Perhaps that should read "the mindless reaction of resistance."
This week’s podcast and blog almost didn’t happen. I have been under intense pressure lately, about 4 weeks to be exact. As is not unusual in my line of work, I can’t control the flow of work very well because much of it is driven by outside clients. I try to allow space between booked events, block off time to work on writing, and I am careful not to overbook individual clients. But despite my best attempts, my schedule can sometimes look like a roller coaster track. A week of completely dead time, followed by a week of insanity.
January has turned out to be a very busy month. It felt doable, until a couple of weeks ago. I started a new project this month, writing mindfulness curriculum for a client who is launching an online course. When offered the project back in December, my January schedule looked fine. But, as is bound to happen, worked popped up that I hadn’t planned for; little hiccups have occurred with the mindfulness project; and then a change in the deadline moved the project into a tighter timeframe. I suddenly found myself working seven days and evenings a week, trying to juggle that contract in addition to all of my other work. I began feeling completely oppressed by the pressure. I have lots of balls in the air, and they suddenly felt like they were going to crash right on my head. I caught a cold last week. And my face broke out. That’s my body basically yelling at me “SLOW DOWN!” I recognized it, but plowed ahead anyway.
The old tale of the frog placed in warm water popped into my mind. You know the one…as the water slowly moves to a boil, the frog doesn’t realize what’s happening until it’s too late. That’s pretty much how I felt. The water was definitely getting warmer…and you know my response? RESISTANCE. (gasp!) I know better. But it took me the last few days to realize I am moving more and more into resistance. Fighting the pressure. That’s never a fight anyone can win.
The mindful solution is to be open, to allow events to unfold, to keep self-care in the forefront, and to honor our boundaries. And yes, I see the irony that I am spending many hours a day writing about mindfulness…while taking a ‘break’ from it myself. How many times have you hunkered down, teeth grinding, determined to just get through a pile of work? Feeling frustrated and pressured, with resistance to the whole situation just building? I’m betting it wasn’t your best work. Nor was it an enjoyable experience.
When we resist whatever is happening, we just make the pressure worse. Think about a woman in labor. The reason for all the breathing classes is to ensure the woman can stay relaxed as the pain hits during childbirth. That’s because the natural tendency is to resist the pain, and resisting tightens the muscles, actually making the pain worse. It is no different on a mental or emotional level.
Resistance intensifies discomfort.
Thankfully, my pot of water isn’t quite boiling yet. I may have gone temporarily mindless…but the little nag back in the mindful part of my mind kept tugging at me. I mentally know that if I am relaxed, taking care of myself, and enjoying my work, I’m more creative, more productive, and of course, that all supports hitting my deadlines without so much stress.
But instinctively, my first reaction was to cancel all personal plans - and work that wasn’t deadline driven, such as this podcast/blog. I have my own deadline for it, but no one is breathing down my neck to do it. But this happens to be something I truly enjoy doing and that I have committed to doing weekly. Dropping it would mean I’m not honoring myself, which in turn damages integrity. And worse, it would only make me feel more resistant about working on the other projects, because of resentment over giving up something I love doing.
So a couple of days ago, I stopped working evenings. I started taking more breaks during the days. I didn’t cancel my personal appointments with the dentist, friends, and family. I admit, it takes strong determination to not give in to freaking out a little…locking myself in a room, and just working 24-hours a day to catch up. But I know the power of mindfulness. Working 24-hours a day is completely mind-less. And while we all fall out of mindfulness occasionally, we can choose to return, living a more sane life that has purpose, meaning, and joy. So today I choose to relax, let go of the resistance, and seek ways to enjoy what I am doing.
As I set down to my desk to return to my mindfulness project today, after doing my laundry, cooking a healthy meal, and watching a morning program, the first email in my inbox was an Eckhart Tolle quote:
“Ask yourself, ‘is there joy, ease, and lightness in what I am doing?’ If there isn’t, then time is covering up the present moment and life is perceived as a burden or struggle.”
What a lovely confirming gift to read THAT today, as I have shifted back into my mindful self. Take a little tour of your life right now. Does it feel like a struggle? Are you resisting what IS? These are simply signs telling you to lighten up. To allow whatever is happening in the present moment to happen. It will pass. It always does.
Mindfulness doesn’t mean you don’t work hard, that you don’t live up to your commitments, or that you practice it only when you’re not busy. Mindfulness does mean that you accept whatever IS in the moment…and that instead of resisting it, you find ways to work through it with ease. A mountain of work can be seen as a nightmare of stress…or as a challenge that you work through, step by step.
It’s Sunday, and yes, there’s a part of me that wants to play in the garden because it is a beautiful day (or binge a little Netflix). But I have commitments that must be met. Instead of resisting the pressure, I choose to release the pressure. I’ll do the best I can while enjoying the process. I will remember that the great outdoors (and Netflix) will both be waiting for me when the next downtime arrives, which it always does. I’ll work hard today, but not with force. Maybe I will play music. I’ll take breaks. And I will remember to BREATHE when I hit a creative wall. I’ll remember that I chose this work, to help others learn to live their purpose, which means I’m living mine. And most importantly, I’ll choose to have fun doing it.
Let go of resistance and practice allowing. You’ll be happier, healthier, and more fulfilled.
Have a mindful rest of your week,
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