We live in a time of Multi-Tasking, a time when the average Working Week has crept up to 45-55 hrs (at least), a time of Super Parenting and trying to Have it All. But these demands are taking their toll on us all, and so we have also recently seen the rise of Mindfulness as a common aspiration. The app Headspace has become incredibly popular. And so the question I’ve been asking lately — which is, How Do I SLOW DOWN? — is the question a lot of us are asking.
Personally, I feel like I’ve got a thousand-and-one things going on. I’m teaching three classes, plus a weekly yoga class. In between I’m parenting my 2 and 5 year old boys. I’m trying to write my next novel, market my first one, keep up with family and friends, give my children enough outdoor time, remember people’s birthdays, and basically try not to bump into people as I rush around in my day. This busy life is not what I want.
Because what I also want is time to practice my meditation. Time to do yoga. Time to feel chill.
The life I imagine in my head…the life I strive for, isn’t that much different than what I have now. Only in my ideal life, I have more TIME. I am not rushed. I am chilled out, move from one activity to the next with a sense of calmness. With MINDFULNESS. I have time to stop and talk to my neighbour. I have the presence of mind to notice when I need to slow down and let someone out in traffic. And I am not rushing my kids around, pushing them into shoes and coats because we’re late for school or hurrying them down the pavement because we’re late for an appointment.
Am I alone in this? Am I alone in feeling like life is just a BIT TOO FULL? A bit too hectic?
And the even more important question — is there a way out of this hectic lifestyle? Is it possible to slow down?
These thoughts have been spinning around in my head, mostly I’ll admit, as I’m rushing somewhere. And so at first I decided that I was just going to have a goal to try to be more mindful. Especially during the school drop off and pick up. Be mindful. Leave plenty of time. (Mainly–don’t yell!). Now having practiced meditation in a tradition of Tibetan Buddhism for many years now, I should have known there was a fundamental problem with this idea. Because of course, as I quickly remembered, you can’t just DECIDE to be mindful. If I could do that (*snaps fingers), I wouldn’t need years of yoga and meditation training.
So, once I remembered that I couldn’t just decide to bring more mindfulness into my life, and I remembered that I had to ‘practice’, I thought maybe I had figured it out for myself. I would just try, in small moments, to practice mindfulness, and hopefully my life would slow down.
But it didn’t. Because the realisation I’ve had recently is this–you cannot be slow and mindful when you are multi-tasking the shit out of your life! In order to multitask, my brain has to be going full-steam ahead. And that momentum builds (with the help of adrenaline and just a little bit of coffee!). Being mindful while busily multitasking feels like asking yourself to sprint and stroll at the same time. It is physically impossible.
So my realisation this week is this — the only way I’m going to bring mindfulness and a sense of chill back into my life is if I stop trying to do so much. I have to start saying NO to things that sound fun. I have to take a serious look at all the stuff I’m calling ‘essential’ and really decide if all these things have to get done. (And if they do, then maybe I need to accept the reality that I’m not going to be able to live very mindfully!). The same probably applies to all these mindfulness trainings and Headspace Apps everyone is using…They are only going to work if the rest of your life doesn’t demand you run around like the old ‘chicken with its head cut off’.
Maybe the incredibly obvious secret to slowing down is: Just stop doing so much! There isn’t a magic technique we can learn to be mentally sharp, focused and mindful while performing 10 different tasks in the space of an hour. We have to create a life that is less demanding. And in order to do that, we have to be willing to give some stuff up.
I’ll keep you posted on what I’ve decided to do. And as always I’d love to know your thoughts…does this ring true for you as well? Are there things you can give up or does everything seem essential?
(And Btw – I’ve just sunk another muddy foot into the world of podcasting, so I’ll start posting the link for the 10 min podcasts on this blog each week. Thanks for reading and sharing this journey with me.)