You know how we were taught that good writing begins with a fabulous introduction? Frankly, I’m struggling with it on this gorgeous Sunday. So, how about we just jump in and start in the middle?
I suspect by the time I’m done, this will have many, many words. But all I really want to do is offer you one tiny insight: a little germ of an idea that could turn your world on its head.
Pretty much all of us are trying to make a difference in the Quality of Life for ourselves and for many other people – be they selected members of our friends and family, or larger groups that we are part of, or Humanity at large.
Consciously or unconsciously, we build a picture of an inviting future (let’s call this Point B) and begin to plan and execute actions that will hopefully get us there from where we stand today (let’s call this Point A). The specific ways of planning and execution vary widely, given our individual natures, the circumstances we find ourselves in, the ways in which we view the Circumstances, Ourselves, and the World, and the resources and energy that are available to us.
Now, let us take a quick look at where our time actually goes on a typical day:
- Doing human maintenance stuff like brushing our teeth, taking a shower, eating, etc.
- Commuting to and from work
- Attending meetings
- Doing our “Work” work
- (Maybe) cooking food, clearing up afterwards, doing any number of household chores
- Exercising, and spending time managing our stress, including, potentially meditating and doing mindfulness practices
- Watching the news, browsing the net, keeping up with events in the world
- Planning and executing the actions that will (hopefully) take us from Point A to Point B
- Chilling – catching a movie, reading a book, grabbing a beer, watching Sports on TV
- Spending time with friends and family
- You get the idea …
Now, I submit to you, that many of us spend much less than 15% of our time in the Joy and Satisfaction that Point B was supposed to bring us. (Remember, that at various points of time in your Life, the point you are at Today was a past Point A’s desired Point B!) Instead, we are too busy leaning into the future, trying to make the World a Better Place, wanting stuff that’s better for ourselves, our friends and family; we are working incredibly hard to be responsible corporate, community, and world citizens; sometimes, we are even working extremely hard to squeeze the last drop of enjoyment from our partying!
If you find yourself kind of in agreement with the above, consider this: by the time you’ve lived your wonderful, happy, productive, useful, full life, literally 85% of your LIFE would have slipped by unnoticed, with nothing to commend it. Now, I don’t know about you, but to me that is a colossal waste. And the thought that comes up for me is this: “I am all for going Gung Ho on the content of what’s important to me, no question there; and I’m damned if I’m going to let 85% of my Life just slip by unnoticed – that’s too large a cost.” In other words, the very process of living – the 85% – is what demands my attention. This is where I have the opportunity to convert my Life from one of striving, to one of Beauty, Love, Joy, and Satisfaction; to a Work of Art, to a continuous prayer, to a Meditation.
That’s it. That was the germ. You have been infected.
Really? That’s it?
Absolutely, yes. My suspicion is that your mind will play with this thought and create all kinds of micro-changes for you to experiment with. Here are a few examples of what has come up for me and my coaching clients:
- Starting for work ten minutes earlier. Using the time during the drive to switch off their minds, and actually listen to the music they play in their cars.
- Surfacing from the Metro; stopping for 3 seconds; taking a deep breath; and walking a tad slower to their office, noticing what is happening around them: the people, the cars, the chirping of the birds, the scent of the flowers. By the time they reach their offices, they start their work day differently.
- When a colleague comes into their room and begins to say something, to ask for 2 minutes, get whatever they’re working on to a graceful parking point, turn around and face their colleague, and give them their full attention.
- Converting chores into opportunities to practice mindfulness: for example, while doing the dishes, luxuriating in the feel of the soap, the scents, the sound of the water.
- In the throes of a difficult conversation, noticing how we are getting hijacked, feeling the internal split … noticing when the power of past conditioning is too much for their conscious mind to counteract, giving in to “unconsciousness” happily, flowing with the energy, reveling in the fight!
The answer is “Yes, and No.”
Yes, I’m all for Mindfulness and Meditation. When the mental chatter subsides, the simplest and most powerful insights emerge – systems of solutions that the linear mind just cannot create. And, when we are lucky, we actually experience the Oneness that all spiritual teachings point to – an enduring sense of completeness which contains the dimensions of Time and Space – until suddenly you pop out of it and Time and Space gain reality again.
No, the insight I’m sharing with you is that Mindfulness and Meditation are not add-ons – they ARE the ways in which we can live our lives – without sacrificing any part of what we’d like to achieve. In fact, lived this way, not only do we have much richer lives, but the chances of our success increase manifold.