Lessons in wellness from a pushmi-pullyu

What we can learn about wellness from a pushmi-pullyu (1)

Yes, a pushmi-pullyu.

That totally nutty, totally made up animal from Doctor Doolittle. Honestly, I really hope that whoever cooked up this inspired twist on a llama (already gunning for gold in the animal hilarity stakes) got some kind of award. Genius.

I digress.

Of all the imaginary animals in the land, the pushmi-pullyu is the absolute best. Sorry heffalumps. Sorry woozels. That’s just the way it is. Reason being, the pushmi-pullyu illustrates a particular wellness philosophy of mine. Which is this.

Life is pushing us strongly in one direction. Towards speed. Towards productivity.

To survive, we must pull in the other.

I vividly remember the first time I used the internet. It was half term, I was about 13 and I was working in my dad’s office to make me some pocket money. In those days my dad commuted into London on a motorbike, and I would ride pillion, looking into car windows, shop windows and trying to keep my fingers warm. We would arrive in the office super early so he could park his bike, and dad, being dad, never expected me to start work at 8am. So one morning, he fired up this thing called ‘Yahoo’, showed me how to search for anything, and that was it.

Since then, well what can I say?


This miracle monster, and the technology it lives on, has swept through our lives like a tornado. It’s enabled us to do anything, anytime, anywhere. It’s changed the way we work, play, live, love and define ourselves. And most of all, it has us plugged in 24/7.

Working. Surfing. Texting. Tweeting. Tossing around.

We are astronauts, floating above our bodies in a place outside space and time, and living at warp speed. But Newton’s law states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Translation: for every push you experience in one direction, there is a pull in the other.

The universe and everything in it seeks balance.

For every yin, there is an equal yang.

It’s the law.

And the law of wellness.

To me, it is no coincidence, at all, that the decade that brought us the digital age, has also seen an explosion in mindfulness, meditation and yoga – practices that press pause on our fast-forwarding minds. That root us in the present. That soothe our frantic energy. That heal our burned out bodies.

Even if we don’t realise it, we seek always to bring ourselves back into balance.

And what is true on a macro level (as a society) is true also on a micro level (as individuals).

The more we work and worry and rush and hurry and shatter our attention into tiny fragments, the more we must cling to what quiets and calms and heals.

Our inclination when we feel stressed, scattered, overwhelmed, is usually to push harder, work longer, do more more more. When the law of the universe and the inherent wisdom of our hearts and bodies dictates that this is in fact the time to pull back, to rest, to renew.

In my life I wear many hats. A coach. A workshop host. A yoga teacher. A writer. A speaker. A networker. I’m also a wife. A daughter. A friend. A mentor. A mentee. A pupil at earth school.

At times my brain feels like a browser window with 50 tabs open, all trying to load at once. (FYI, this is a true reflection of my actual browser windows, of which I have several open at once, organised by topic – seriously). And I know, truly, that this is not the time to push on, but to drop everything.

To go to the yoga studio. To meditate. To go the park with my dog Bruce and listen to the trees and birds. To say, ‘screw it’ and go make myself some lunch. To shut my goddamn laptop, turn off my phone, switch off my mind and drop myself back in my body.

To find balance.

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

It’s the law.

And, when you find yourself too far gone down the road to crazy, it’s your cue to stop. To reverse. And to leg it in the other direction.

Or, to think of it another way, to make like a pushmi-pullyu.

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