Ease Up!

August 6, 2010

We are the strivingest people who have ever lived. We are ambitious, time-starved, competitive, distracted. We move at full velocity, yet constantly fear we are not doing enough. Though we live longer than any humans before us, our lives feel shorter, restless, breathless…Dear ones, EASE UP. Pump the brakes. Take a step back. Seriously. Take two steps back. Turn off all your electronics and surrender over all your aspirations and do absolutely nothing for a spell. I know, I know – we all need to save the world. But trust me: The world will still need saving tomorrow. In the meantime, you’re going to have a stroke soon (or cause a stroke in somebody else) if you don’t calm the hell down. So go take a walk. Or don’t. Consider actually exhaling. Find a body of water and float. Hit a tennis ball against a wall. Tell your colleagues that you’re off meditating (people take meditation seriously, so you’ll be absolved from guilt) and then actually, secretly, nap. My radical suggestion? Cease participation, if only for one day this year – if only to make sure that we don’t lose forever the rare and vanishing human talent of appreciating  ease. ~Elizabeth Gilbert*

Having recently retired from my “regular” job, I have been interested in my fluctuating attitudes toward work, discipline, and creating new routines for myself. Life just feels different nowadays–different than it did when I was working, different than I thought it would feel, and different on different days. Sometimes it’s blissful (These Days), sometimes it feels like I’m spiraling downward and only have the energy to nap, and some days I am pleasantly productive without a lot of striving.

Today, this hit me in a new way: I get to choose. I can decide moment to moment how or even if I want to be engaged. I can notice what feeds me, what depletes me. I can determine whether I have done enough work, played enough, paid enough attention to relationships, meditated enough, exercised enough, and been kind enough to myself! Meanwhile, I am trying to avoid attachment to the good days and aversion to the not-so-good, to just experience each day as it comes.

What do you think about Elizabeth Gilbert’s advice?

*The passage is reprinted from Seth Godin’s free e-book, What Matters Now. Get it here.

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Dreamy Idleness

May 26, 2010

Good ideas must come welling up into you. Wait for them. They come from the dreamy idleness of children. ~Brenda Ueland (If You Want to Write, Graywolf Press, 2007)

This, from the woman who gave us the term “moodling.” See references here and here. Ah, dreamy idleness! I am winding down May’s work and trying to prepare myself for a June of moodling before I go back to work in July. I suspect ideas (maybe good ones, maybe poems) will come as Ueland suggests. But I am resolved to rest in the no-expectations mind state, to be merely receptive.

I feel privileged and grateful to have this space and time; it seems luxurious beyond measure. To breathe and pay attention to the breath. To walk and notice walking. To bask in sunshine and feel breezes and be mindful of my body in yoga. To slow down, for goodness’ sake!

What happens to you in dreamy idleness?


Hurry

April 9, 2010

Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished. ~Lao Tzu

How many of us, when asked how we are doing, use the word “busy” in our response? I’ve certainly been guilty. It is as if we are of little substance if we cannot claim to be rushing through our lives. For years and years, I have hurried. Now I think hurrying is often a substitute for being present. There’s a Chinese proverb that says, “He who hurries cannot walk with dignity.”

What will we see differently if we slow down? Leo Babauta at Zen Habits advocates having only three items on your to-do list in any given day. I think that is a wonderful suggestion! If you do those three things, you will be successful; if you happen to do more than that, you will feel incredibly productive.

I challenge us all today to cease hurrying. Stop. Listen to yourself. Be in the world around you, fully present for the people you encounter. Then see which three things rise to the top of your priority list. Let me know how it goes.


In Praise of Slowness

May 4, 2009

There is more to life than increasing its speed. ~Gandhi

For fast-acting relief from stress, try slowing down. ~Lily Tomlin

Carl Honoré gives us a wonderful introduction to the Slow movement with his book, In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed. For a long time, I have included on my blogroll a weblink for Slow Down Now, the delightful “official” website of The International Institute of Not Doing Much. Honoré has produced a more serious work on this topic, described by the Minneapolis Star Tribune as “part reportage, part manifesto…an engaging, well-written journey into the various ways that people around the globe have attempted to live more patiently.”

Honoré is not against speed on principle, pointing out that “speed has helped us to remake our world in ways that are wonderful and liberating,” using the examples of the Internet and jet travel. He just cautions us against “accelerating things that should not be accelerated.” He is against overwork, sleep deprivation, children coming home to empty houses, and our society’s loss of the art of doing nothing. We must use speed and slowness in tandem to avoid the crazymaking do-everything-faster mindset. (The author’s wake-up call was when he found himself elated to discover “One-Minute Bedtime Stories” to read to his two-year-old son.)

In one of the bleaker passages he writes, “Time-sickness can also be a symptom of a deeper, existential malaise. In the final stages before burnout, people often speed up to avoid confronting their unhappiness. [Milan] Kundera thinks that speed helps us block out the horror and barrenness of the modern world: ‘Our period is obsessed with the desire to forget, and it is to fulfill that desire that it gives over to the demon of speed; it picks up the pace to show us that it no longer wishes to be remembered, that it is tired of itself, sick of itself; that it wants to blow out the tiny trembling flame of memory.'”

I do think we often use speed to avoid living fully, to “temporarily” escape the awareness of death, to self-stimulate. Honoré reminds us, “All the things that bind us together and make life worth living–community, family, friendship–thrive on the one thing we never have enough of: time.”

May we be mindful of our obsession with speed!


Speed and Greed

March 5, 2008

How can you contribute your unique talents and gifts to the progress of the planet without damaging the environment or harming others? Can you be in the world but not of it, avoiding participation in the endless cycle of speed and greed that increasingly marks our culture? ~Stephan Bodian

Bodian explores the notion of “right livelihood,” deriving from the Buddhist tradition, but “evolved to refer more broadly to any meaningful, fulfilling work that makes a positive contribution to the world and expresses a compassionate or sacred intent.” The concept is simple: Do no harm.

But that’s harder than ever in today’s world, it seems. Bodian quotes Joanna Macy, “Right livelihood is far more complex now than it was in the time of the Buddha, because we find ourselves in economic and ecological relationships that are simply unsustainable in the long term. To the degree that we participate in these relationships, we inevitably cause harm in some way through our work.”

May I become increasingly aware of ways I participate in our culture of speed and greed, so that I may move ever closer to right livelihood through right intention and right action. May I be joyfully mindful of my work, seeking to be of service yet unattached to the outcome.


Time and Magic

February 25, 2008

     Now Haiku
here and now, sitting,
monkey mind is then and there–
in yesterday’s trees.

…and…

     Presence Limerick
I want to be present right now,
Connect to the flowing of Tao.
But when I sit still
My obstinate will
Appears, rises up, takes a bow.

~Lyn Hopper

Today I have self-quotes, written in response to Mad Kane’s challenge to write a haiku and a limerick about time. That was fun! As are her blogs. Check them out.

One serious thought about time, since we’re on the subject already. I have been practicing mindfulness, especially at my ultra-busy workplace, and I have learned through direct experience that what others say is true–mindfulness does slow time down. I know you’re now thinking, “yeah, right,” because that’s what I have thought every time I have read about this phenomenon.

Time slows down, I tell you! It is magic, really. I know it is a trick of perception, (or maybe the trick is busyness and the rushing of time), but I literally have more time to do the things I need to do somehow. And I’m oh, so much more relaxed about doing them. 🙂

Try it, and tell me what you find. Preferably in a haiku or limerick!