Lately I’ve discovered that I’ve been placing a tremendous amount of stress upon myself by overloading my goal setting for my writing career. Things such as research time, story development, meeting daily word counts, editing completions, reaching out to agents daily, and meeting deadlines are just some of the things consuming me. I also have a full time – and very stressful – day job. I know I’m not alone. I hear many people complain about the very same thing. What I don’t hear are many suggestions for solutions to the problem.
Because of my hectic schedule, I’ve managed to put myself mentally in a place of chaos. Though I may feel that it is
organized chaos, it is chaos nonetheless. Every free moment that I have leaves me feeling that I should be spending it working more, learning more, becoming more. I strive for down time where I can do whatever it is I enjoy – most people play video games, watch TV, go for a walk, or go out with their friends – but lately free time terrifies me. I think, “Something is wrong. I should be busy. I’m not being as productive as I could be. I’m neglecting something.”
Okay, even I know this is insane and unhealthy, and needs to stop if I want to maintain my mental and physical well-being.
I thought the industrial and digital revolutions were supposed to increase productivity, and at the same time help us to work less and lead a more balanced life. Yet, as technology advances, we find ourselves working longer hours, cramming in more and more busyness into our lives, all the while striving to achieve that place in time that will allow us to slow down and live the life we were meant to live. We feel that if we speed through the first half of our lives, then we can live at a slower pace in the last half of our lives, thus enjoying our “golden years”.
I’ve found that many of us don’t ever slow down. That is, not unless something striking happens to force us to do so.
I believe in order to reap the benefits of this life, we need to learn to slow down now…right now…at this very moment.
Easier said than done though, right? You may feel your job is too hectic, or your home life too demanding, that there isn’t enough time in a day to get your tasks done, let alone find time for yourself.
People ask, “Am I supposed to just stop everything and sit on a beach sipping an iced tea? What about work, kids, homework, school, husband/wife, dinner, housework, etc, etc. Who is supposed to do all that while I’m off the grid?”
Lately I’ve been searching for a place to unwind, a place where I can recharge my mind. I recently decided to get back into meditation to slow myself down and regain my focus by living more in the moment. As a result I’ve come to some insightful realizations.
Slowing Down – what does that mean?
Slowing down doesn’t mean you stop living your daily life, it simply means living more in the moments of it.
According to Psychology Today, living in the moment—also called mindfulness—is a state of active, open, intentional attention on the present. Living in the moment is a state of active, open, intentional attention on the present. When you become mindful, you realize that you are not your thoughts; you become an observer of your thoughts from moment to moment without judging them.
I must let go of my thoughts.
Buddhist scholar B. Alan Wallace states, “We’re living in a world that contributes in a major way to mental fragmentation, disintegration, distraction, de-coherence.” “We’re living in a world that contributes in a major way to mental fragmentation, disintegration, distraction, de-coherence.” Life unfolds in the present, yet so often we let the present slip away like a cloud passing high above us, quiet and unobserved. We dwell on intrusive memories of the past, or worry about what may or may not happen in the future, letting the now go unnoticed. We don’t appreciate the now because our minds are jumping from thought to thought. When we are at work, we fantasize about relaxing aboard a cruise destined for the tropics, when we’re at the tropics, we worry about the work piling up on our desks. You see? Not once are we living in the now. We let our thoughts control us rather than being in control of our thoughts. This sucks the very life from our soul.
So I’ve decided to:
Live in the present moment. Often, we’re so trapped in thoughts of the future or the past that we forget to experience, let alone enjoy, what’s happening right now. We sip coffee and think, “I had better last week.” We eat something special and think, “I hope I don’t run out of this.” I will focus on whatever it is I’m doing at this very moment, whether it be eating a cookie, walking the dog, cooking dinner, fixing the car, or basking in the sun. I will take my time to be present with this moment without thinking of the past or the future.
Eat slowly. I will savor my food as if I were a foodie. Feel the textures, taste the ingredients, inhale the fragrances. I won’t compare the food to anything past or future; but will stay only in the moment.
Breathe. I will breathe and be conscious of it. Concentrating on my breath forces me to think of now, cramming out the reminiscent thoughts of the past or the worries of the future. One method of breathing exercise I enjoy is Pranayama breathing.
So, I think I won’t just do something, I’ll sit here in this unique moment and live it for what it is, good or bad. Because it’s not a destination. I’m already here.