Choosing how we live
“I have so much to accomplish today that I must meditate for two hours instead of one.” Mahatma Gandhi
The above approach may seem counter-productive to our busy, doing minds: ‘Why waste two hours meditating when I could be working my way through all those important things that need doing?’ We are so used to ‘dealing with’ busyness by taking in a deep breath and just getting on with it, trying to get more done, to squeeze more into the time we have.
But at the end of the day, no matter how quickly we have typed, texted, swiped, chopped, driven etc we never get to the end of all the busyness. As we collapse into our favourite chair with a drink, our minds can still be holding onto all the things that we didn’t get round to. And so tomorrow, we wake up, take a deep breath and do it all again. Just like when a dog chases its own tail, we can become caught up in this constant chase, trying to reach the unreachable and feeling exhausted and frustrated because we can’t quite get there.
Of course we all have deadlines and things to achieve, and a little bit of busyness and pressure can be good for us. The trouble is, it’s very easy for this state of rushing and over-doing to become habitual. We think it’s temporary: just until I pay off my credit cards; just until I finish my degree; just until I finish this contract; just until I get myself sorted…But there will always be another ‘just until’, another end to get to or to achieve, that is always slightly out of reach. Before we know it, we can reach old age and wonder what happened to our lives.
When we stop the endless rushing and striving, this doesn’t mean that we become so laid back that we’re going to quit our jobs, put our feet up and laze in the sun all day. But when we do stop for long enough, we can make better, more creative decisions – maybe not everything on our list needs doing today (or at all) or maybe there’s an easier way of doing it. We can also take better care of our bodies as we will be more likely to notice that we’re feeling thirsty or that we need to move or stretch. As we allow ourselves the time to engage more wholeheartedly in what we are doing such as a phone call, we can pick up on the more subtle nuances of the conversation and allow the other person to feel that we have really listened to them and heard them. As we move from one task to another or from one place to another without rushing, we may notice the pleasure in the small things such as the sound of laughter, a feeling of warmth from the sun or the sound of silence.
Because of our habits of rushing and striving it can be quite challenging to choose to sit and meditate on a very busy day. The doing mind will want to dismiss it as a ‘waste of time’. The opposite is actually true. For if wasted time is time that we are not fully engaged and alive and aware with all of our senses, then meditation or mindfulness is a way to STOP wasting time. Each time you do it you are giving yourself a new message. A message that says: ‘I’m taking back choice. I’m choosing to wake up to my life rather than being driven by habitual impulses.’ This is hugely empowering and an act of great kindness. It’s not easy to change our habits but we have this moment to practise, and this one and this one…