Thursday, November 10, 2011

On Time

"You spend your time on what you think is important."  This, a pearl of wisdom overheard when I was giving chair massages at the Rochester Women's expo.  Serendipitously, I had recently been thinking about that very idea.  Fresh from my retreat, it came to me, as I took the time to finally face the mountains of stuff left over from my elementary teaching years, that I have been using the excuse that I don't have enough time to put off tackling this intimidating job.  In my own defense, I have had an extraordinarily packed schedule for the last three years, but the other part of the truth is that the free time I did have was not always spent in the most productive, healthy, or life affirming ways.

Something I am beginning to realize is that it isn't about not having enough time.  It is about not allocating the time I have.  I teach a few undergraduate courses at a university.  The other night we started talking about Facebook.  Two of my ten students told me that they had deleted their Facebook accounts.  They talked about how much time it was taking from their studies, as they were constantly being informed of new messages and "likes" as they worked on their laptops, they were unable to stay away from the constant chatter.  Concerned that it was interfering with their studies, they both deleted their accounts.  The rest of us were shocked by the drastic decision to delete rather than just hide their presence on the site.  Shocked and a little envious.  After all, we know the power that technology has over our time.  We all, at times, want to be free of that. 

A week later, both of the students had caved.  Both had checked their accounts.  What was supposed to be the start of our class resembled what I imagine a support group for people trying to quit Facebook might be like.  We joked about it, but really that urge to check in on our friends, to read what they have posted, to see if anyone liked what we posted- it can be a strong urge and it can pull us away from other things.  Technology in general- our smart phones, our laptops, our ipads. (Ok, YOUR ipad.  I don't have one.  Yes, I am jealous.) 

I realized, when I got back from my retreat, all technologically-clean and sober, that I really have a lot more time than I thought I did.  I was just spending it in ways that made me feel like I didn't have any time!  I really like the idea that if we evaluate what we spend our time doing, we can be clued into seeing what we think is important.  And if we don't agree with our assessment, then we can make changes the truly reflect how we want to be spending our time.

May you have all the time you need.

Wishing you balance,


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Living Fully

Some time ago, I tried a challenge for myself- I did my best to try to go for a week, I believe it was only a week, without multi-tasking.  Like I said, I believe it was only a week.  It felt, however, like an eternity.  I was inspired by an article I read in which the author tried this challenge for a month.  I was inspired also by troubling multi-tasking habits that I had developed.  Eating while being on the computer was the big one.  It seemed that I couldn't eat alone without being in front of the computer.  I was so bored when I would eat by myself.  It was really difficult.  But eating while looking at the computer was taking away from my really tasting my food.   So I tried my hardest for a week to uni-task only.  The challenge felt like a failure.  It served to make me more aware of my multi-tasking tendencies, but it did little to change them.  

I recently spent 5 days in silence at a meditation retreat.  As I drove myself home from that extraordinary experience, I did simply that.  I drove.  No radio.   No thinking about my day, no rehearsing that conversation that I wanted to have with a certain someone.  No planning my next dance class.  No filing my nails.  Yes.  I do that.  Name a massage therapist who doesn't.  But on this drive I didn't even think about doing any of those things. I simply drove.  And as I drove I noticed how many people I passed who were clearly driving with divided focus- talking on their cell phones, eating, texting.  I recently queried my friends about what they have witnessed drivers do behind the wheel.  Shaving.  Reading.  Eating cereal.  Putting on makeup.  Brushing one's teeth.  That one bears repeating.  Brushing one's teeth.  (And spitting out the window!)   

For a few days after the retreat I actually lost the ability to multi-task.  Arriving at  friend's house a bit early, I caught her finishing up a some computer work, so I just sat in silence while she continued.   I was very content just sitting.  She offered up music, but I was happy with the silence.  Anyone who spends any time with me knows that I have a tendency to grab my phone impulsively if  the person with me picks up his or her phone, or if they leave the room, or if there is simply a lull in the conversation.   Must  See  If  Someone  E-mailed  Me.  Must  See  If  Someone  Liked  Me  On Facebook.  Must  See  If  I Am Loved.  But, I didn't even have that urge.  I just sat there.  And I was content.  In fact, I was way more content, way more filled up, than if I had checked my smart phone and discovered that 42 of my friends and God himself had liked my status message.  That moment, just sitting there, felt very full to me.  Nothing more was needed.

My favorite result of being so mindful for so many days, is that I get a lot more pleasure out of eating.  Right after I got home I helped myself to three dried cherries.  Three.  In the past, I would have taken a handful.  Why not?  They are small!  But all I wanted were three.  In the past I would have eaten them while I worked.  Why not?  But this time I just ate them.  One at a time, chewing slowly.  The flavor was incredible.   It was an extraordinary treat.  The best dried cherries I ever had.  

Now a few days post retreat, I am listening to music again.  I even had  the news on the radio playing for a few minutes before the sound of it got on my nerves.  I do get an occasional impulse to check my phone to see if I am loved.  The stirrings of  mulit-tasking are starting to come back.  But, right now, they are only hints of an impulse.  I am determined to be mindful as I go about my day- to really pay attention.   I think that is the secret of living fully.  Not doing more.  Doing less.  But doing it more mindfully.

Wishing you balance,