We’re into April, over a quarter of the way through the year, and I say this not to freak you out (apologies if so) or harp on about how fast the year is going (it’s going at the same 24-hour-a-day pace it was a thousand years ago) but to help you check – check how is your year shaping up? And is your daily experience of life what you want it to be this year? And are you being who you want to be?
If you created goals for the year from our Summer Revolution Life Review Kit, you probably have your ‘doing’ goals about the results you want, plus your ‘being’ goals about how you want to be being this year. So, how are you being? Because I notice it’s around March onward when busy-ness starts to entrench itself for a lot of people and we can get seriously caught up in doing, doing, doing, only to find ourselves forgetting to Be for even a few minutes a day.
Pretty quickly our days become about quantity, not quality.
What is important about Being for you at the moment?
Being open to new learnings or possibilities, or being more present with people in conversations and engaging more fully?
Or being more attuned to what you need on a daily basis and practising better self-care?
Or is being about how you are with the kids when you get home from work and feeling light, being funny and having fun?
Whatever it is, is it getting any airtime in the plethora of pithy rhythms competing for your attention right now? Can you hear yourself think?
I’m reminded of how I used to go to mindfulness retreats where I’d get to spend a whole lot of time on ‘being’. It always felt like a real ‘treat’. Then I’d get home and back into ‘normal life’ and the busy-ness – and plan my next re’treat’ weekend away. One Sunday afternoon I came home from one such weekend, and as I looked ahead to my work week I realised that it was some kind of insanity to think that living simply, with awareness and being present with what was in front of me – a meal, a cup of tea, the Tui trilling in the tree – was something I could only do on retreat. I decided there and then to bring that way of living into my everyday as much as possible. To be IN my life, living it, experiencing it. Being.
That did not happen overnight. Hell, I’m just an ordinary human being, people. It happens over time, and is a by-product of making how we are being in a day to day way the most important thing in our day. It is a way of being, a way of life, to cultivate and nurture.
So, if your ideal way of being still feels illusive, or you want to build on what awareness and presence is there, here is a quick sanity check and refresh on Being …
Make time in your day for YOU.
When I’ve made real headway around my own being-ness, it has come out of the moments I’ve taken to pause and reflect. Taking this time to review taps us into the natural feedback loop within ourselves – our capacity to make little adjustments as we go in terms of how we’re responding or thinking, so that over time we are being different. When we don’t take this time, we’re generally careening from one thing to the next, often without any (or very little) awareness of how we’re being. There’s no scope for tweaking and changing when we’re oblivious, and just go go go.
Having time on your own supports your being-ness. I’m talking proper alone time here. Not you and the kids. Not you and your wife / best friend / hubby having quiet time together. (Yes, do those things but don’t mistake them for time to yourself). A time when you are a not being a wife, a husband, a father, a manager, a coach, a daughter or any other role or ‘hat’ your wear.
You are putting all of that down for a moment and just being you.
Aim for just ten minutes of sitting quietly, it doesn’t have to be a big chunk of time, being regular is more advantageous. Sit quietly. Allow any thoughts that need to roll through your head to do that … roll through. Pay attention to anything your body is saying to you – it might be tired, aching somewhere, or a bit tense or wired. This is all information, feedback, that tells you how you are and what you need. Sit. Be.
And gentlemen: a word directly to you…
I have spoken with many men about the phenomena of feeling there’s no time in day for you when you take off for work early in the morning, spend all day at work, then come home and find the waiting faces of wife and children drawing you into what is needed and expected. The reality is, when you carve out space for alone-time in your day you will feel more capacity for being present with those you love. Make it the first thing you do in the morning. Take ten minutes at one end of your car or train journey. Take the space, sir.
(And I know this will resonate for women too, especially working Mum’s, so ditto, ladies.)
Discuss how to create space for each other’s ‘Being time’. Be creative. Get up earlier. Have a quiet room in the house set aside. Make it work. But most of all, help each other find this time. It has the power to nourish each of you in a way that has the potential to transform your relationship and your family.
Stop blaming time or everyone else for not having time to yourself.
