On the days I’m really sleep deprived everything seems impossible. White space is useless. My patience is low. I overreact.
And if I’m having a week or weeks with something that is physically wrong–an illness or an injury–my “impossible” stories get amplified. Especially in the case of illness, “What if I feel this way forever?” is a crushing thought that can spiral.
And then, if I’m lucky, I get better. Enough sleep or adjustment or medication or healing makes an ailment go away. My new “now” is replenished with possibility.
It’s the most human of reactions to over-attribute to our present “now.” We’re so confused about how time, and it’s passage, works that “now” often feels like forever.
So when we’re dealing with an unresolved problem, when we’re making sense of the “no way” that we thought would be a “sure!”, when a key decision maker is a long way from agreeing with our position, when ten potential investors all turned us down in a row…
…we jump, without noticing, to forever.
“What if this ‘no’ is forever? What if I will always be told ‘no’!?”
You won’t be.
You’ve just been told “no” now.
With some combination of good fortune, new information, different tactics, and the simple passage of time, forever things will shift.
Tomorrow’s now won’t be the same as today’s.
Twice in my life I’ve almost been hit by a car while crossing the street. Both times I was looking at my phone.
This is not a joke, I remember my heart pounding and how stupid and thankful I felt to have dodged a bullet, and how I swore never to do it again.
I noticed yesterday morning while biking to work what an epidemic this is, how many people are crossing New York City streets looking straight down into their screens. I’m not talking about listening to music or talking on the phone, I’m talking about reading the screen while you’re crossing the street, sometimes against the light.
99 times out of a 100, as you cross while checking your Facebook or Instagram feed or reading a text, nothing is going to happen. Maybe 999 out of 1,000.
What about that one time though?
It’s a dumb thing to do, an unnecessary risk that should be at least as bad as J-Walking or texting while driving.
Be safe out there.
Whatever it is you’re looking at can wait.
At this moment.
My feet are on the ground.
Breath enters my nose.
Birds. So many of them, in wild conversation. As I keep walking, I notice more and more. Are they always there and I just don’t pay attention?
Cars. The sound of their tires humming against the pavement, each wave of sound a bit different from the last.
Branches swaying gently. Leaves emerging, daring to show themselves after a long, long winter.
I breathe. In. Out.
My clothes on my body.
A first spring breeze on my face.
A hint of heat.
Look what happens when I stop, just for a second.
Look how much is around me.
This kind of moment is always here, available to me. This quality of attention is something I carry with me.
If only I remembered that more often.
I am. Here. Now.
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.