No matter how busy you are, there is always time to breathe, to be quiet and to regain your connection to the present moment.
It’s a constant reminding, a constant re-focusing of your attention. And it isn’t always easy.
You might only achieve it for a few seconds at a time at first, but that’s progress. It often feels easier to just let our minds run away with us and repeat those same old thoughts, stories and complaints over and over. Despite the fact that we are sick of them, there is something strangely comforting and familiar about indulging in those old mind patterns and behaviour. You’ve taken a weird pleasure in being sad or angry or negative at some point, right? It takes real strength to move away from those old patterns and to return to the present moment, with all of the senses fully alive. Especially on days when we feel as though we’re chasing our tail and rushing from one place to the next.
The truth is, being busy is not the same as being productive. People who are always on the go may seem productive, but I’d bet that their mind is always on the next three or four things they’ve got to do, thus making their current task less important to them and their effort well below par.
Most of us live life that way. Believing that the next moment, the future, will be better than this one. So we constantly miss the magic and the endless opportunities of the present moment, never being fully rooted in the Now. (I highly recommend Eckhart Tolle’s books, The Power of Now and A New Earth for more on this subject.)
So what do you do on even the busiest of days?
You look for the spaces. You make them, if necessary.
Thirty seconds when you step into your office or classroom to be aware of your surroundings, your posture, your breathing. Five minutes to fully enjoy the taste of a hot cup of tea rather than gulping it down on the go. One minute when you first get into your car. A two minute walk on your lunch break. Ten minutes on your commute to work just sitting, noticing the sensations in your body, rather than scrolling idly through Facebook or replaying something negative that someone at work said to you last week.
Punctuate your day with spaces. Make it a priority. Think of it like poking breathing holes in your bulging agenda. Giving yourself room to breathe. Small chunks of time for refocusing the mind and body will make a huge, positive difference in your day and allow you to better deal with any challenges that come up.
Also, the more present you are in the moment, the more productive you will actually be. Tasks will be completed fully and to a high standard, and your enjoyment of the day will increase because you will be truly tasting that tea, coffee or sandwich and really connecting with colleagues or clients when you are listening to them. You will feel calmer and more in control.
I know work is demanding and that it feels that there is no time for anything else. But you must make time. If you’re exhausted, frazzled and unfocused, you simply can’t be the best teacher, parent, carer or friend that you could be. You’ll constantly think that you just have to “work harder” to keep up, and you will run yourself into the ground.
I’ve been there. It’s no fun, and it is avoidable.
Be good to yourself first. Give yourself regular, small spaces for stillness, awareness and gratitude, and you will be able to give infinitely more to others.