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Practicing Presence…if you’re not too busy

“Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body” from The Busy Trap by Tim Krieder of The New York Times.

Recently, I had the experience of working with a “busy” client who wanted to make an appointment with me to do some transformational work. She had no time this week…or next…she was “too busy”. We finally settled on a phone session, saving her driving time and allowing her to work with me from her home. Several conversations were required to arrange a time together …and it got me wondering…

How many of us claim, and believe, that busyness is a necessary part of life “these days”. Are we victims of the lists we make and think we’ll be better, somehow, if as many things as possible are accomplished? When I read the article, The Busy Trap by Tim Krieder, sent to me by my loving daughter, I must admit: I saw myself in the contents. Not the entire article applied but some of it did…especially the part about the body, mind and spirit needing unstructured time for enjoyment and pleasure. Was I allowing my to-do lists to run my life, robbing me of friendship, connection and joy? Was my fatigue due not so much to lack of sleep but to lack of fun?And what about my client? Was there something about living life with more balance and joy that we could learn together?

Inspired by this article and its message of busyness being, often, a choice, I met with my overwhelmed client. As we sat in silence, practicing a mindfulness skill called “awareness of the breath”, the whirling lists and “must do” items were allowed to simply be there as they were, noticed but not acted upon. At first it was difficult for her to “just sit”, but as time went by and focus was again and again returned to the breath, the mental list became less charged, less intrusive. She began to realize that lists are actually thoughts – originating in our minds (which, by the way, love to categorize and to create deadlines). And thoughts, once embraced as simply constructs of the mind, can be released and let go for the moment. Over time, my client became able to separate herself and her well-being from the list itself and the urgency that followed her list-driven thinking. She calmly made choices about how to prioritize the tasks calling to her and what truly needed her attention. The rest, she said, “can wait”.

Abby Seixas tells us in her book In Finding the Deep River Within, “List consciousness is a state of mind that is entirely future-oriented. With a subtle but constant quality of rushing, it operates on the premise that life will happen once everything is crossed off The List. When you are in list consciousness, you are leaning into the future and completely missing the present. Practicing presence punctures the fantasy that somehow life will begin with the kids’ soccer season is over or when I lose ten pounds or even when I take that meditation course and learn how to be more present! Practicing presence is bringing ourselves to the recognition that life is happening right now and it is inviting us to wake up and notice.”

Could this be you? Are you caught in busyness, thinking there is no way out? If so, you are not alone. And at the same time, there is another way. What if you handled your need to accomplish what is on The List as my client did: with mindfulness, pausing in silence and then asking: what truly needs to be done today? And how much of my time am I willing to devote to this “doing”? Once the decision is made, stay true to yourself and stop when the must do tasks are completed…or delegated…or rescheduled. And then enjoy. If it takes a little courage at first, all the better – the results will be more meaningful.

As for my client and as for my daughter: both are leading lives of balance and beauty, managing their professional tasks with wisdom and clear choice. Both have taught me that life can be lived with plenty of time for friends, social gatherings and enjoyment (such as music, art exhibits, reading and gardening). And in all the free time that you will now have, feel free to visit my daughter’s website: www.angiesmithphotograpy.com for a look at a young photographer’s view of life and its many offerings. And feel free to visit my website as well: www.simpleserenity.com and schedule some time to learn mindfulness skills, opening your life to more awareness, calm and serenity. I welcome your presence!

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