A Space to Be, Separate Together Retreat

Prioritising Wellbeing Over Productivity (an Ode to Jacinda)

A poem for Mother Earth this week from New Zealand. People are claiming it was shared or even written by the Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern (who I hugely admire). She definitely didn’t write it, and I cannot find any actual reference to when, where or how she shared this, but I like to imagine that Jacinda Ardern would love this poem.

I first became aware of Ms Ardern when she announced last year that the New Zealand budget would “prioritise wellbeing over economic growth“. 


I literally stopped and said “Wow”, because that is an extremely radical position for an ‘advanced economy’ to take and an extremely brave one. Economic Growth or Gross Domestic Productivity (GDP) is everything right? It’s how we measure ourselves as countries isn’t it – by our productivity? It is how we know what we are worth.

It has been said that the personal is political, but the political can also be personal.

What might it look like in my own personal life, to prioritise my wellbeing over my productivity?

How might this way of thinking help me to set boundaries for my work and for my relationships?

How might it help me say a clear resounding ‘No!’ when that is what is required.

How might it help me take strong, decisive action to protect my best interests and that of my family?

How might this personal policy of prioritising wellbeing over productivity feed in to my yoga practice and help me choose between say, twenty minutes of surya namaskar or twenty minutes of yoga nidra?

True growth does not occur in straight lines. At the end of every Summer we experience Autumn and then a Winter.  At the end of each day there is a night, and after every inhalation there is an exhalation. Life happens in circles and spirals, not straight lines. True growth does not always mean being productive. Once my apple tree has finished bearing fruit, it doesn’t make it worthless. 

Now the whole world knows about Jacinda Ardern. Her politics have protected the lives of thousands of people in New Zealand and her leadership is widely acclaimed. She knew when to say ‘No’ and when (and how) to be clear about her government’s plans for meeting the COVID-19 challenge. She was not afraid to sacrifice her country’s short-term productivity because she had already made the choice to prioritise wellbeing over economic growth in New Zealand.

When I lie down to rest I am not being unproductive or lazy. I am not worth any more or any less. It does not prevent me from rising up and taking action, or enjoying and sharing the various fruits of my labour. It is simply a part of the natural rhythm of life of which we are all inextricably part of, not separate from.

To rest is to be fully alive, and I like to think that Mother Earth breathes a small sigh of relief each and every time one of us stops to do so.

A sunset view from Corby Crags near Alnwick this time last year – our local link to New Zealand as a view from this place was actually used in a poster to advertise the film ‘The Hobbit‘!

For Papatūānuku (Mother Earth)

A poem for Papatūānuku – Mother Earth by Ngāti Hine/Ngāpuhi writer Nadine Anne Hura

Rest now, e Papatūānuku
Breathe easy and settle
Right here where you are
We’ll not move upon you
For awhile

We’ll stop, we’ll cease
We’ll slow down and stay home

Draw each other close and be kind
Kinder than we’ve ever been.
I wish we could say we were doing it for you
as much as ourselves

But hei aha

We’re doing it anyway

It’s right. It’s time.
Time to return
Time to remember
Time to listen and forgive
Time to withhold judgment
Time to cry
Time to think

About others

Remove our shoes
Press hands to soil
Sift grains between fingers

Gentle palms

Time to plant
Time to wait
Time to notice
To whom we belong

For now it’s just you
And the wind
And the forests and the oceans and the sky full of rain

Finally, it’s raining!

Ka turuturu te wai kamo o Rangi ki runga i a koe

Embrace it

This sacrifice of solitude we have carved out for you

He iti noaiho – a small offering
People always said it wasn’t possible
To ground flights and stay home and stop our habits of consumption

But it was
It always was.

We were just afraid of how much it was going to hurt
– and it IS hurting and it will hurt and continue to hurt
But not as much as you have been hurt.

So be still now

Wrap your hills around our absence
Loosen the concrete belt cinched tight at your waist

Heal –

And we will do the same.

Related Practice

Yoga Nidra – Mother Earth Has Got Your Back

A simple, spacious nidra practice for a time of overwhelm.

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