“Do not confuse peace of mind with spaced-out insensitivity. A truly peaceful mind is very sensitive, very aware.” – Tenzin Gyatso (14th Dalai Lama)
The busier and more chaotic our lives get, the more likely we are to let our unconscious mind do all our thinking for us. This, in turn, increases the likelihood that we will experience an ‘outside-in’ version of the world, i.e. we mistakenly believe that what is happening to us on the outside is responsible for how we feel on the inside.
When life is busy and it feels as though we have a million things to do, it can genuinely feel as though the world is racing and that we have our work cut out just to keep up with it. The truth is that the world is going at exactly the same speed it has always been travelling at. The only variable that changes from moment to moment is the quality and speed at which we rattle through our thoughts, giving us the perception that we are living in either fast time or slower time.
Have you ever been on a train that is stationary at the platform and felt as though you were already moving because the train next to you started to pull away? That is how we often experience our thinking.
The reality is that we are just human beings having thoughts in a relatively still world, but those thoughts can create the illusion that we are being swept away in the fast moving current of our busy lives. So, one of the things I will often recommend to clients is that they build moments of peacefulness and calm into their daily routine. There are two primary reasons for this:
Firstly, there are undeniable benefits to health and wellbeing that accompany the act of deliberate relaxation, particularly if their busy lives feel stressful to them; and
Secondly, by taking time to enjoy a moment of peace and calm, it becomes a lot easier to see the link between thought and feeling, which inevitably creates a doorway to a deeper and wiser level of understanding and awareness.
We might think that in order to keep on top of our ever-growing ‘to do’ list we have to throw all of our focus and energy into keeping those wheels turning, but often the effect of that is just to become overwhelmed, tired and less resourceful.
The feeling of overwhelm is not so much caused by the length of your ‘to do’ list or the number of spinning wheels you have on the go, but by what you are afraid it might mean if you don’t keep up. That fear is just a thought that feels real. That is not to say that whether you complete your tasks or not doesn’t have consequences, but by definition, at this moment in time, those consequences are only imagined possible outcomes that have not taken place in reality. They are projections of your fearful thoughts.
We can never know ahead of time, for certain, how anything will really pan out, so all we can do is bring our best selves to the table to give ourselves the greatest chances of success. But it is hard to be our best, most resourceful selves all the time we are held captive to the imagined pressure of our own business/life.
A great antidote to the stress of hectic living is to practice a regular relaxation routine, such as meditation or guided visualisation. However, I know the reason many busy people do not indulge in these kinds of activities, even though they would love to, is the belief that it requires an investment of yet more of their time and energy. They are likely to say:
“Meditation! Seriously? Have you seen my life? Just when do you think I’m going to get the time to meditate. Nice idea, but dream on!”
So, to make the benefits of mediation more accessible to very busy people I’d like to make a distinction between the act of meditation and the meditative state. The act of meditation does require you to take a few moments out of your day, to sit quietly and remain peacefully still, just breathing and connecting to a higher level of consciousness. Over time and with practice, your ability to let go of your stressful thoughts and to just experience the present moment becomes easier and more effortless. Trust me – I’ve been there too! This alone is a wonderful way to refresh your senses and gain a renewed healthy perspective on your current situation.
The paradox is that by investing the time into de-stressing, you actually become far more resourceful and are able to operate more efficiently in the time you have remaining. In other words, you will get more done in less time to a higher standard.
It is important to remember, though, that the purpose of meditating is not simply to engage in the ACT of meditation; it is to experience the meditative state. We all naturally fluctuate in our levels of awareness throughout the day and the meditative state is just a heightened level of awareness that you can access any place, anytime, anywhere; even smack bang in the middle of your busy day. It is not necessary for you to adopt the lotus position and you certainly don’t have to hum or chant!
If you can take between 4-16 minutes* each day to sit and meditate or be guided through a relaxing visualisation then I would absolutely recommend that you do that, but if you can’t, or simply don’t want to, then you can still experience the benefits of the meditative state while you go about your daily activities. All you need to do is draw your awareness to your senses and to become mindful of whatever it is you happen to be doing at the time; to just get really present.
There are a couple of strategies that I’d like to share with you to help you have greater peace of mind in the midst of a chaotic schedule:
The best way I can describe mindfulness is that it is what happens when all of your senses get really curious about what you are doing…when you can notice something new. So let’s say that you are typing at your computer. The first step would be to pause and take some slow deep breaths…in…..and….out…. clear your head and let your body release any tension it may have been feeling.
Then, you would start to become aware of what you are aware of with each of your senses, such as the weight of your body pressing down into the chair, the feel of your clothes on your skin, the temperature of the air, the gentle breeze on your face, your fingertips on the keyboard, everything you can see in your primary and peripheral vision, all of the sounds you can hear, both obvious and subtle…
The more you simply notice and experience whatever happens to be in your sensory reality, in that moment, the more grounded in the present you will become. It is fascinating that any feelings of stress or anxiety are likely to naturally dissipate as the frame of mind that was keeping them alive gives way to the peace of the NOW. It is also amazing how much more ‘task focus’ you are able to bring as you resume your work with a clear head and comfortable body.
2. ‘The only thing in the world right now’
Once you are more centred and grounded in the present moment, the second strategy is one that I call ‘The only thing in the world right now’. The premise of this is that you set yourself the intention that whatever it is you are about to do, you are going to do it like it really, REALLY matters and that it is the only thing in the world right now that needs your attention.
So again, if you are typing, you would continue to be quietly mindful of your sensory experience whilst allowing your creative mind to effortlessly focus on the best, most appropriate words to type in order to convey your message perfectly. In that moment nobody wants anything, nobody expects anything from you and there is nothing whatsoever for you to do except to type like it really matters.
If the thought of focusing on just one task to the exclusion of every other task that has also made it to number one on your priority list freaks you out, then it is good to remind yourself that no matter what happens you can only physically do one thing at a time anyway. As soon as you’re done with whatever is front of you, the next thing you turn to will become the only thing in the world that needs your attention. The key is to just continue being mindful and fully focussed on the present moment. (You can’t physically be in two places at once anyway )
If you think you will need a bit more practice trying out these strategies, a fun time to do it is when you are washing up or cleaning your car. The next time you are about to do the dishes or wash your car, take a deep breath, relax your body and get present with all of your senses. Then meticulously clean each piece like it is the most important thing in the world right now. I also suspect that your unconscious will accept this as a beautiful metaphor for cleansing the mind.
Get clean. Get clear. Enjoy the peace and calm, and most of all, have fun!
*4 minutes is all it takes to enjoy my Simple Meditation For Busy People. After the initial audiobook track, there are 4 options for you to enjoy: 4 minutes of a guided visualisation meditation with my voice; and additional 4 minutes of meditation music without words; 4 minutes of the visualisation meditation with a male voice (for those who prefer a male voice); and then an additional 4 minute track of the meditation music. So you can choose to do the meditation in 4, 8, 12 or 16 minute intervals. I love it! It worked for me. I hope you enjoy it too.
Valued at $24.99, you can get yours absolutely free here.