Does life ever actually get “crazy busy” or do we just rearrange our priorities?
I think about this a lot. Often, I find myself overwhelmed by everything in our life – all our projects, my job, my relationships. It’s easy to feel like my pace is out of control, and I don’t have enough time for anything. Days and weeks fly by, and I feel like I’m standing immobilized, watching it all pass and making no progress.
Enter: my mindfulness practice. The main goal of a mindfulness (&yoga) practice is to bring us back in touch with ourselves. Mindfulness helps us bring conscious awareness to our daily grind, and to reconnect with the energy that moves us through our days. When faced with all the projects, work, and obligations, I have noticed through practice that my automatic reaction is to pull myself away. To bury myself in thoughts while I perform all these daily chores. To treat the day as “something to get through,” rather than an amazing opportunity to be alive.Noticing is the first step. Mindfulness stresses awareness over effort to change. Watching our reactions rather than trying to act or feel differently. Today, I sit here feeling anxious and disheartened that the weekend is halfway over, yet there is still so much to be done. One way I react is to throw my hands in the air and retreat. The other way I react is to power through my to-do list, in a state of constant distraction. Either way, I mindlessly disengage and go on auto-pilot.
I believe that this disconnection is precisely what leads to the “overwhelmed crazy busy” feeling. When I start to feel this way, I step back and look reflect on my day. I ask myself, exactly how did I spend my time today? Of course, there are unaviodable obligations like family and employment. What about all the other things? I find that often, it’s not that my life is crazy, it’s that I prioritize “work” – homesteading projects, blogging, financial business – over “play” – yoga, meditation, louging around reading a juciy book. Thus, I constantly feel deprived of relaxation and leisure time.
It took me months of mindfulness practice to realize this simple “quirk” of mine. I’m task oriented – to a fault. “Getting shit done” certainly does give purpose and meaning to my life. My problem is that I think everything needs to be done right at this very minute. As a result, I blindly let my happiness and quality of life suffer in the name of being productive. The reality is that most “work” can wait. I don’t have to brew beer, bake bread, write three blog posts, and run four miles all in one day. It’s hard for me to fight this habitual programming, to allow myself to step back and take work a bit slower.
The other side is bringing mindfulness to my work (by work, I don’t mean paid employment – see above). My habit is to think of all the work in my life as a line on a to-do list. This saps the joy and purpose right out of the work. Part of the problem is that I’m overwhelmed, trying to do way too much. Thus, I rush through work carelessly, without immersing myself and being present. I am practicing not letting myself get lost in thoughts while I am working, always thinking of the next thing to do. Instead, I am practicing noticing – noticing my posture, sensations in the body, my thought process. Bringing awareness to the task at hand helps pull me out of the to-do list checking off mania and get back in touch with why I work in the first place – to provide a safe, healthy, and luxurious life rich with experiences of self-sufficiency.
Gradually, I have used by mindfulness practice to cultivate this awareness that my busyness is a self-imposed mental state caused by my innate prioritzation patterns. Now, I can affect positive change – gently and compassionately. At first, when I started noticing how I stress myself out, my reaction was to become angry with myself – not a good self-love practice! Now, I am practicing slowly letting some work go undone – and not fixating on it. I am trying to allow myself to indulge in play without anxiety about work not getting done. Here is the core truth of mindfulness – that every moment is special and to be enjoyed in its own right, without rehashing the past or reciting the future. The worry about tasks not being completed pulls me out of the present moment – it does not serve me, and thus I am choosing to let it go.
I have been practicing mindfulness now for nine months. I still meditate and practice yoga daily. I am adding a gratitude practice (more on that later) and setting intentions. I’d be lying if I said that all my neuroses and mood disorders have miraculously dissapated, but on a whole I do feel much better and more connected with myself and my life.
Acknowledging the power of putting intentions in writing, here are some short term and long term goals for my mindfulness practice:
Short Term Goals (the next three months)
- Bringing mindfulness to my eating habits by listening to my body
- Attending a group mindfulness practice at the Mind Body Institute once a month
- Allowing time for play every day, no matter the stresses, obligations, and mental states
Long Term Goals (the next year)
- Cultivating a forest bathing (shinrin-yoku) practice
- Practicing selflessness
- Working with and accepting my pain (back, headaches, emotional) so it doesn’t interfere with my daily life