We are programmed “to do.” We are warned not to “waste our time.” Taking time “to simply be” is a foreign concept that does not register for so many people. I was taught that you are either productive or lazy and being productive is much more important. What I’ve learned is that being mindful and taking time to be is so important and necessary to feel, think and decide what we want. When we are in perpetual motion, we just do.
I had dinner with a former colleague last week who made me realize how addicted I used to be to my work and how loyal I was to my company. Had they needed to let me go, they would have done it in a heart beat. And yet, I agonized over leaving my company and divorcing my job because people relied on me. The reality is that the company is still standing tall and I probably gained years in my life. It never would have happened had I not had to stop and reflect. I had to see how much of my life I was missing as I ran by the moments that mattered. I am thankful that I had to stop and pay attention. It was a gift.
According to Elisha Goldstein, our expectations are what gets in our own way. He believes that “as soon as we do something with the expectation of something else happening, we are more likely to lose the ability to stay present and set ourselves up for disappointment.” Spending time being still is key. But it’s not a skill we learn.
The great paradox of mindfulness practice, the practice of intentionally paying attention to present moment without judgment, is that we let go of wanting the experience to be anything other than it is we have more of an ability to make a change. We just accept or acknowledge things as they are from moment to moment. In other words, when we stop the habitual struggle of wanting to be somewhere else, we can stop the war inside and begin to listen more deeply to ourselves and others. This renewed connection can open us up to strengths of compassion, empathy, and a greater ability to trust in our own experience.
- Do I get up every morning with the goal of ticking items of my “to do” list and/or adding tasks to my list? What makes me feel accomplished?
- How do I spend my time? What gets my attention? Who gets my time?
- Am I doing what “melts my butter” or what I am expected to do?
- Do I want or need to sit still and be mindful? Why?