I think it is important to go with the flow in the practice of finishing any project. I want my process to resonate with joy, love and creativity knowing it will carry out in the end result. How could that happen if I did everything the same exact way? If I did everything mainly just to get it done?
There is a lot to me met and learned and read and danced and sung and created in the moment where we find ourselves in this place.
Thanks for reminding me to be true to my myself and let the doubt dissolve!
With immense gratitude,
“Often we don’t trust ourselves because of past experience.” Yes. I was just losing faith in the scientific method (making it hard to be a scientist). I love that it works for the Book of Havi. But for the Book of Me, all I kept getting was: “I’ve tried everything and there was always a time in the past where it didn’t work.”
Ah, but Now is Not Then. That helps me a lot. No controls are possible when the test subject is always in a different river.
And I was thinking how Rally didn’t “work” for me, because I didn’t get X pages read. (It’s also true that I read and enjoyed my novel, though.)
But in a way I followed many rabbit holes.* I would like to say I did it consciously. The funny thing is, I go back and forth between feeling guilt for that. Revisionist monsters….
Right now, this is sort of my rabbit hole. Oh, it calls to me! I haven’t yet been compassionate about the call.
BTW, Kaleena, reading Stephen King seems like a perfect way to learn to handle fear!
* I was part of a team, I made displays, I danced, I got hypnotized and massaged, I learned what beauty is, I veiled and availed myself, I read about famous people who liked to nap and also the palindrome Subaru Durabus, I talked to my leather-jacket monster, I noticed my ankle, I enjoyed myself, I opened up to a ghost, I made people laugh, I used my imagination!, I hammocked, I took pictures, I made friends, I made flowers, I fell in love with ribbons, I improved my smiley face drawing, I cut and pasted, making a wish that came true. This is just what I remember a whole year after.
Also, I noticed the monster of “list things and you’ll be productive.” 🙂
I’ve been following rabbit holes for many years now. Since I saw the matrix. “Time to wake up.” “KNOCK KNOCK” “Follow the white rabbit.” Now most of the holes I jump head first into, are online. I’ve learned many new and interesting things about the world around me. That has only been showing many other holes. Which are filling the clouded blind spots of my reasoning. Sometimes I didn’t want to know that the answer was that ugly or bad. But I have learned more from the truth then the lies that are projected at me. It’s like shining a light in the darkness. We may not like what we see or find, but until we do we can’t change it. Some things people are ready for. So I have to choose my wording carefully. True knowledge is power, but can scare people off. Timing is important as to what and when to say it. We are all head to so the same goal. Just maybe not the same path to get there. Trail blazing is not easy but has many rewards.