Milk (Your Cows)

Tom Spuhler

Tom Spuhler

“The core practice of Milk (Your Cows) is figuring out who depends on you and what it means to be committed to meeting their needs, while maintaining a sense of balance in your own life.”

I’ve dedicated March to the practice I call Milk (Your Cows). When I visited Tom Spuhler’s dairy farm in Ohio, I witnessed his grueling schedule of milking cows morning and evening, What amazed me about Tom was the way he held onto an awe and wonder for life in the midst of the demands of family and all those cows. His story makes me think about the joy and struggle in making room for the people who depend on me.

Recently, I was on the radio show Your Health and had a chance to say more about this:

 I knew I wanted to write a chapter about people who depend on you and what that means with regard to time management. Because you cannot exactly say, “Well, I am going to spend two hours with my sick mother and then maybe three weeks from now I am going to wean her off my love.”

You can listen to more of the radio show here:

Stephen Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, recommends identifying the important roles in your life such as mother, family member, or friend. Then, each week write down what you plan to do in each role. This kind of purposeful planning is analogous to “milking (your cows).” The only adaptation I’d suggest is to try to figure out how to make your relationships with others mutual. Talk with your “cows.” Don’t just assume you know what they need from you.

In addition to noticing the people who depend on me, I have thought about how much I depend upon the generosity of others. There is no more naked moment than when I say to someone, “This is what I really need from you.” I know there are friends and family members who are willing to do anything for me. So, why is it so difficult to ask and to accept even the smallest help sometimes?

The simple truth is that we are dependent on one another, whether we like to admit it or not. We are all cows, and we all need help being milked.

This month, steal away to a quiet place. Make a list (long or short) of people who depend on you. Summarize a few of the ways they depend upon you. Once you have completed this list, think about how your everyday life can accommodate these commitments. Then start a conversation with the people on your list. Together you can be involved in the endless pursuit of balance.


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