I think I’ve put a finger on it. The exhaustion, the fatigue, the craving to be more inside the shell than out of it. Of course, being an introvert and having too much to do creates tension, but I’ve felt less energetic than usual lately. The culprit came into consciousness after speaking to our next guest on the WELL / AWARE Show (live on Wednesday!), who returned to the same constant when I asked her about her successes. It wasn’t about cutting carbs, getting up at 5:00 a.m. every day to train or a magic potion, although I’m sure those practices don’t hurt. Her key to success and living well is being fully present in the moment.
Living in the present is a deceptively simple but enormous task. For me, it’s one that becomes even bigger with every Facebook notification, bill to pay, obligation to uphold, item on the to-do list.
Being in the moment comes easier in meditation, in yoga and when I’m with someone one on one. In those mental and physical states, I’ve trained my brain to focus on what’s happening now. And there’s a higher demand for attention, I think, when you’re doing something physical or having an intimate conversation. When it comes to the stuff of life: getting ready for the day, morning workouts (often running), commuting, going out to lunch, routine meetings, focusing on a boring excel sheet, even writing sometimes — my mind wanders, and mostly to the to-do list. It’s calculating how much time I have in the morning or in the evening to get a bunch of things done. A lot of times I’ll actually start doing something else, thinking it will only take a minute and I can knock it off the list, or because that task is more appealing, but I always end up frustrated and scattered.
This is in part because I tend to say yes to too much, and I tend to be forgetful. Therefore I’m a list-maker, but my lists are often in separate notebooks, apps or draft emails, as there are different lists for different purposes: work, life, blog and now wedding. Upon reflecting, I don’t know how much this practice serves me… perhaps I should listen to my hyper organized co-worker and start using her favorite, very simple list keeper: Remember the Milk, but the thought of adding yet another tracking mechanism to life seems daunting. What if I can’t access it in a pinch? Will I forget it’s there? If any of you have solutions to scattered list making, do help a sister out.
It’s in those moments when I’m not using my entire focus on the task at hand that I begin to leak. I’m quite literally spending energy on something that cannot be done until later, and taking energy away from my current project. It creates a deficit that will catch up with you eventually. It’s like having a bunch of apps running on a phone that’s in and out of service, constantly searching for a signal. You’re bound to come up empty if you’re thinking about all of the things you should be or need to be doing instead of focusing on the the one that you actually are doing. You’ll have nothing left to give to the things that do matter.
I’m grateful to come to this awareness, as it begs the question: if you’re leaking and continue to leak, how do you fill yourself back up? I think it starts with a simple mindfulness exercise.
Notice when you’re leaking.
Take a look at the task at hand and the intention behind it. Why isn’t it capturing your full attention?
If your answer is “because it’s boring” or “I’m tired,” recall why you set out to do it in the first place. Does that still seem worthwhile? If so, go forth. Just keep coming back to it because it’s human nature for the mind to wander. But do acknowledge where your mind went. Is there a feeling attached to it? For me it’s often guilt of not doing everything I “should” be doing, or resistance against doing something difficult that requires a lot of energy.
If the task no longer seems worthwhile, that’s okay. It’s information — you’re no longer aligned with the task and its purpose, so of course you don’t feel motivated to conquer it. If this is the case, pay attention to where your mind does go when it wanders. That’s information, too.
After noticing something new, retain the information. I like it to write it down in a journal so I don’t forget. Also, give yourself space to do nothing. For the most part, I think leaking comes from having too much to do and not enough time or mental space to realistically do it. Eventually, by coming back to the moment, you’ll bend time and create space. Not by multi-tasking.
Meditation teacher Ally Bogard said that the only real, tangible thing we have is the present moment. She’s right, and it makes every little thing, every conversation, every email, text, meeting and yoga class that much sweeter.