For those of you who meditate, you’ll have noticed that it’s easy at the beginning and at the end.
If I open my eyes and discover I only have one minute left before the timer goes off, I am SO Zen for that last minute.
What this teaches us is that our challenge, often, isn’t that we don’t know how to do the actions we’d like to do.
Our challenge is how easily we get distracted, how often we lose sight of our purpose or intention, how hard it is to stay grounded when we get triggered by someone’s words or actions.
This means that the most important difference between the hacker and the expert isn’t the expert’s greater skill or technique, it is that the expert is able to practice her art regardless of the chaos and challenges of her surroundings.
Notice how grooved we get in our reply to this question.
Either we respond with an anodyne “Fine thanks. And you?”
Or we use it as a chance to vent about the last three things that went wrong in our day.
Here’s an idea: use this as a moment to consciously, genuinely share the most positive thing that’s happened recently, or one thing you’re looking forward to.
By sharing that emotion and that energy, the person who was kind enough to ask can feel that and pay it forward.
I had a yoga teacher who loved to rib the class about all the activity that would start after (or before) a really tough pose:
“It’s amazing how thirsty everyone gets, how it becomes time to fix your hair or tuck in a t-shirt or towel off…”
He liked to remind us that yoga was all about the transitions – that anyone could muscle through a pose and hang on for a few seconds or a minute. Yoga is about what comes in between, what comes before and after, as a reflection of who you are in the pose.
Taking that out of the studio….
A few weeks ago I mentioned that I’ve made the miniscule commitment to stop automatically looking at my iPhone every time I get in an elevator. What bothered me about it was the “automatically” not the “looking.” That is, the troubling piece is a reflexive notion that time in an elevator or on a train platform or (much worse) walking down the street is down time with nothing to do, so the only sensible thing is to check your email.
Let’s be real about this: there’s a mountain of work to do. Furthermore, since you’re doing something worth doing that means you want to put your heart and soul into this work. So you work hard, you give more, and you want to and should keep up.
But that’s not the same thing as: “every ‘free’ moment I have is best spent chipping away at an unconquerable mountain of email.” That’s the professional equivalent of muscling through the pose – the notion that you’re going through the world forever struggling to keep up. Plus, take that to its logical conclusion and at some point you’ve given up on every last moment of quiet, of reflection, of noticing the day and the sun shining and other human beings walking down the street or riding the subway with you. There’s something real there too.
I struggle with this tremendously and I fall short often. What I strive for is being intentional and being present. That’s not never using my iPhone, nor is it mindlessly app-flipping every time I have 30 seconds to spare.