If time is sliding by, and you are not sure where it’s gone, you may need to bring yourself back to focus in your everyday life. We all need to slow down.
It might sound difficult—or impossible—to slow down with everything you need to get done. Rewards await you, though. You will get more done and be more aware of what you are doing if you slow down.
It’s not just a nice idea. I am telling you that if you don’t slow down, you are going to miss it all. You won’t get things done. You won’t remember those precious moments in the lives of your growing children. You won’t know where it all went as it slipped away.
Scary? Good. Whatever it takes to get you to realize what is at stake.
A simple start will put you on the path to slowing down.
Last week, I suggested that the time you spend breastfeeding is an ideal time for simple meditation. In just three steps you can start: sit with your back straight, notice your breath, and bring your mind back when it wanders.
Those 3 basic steps are common to most forms of mindfulness, but I pulled them from Dan Harris, an ABC Nightline anchor who wrote a memoir and mindfulness guide after he had a panic attack on the air. In his book, 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced stress without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works—A True Story, he is funny and self-deprecating even while he makes a case for slowing down.
Yes, it’s just breathing—and it works.
When you are ready to build on the breath, you can use the RAIN technique to show yourself compassion. Add this to your basic meditation or use this technique in other areas of your life.
- Recognize what is going on;
- Allow the experience to be there, just as it is;
- Investigate with kindness;
- Natural awareness, which comes from not identifying with the experience.
(From Tara Brach, “Feeling Overwhelmed? Remember ‘RAIN,’” Mindful, August 2014.)
Through RAIN each of us can answer those voices that say we aren’t enough—aren’t good enough, aren’t experienced enough, aren’t organized enough, aren’t rich enough, aren’t good enough. (Yes, that last one comes around again and again.) If those voices are crowding in while you are finding your bliss, you just meet them, greet them, ask why they are speaking, and let them be. The voices aren’t you. We don’t let them grow; we don’t put our energy into fighting them; we just re-focus. Bring it back to whatever you were doing, thinking, or breathing before the voices tugged on your attention.
Practicing RAIN is just one way to be compassionate with yourself. Self care is the most important step in caring for others.
It’s Not Always the Breath
Do you know of the FlyLady? Years and years ago, when online forums were the rage (I’m going to say 15 years ago), my online parenting friends and I were all trying to gain control of our cluttered houses by following the FlyLady. When you are a new parent especially, you need to adjust your routines for your new reality.
FlyLady knew a lot of us were living in chaos, and she broke down organization into non-threatening steps—delivered in an overwhelming number of emails per day. So, I turned off the emails and kept the first step: the sink.
When you organize your house and home, FlyLady always starts every day with Shine Your Sink. If you don’t get to the rest, you always come back to the sink. The sink is the breath in FlyLady.
Coming back to focus can be the breath in meditation, the sink in cleaning, or whatever you need to focus on.
Come Back to the List
Each day, I make a list of three things I want to accomplish that day. Three might seem like a small number, but the chaos of real life can pull you away so often that it gets difficult to check off those three things.
When I let myself get distracted from my list, I just pull myself back and focus on the first thing.
Let the one thing be the only thing.
Whether it’s a list, your sink, your breath, or your baby’s gurgling noises while you breastfeed, bring yourself back to focus—with compassion and gentleness. Your wandering mind is part of the practice. No, it will never stop! Just bring it back.
I’ve been thinking about the time crunch all of my friends and colleagues seem to be barely surviving. Several months ago I bought a book I thought might help me understand how to help others:
Brigid Schulte’s Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time (2014).
Here’s my sad little secret: I haven’t read it yet. I tipped it up against the wall so I would see it a dozen times a day as I walk by, but it hasn’t hit the top of my priority list yet, and I’m starting to feel really bad that I haven’t read it.
“Overwhelmed is a map of the stresses that have ripped our leisure to shreds, and a look at how to put the pieces back together. Schulte speaks to neuroscientists, sociologists, and hundreds of working parents to tease out the factors contributing to our collective sense of being overwhelmed, seeking insights, answers, and inspiration. . . . Overwhelmed is the story of what she found out.”
Why feel bad that I haven’t read it? Because what if THIS book has the answer to everything? She talked to scientists. She talked to parents. She has the answers. I want the answers.
You know how it goes. We wind ourselves up.
So, let’s wind back down and return to our breath, our list, our sink, or whatever has our focus in this moment.
The book you haven’t read will be there when you are ready to read it. The news feed will fill up with more tidbits next time you check in. It can all wait.
What can’t wait is self-care, your health, your growing children, and whatever you let into your core.
You decide where to put your focus. Choose one thing. When too much at once starts to feel overwhelming, just slow down and bring your mind (or your action) back to the one thing.