Every time you hear yourself say, ‘there’s just not enough time in the day’ or ‘I ran out of time for that’, realise that you just took your hands off the steering wheel of your own life. When we blame this thing called Time as if he’s this dodgy guy who always sits in the back row at movie theatres and steals your popcorn when you’re not looking, you’ve just handed over control of your day, your week, your life – to this apparently stingy, limited, truly ungenerous guy called Time. Pahh … !
It’s an illusion.
Award-winning personal trainer, Matt Harrison (who also happens to be my cousin), points out in his recent blog “I hate to tell you but this year is going by at the same speed as last year, and the same speed as 100 years ago. The only difference is people have filled their lives full of meaningless activities.” In his straight-up style, Matt rightly points out ‘You are never going to have more time, start using your time wisely.’
Now, your week may have very few ‘meaningless’ activities in it, but does it have the things that really matter – to you?
If you want Time on your side, ask yourself these two questions:
> What is the most important thing I want time for?
> What am I spending time on that is not important to my wellbeing?
You get to choose how you allocate time.
What needs simplifying?
I notice the most stressed of my clients are often fighting with themselves between (1) wanting to experience their day with calm, presence and enjoyment, and (2) wanting to do it all. The packed-in, jammed up schedule this can create is often not compatible with being in the moment, feeling ease, enjoying the moment; especially when you’re trying to beat the clock or your energy levels. I guess you can have it all … but perhaps be careful what you ask for. Sure, do stuff. Plan things. But do it wisely.
‘Freedom is the right to live as we wish.’
Writer, poet and mystic, David Whyte, talks of radical simplification – and points out that one of the most difficult questions a human being can ask themselves are questions around the radical simplicities required in order to preserve our freedom. Whyte mentions money and how one of the greatest gifts of money is not having to worry about it at all. He asks ‘Do we invest all of our inheritance, or spend all of our salary, or do we leave some space for ourselves?’
It makes one think about just what we’re doing it all for … and what might allow us to be a human being.
What’s really driving you?
When your day is so full of things to do, people to see, a package to pick up, a child to drop off, a place to get to, a task to complete (make that twelve tasks to complete) – and given that we’re doing the bulk of this on autopilot – unconsciously – we can forget or feel thoroughly disconnected from WHY we’re doing it all in the first place. And sometimes the WHY is not a very helpful one, at least not something that is going to give us ultimate fulfilment. I’m talking about the underlying drivers that have us in DO DO DO, GO GO GO mode. It says in Conversations with God, by Neale Donald Walsch, that all human actions are motivated at their deepest level by two emotions – fear or love. I find that when we check what’s driving us, our values and concerns usually fall into one of these two camps.
Take some time to check in with yourself about what is really driving you. A check-in like this usually takes a truly quiet, uninterrupted moment with yourself to have an honest look. You don’t have to rush off to tell everyone else in your life about it, but you really do need to know for yourself – if you want genuine choice and freedom in your life. Once you’ve tuned in to what’s driving you, then check – do you really want that to be your driver?
If you’re to be a conscious, aware individual living a life of your own creation, you need to make fresh, conscious decisions about what your drivers and motivations are.
Who do you want to be?
I’m reading The Art of Living by Epictetus, thanks to James Clear’s fabulous book reviews. Epictetus, 55AD Roman philosopher and sage says, happiness and personal fulfilment are the natural consequences of doing the right thing. When life is not so full and we’re not flying from one thing to the next, there is more space for HOW we are responding to situations, people, our own needs. We have more space to consider how we are being, to be intentional, and to have a richer experience – whether that is in the way we acknowledge the taxi driver or storekeeper, how we help diffuse a conflict between two colleagues at work, or how we laugh with a friend when they see the funny side of their recent tragedy.
“Caretake this moment. Immerse yourself in its particulars. Respond to this person, this challenge, this deed. Quit evasions. Stop giving yourself needless trouble.
It is time to really live; to fully inhabit the situation you happen to be in now.”
In her prologue to the Art of Living, Editor Sharon Lebell, sums this up beautifully:
Whereas our society (practically, if not always explicitly) regards professional achievement, wealth, power and fame as desirable and admirable, Epictetus views these as incidental and irrelevant to true happiness.
What matters most is what sort of person you are becoming, what sort of life you are living.