Determine never to be idle. No person will have occasion to complain of the want of time who never loses any. It is wonderful how much may be done if we are always doing. – Thomas Jefferson
That quote embodies one of the biggest problems in the world today.
Someone at some point in history (probably thousands of years ago) decided that doing was good and being was bad. Doing meant being productive while being meant being a slacker.
And so we work so very hard at being busy that we frequently forget what the busy-ness is all about.
Do you sometimes get the feeling that all of your doing, doing, doing is doing you in? That’s how I’ve felt lately but I didn’t realize it until I hit a wall.
Running on the Hamster Wheel
Since losing my job recently, my stress level has been higher than I would like to admit. I instinctively started doing everything I could think of that might lead to getting a job. I did what I had done in past job searches and used some things I had learned in the past couple years to do things a bit differently.
At the same time I’m the mom of three little kids and a wife and doing my best to keep up with those responsibilities.
And I’m working hard to build and support the community that we’re all a part of here at simple mindfulness by answering comments and emails, writing new posts and finishing my Mindful Body program.
Today I woke up with an anxious, uneasy feeling. As I looked deeper, I could sense a battle between my monkey mind, who had manifested itself as a fear-filled knot in my gut, and my True Self, who has been insisting that something amazing and great is going to happen today.
While part of me wanted to take the time to better understand what was really going on inside me, the monkey mind cracked the whip and told me to keep moving, keep doing – or else! I had too much to do to slack off and get all touchy feely.
And so my emotions continued to spiral downhill.
Everything Changes In An Instant
That was until I had a great conversation with a friend who was experiencing very similar feelings in her body but couldn’t figure out where they were coming from. We agreed that we were both so busy doing that we weren’t giving our True Selves a minute to speak.
I mentioned to my friend that long ago, someone made up the story that being productive was good and taking the time to simply be was bad. We all got sucked into this story and play it out every day.
I put out the challenge that we rewrite this story, making it okay to simply be whenever we needed to. To go with the flow instead of resisting so much. We both liked that a lot!
From Doing To Being
To honor that challenge, as soon as I hung up with her, I hit my yoga mat. Before our call, I had other plans that would have likely had me skip my yoga practice. But now I was prioritizing being.
I mindfully stepped through my yoga practice without rushing. I savored every movement, every stretch, every breath. I felt my body come back to life.
I followed this with meditation, reminding myself that I had no place to be but here, now.
I focused on feelings and sensations throughout my body as I breathed deeply. Earlier in the day I had been trying to pretend that my monkey mind wasn’t really all knotted up in my gut. Now I was ready to feel everything and have a chat with him and the ball of fear he was carrying with him.
Pulling him out into the light, asking him questions and showing him how useless and absurd he was being helped him to go on his merry way and leave me alone.
After meditating, I was about to get back to work. But my True Self spoke up and asked, “What would rather do?” I would rather spend some time curled up on the sofa with a cup of coffee reading my latest book (something I haven’t done in eons). And so I did. And it felt awesome!
Now I was on a roll. Looking out the window at the woods that surround my house, I realized that it had been far too long since I last took a walk. So I put on my boots and headed outside. I said hello to our dog and wandered over to the kids’ playset where I swung on the swings. Then I wandered off into the woods for a beautiful walk, taking in the views, smelling the earth, listening to the wind blow through the aspen leaves and watching the clouds move through their formations. I realized that I was playing.
It felt awesome to give myself permission to simply be for a while (and it’s not even Sunday!). To do what my True Self felt like doing instead of what my monkey mind was screeching that I should be doing.
For those of you who may be asking, my saint of a husband took all the kids with him today so I could have the peace I needed to heal.
Your World Won’t End
Now I’m writing about the experience to reinforce how positive it is for me and to show you that it’s okay to simply be and have fun whenever you need it.
Despite the fears of my monkey mind, I’m not any further behind on any work (who makes up the deadlines anyway?) and nothing bad happened.
Actually, a lot of good happened. I feel infinitely better. I feel much more positive. I’m in a much better place for my family.
And now I’m going to go have a cup of tea.
“Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves – slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future.” - Thich Nhat Hanh
If any of the following describes you, it’s time for a “being break”:
- You feel like a burned out shell of yourself.
- You’re having a hard time keeping up with all your to-do’s and all the related busy-ness.
- You can’t remember the last time you did something simply for yourself.
- Others no longer enjoy being around you.
- You feel angry and resentful toward others.
- You have a short fuse.
- You have little physical or emotional energy.
Even if you don’t feel like you have the time for a break – especially if you don’t feel like you have the time – stop what you’re doing and be for a while.
Turn off and put away all electronic devices.
Do whatever feels comfortable for you that allows you the solitude to be. Do these things alone to give yourself the quiet necessary to hear your inner voice tell you what it really needs. Here are some ideas:
- Take a walk, preferably in nature
- Paint, draw, create
- Watch children play
- Spend time with an animal
- Tend a garden or houseplants
- Take a nap
- Listen to music
Release the feelings of having to do anything.
Don’t think about the past or the future.
Be in the moment and soak in everything you’re experiencing.
Enjoy your life. Right now.
“Smile, breathe and go slowly.” - Thich Nhat Hanh [Tweet this]
Check out my interview on Radio Enso!