The art of doing nothing.

Creative Writing

Since graduating college, I had this desire to do all the things – join a quartet, play recreational soccer, take private cello lessons, coach soccer, brunch all the brunches – all the things. But then I started to dread it all, I was totally stressed out and losing all creative inspiration. When you’re a student, you don’t have a life; especially if you are working full time on top of being a full time student, so after graduation I wanted to participate in all the things I never had time for.

Now three years later, I’ve finally told myself NO, you can’t.

It’s been three months after quitting all the above and the empty space has been very silent, and sometimes haunting. I’m the type of person who, even though it stresses me out, enjoys being busy. My mind needs the distraction because when I have nothing to do, I am prone to overthinking and minor anxiety attacks about life.

In these three months I’ve gone through a rollercoaster of emotions, throw in the fact that I’ve also been going through some major life changes, I couldn’t’ even begin to describe or articulate what these emotions were. Maybe I could say they were a hint of sadness, excitement, wonder, despair, feeling completely lost, loneliness, love, stress, hate, jealousy.. it was just all bundled into one big ball in my chest.

I’m almost certain, and I keep telling myself this, that everyone feels this way. The only reason I feel like I can’t handle it is because society won’t let us feel all these emotions out. We live such a fast paced life. There are so many expectations on ourselves. In our culture we need to aspire. For comfort, for the life we are conditioned to depend on, we must aspire.

And so I was sitting in this lukewarm bath of emotions wanting to get out and fill up my time again, and ignore all these real feelings by doing what I know how to do best. But I was also exhausted, I knew I had to sit there and do nothing, ride them out. It was as if all these emotions were finally having their moment of recognition, all these moments starting from way back when………. well I don’t even know how far back because I’ve been busy my whole life!

I started reading the Tao, one poem a day, and today it gave me an affirmation – to continue on my path of nothingness.

 

If you oversteem great men,

people become powerless,

If you overvalue possessions,

people begin to steal.

The master leads

by emtying people’s minds

and filling their cores,

by weakening their ambition

and toughening their resolve.

He helps people lose everything

they know, everything they desire,

and creates confusion

in those who think that they know.

Practice not-doing, 

and everything will fall into place. 


 

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May 2017 Layouts & Mantras

Illusions of Productivity

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On Mantras

Each month I review my successes, areas of improvements and ways to to tackle those areas. Last month I incorporated a weekly habit tracker in my planner layouts, which turned out to be a great success.

This month I wanted to focus on having a more mindful approach to my day, so I decided to start with a daily mantra. Keeping up with a daily mantra was a lot harder than I thought! With the constant thoughts running around inside my head, it took a lot of focus to really give my undivided attention to the words I set for myself. I wasn’t always successful and I actually dismissed it some days because I felt my mantra wasn’t good enough or it was too similar to the day before; or I just simply avoided it because I felt I just didn’t have time to think about it. I found that I had to be very intentional about my mantra, I really had to be still physically, in a comfortable place, to say it with a few deep breaths so that my whole body could acknowledge it. I will admit, some days this is hard to do when your focused on fitting so much into your day. But on the days I was successful, I remember it having positive effects on my mind, body and soul.

One day, I was leaving a weekly meeting with my team and left feeling very overwhelmed realizing the long list of to-do’s that suddenly multiplied on my plate. I was getting overwhelmed to the point where I was feeling frustrated; it was almost consuming me because I was holding it all in. When I do this, a knot grows in my chest and I can feel my muscles tense up; I know better than to show this hand at work, so I decided to take my lunch break and go for a walk.

I work in a part of town that doesn’t always smell the nicest, isn’t always the cleanest, and the neighbors aren’t always the most polite. So walking outside with all this stimuli added a layer of frustration. The only place I could retreat to was the mall. Once in the mall surrounded by more people, the frustration kept growing. I quickly darted up to the secret office spaces on the top floor that I had access to having worked in the mall while in college. Finally with some space to think, I was able to calm down my anxieties and reassure myself that “Yes you can. Just one thing at a time”.  I was still anxious so I decided to sit for five minutes and just focus on deep breathing. While breathing, I started to focus on that mantra, saying it over and over again in rhythm with my breath. As my heart rate slowed down, and the knot in my throat softened up, I could feel my mind push aside my negative thoughts and self doubt, then I got into this military mode- where I sternly tell myself what I’m going to do- and I told myself, “You’re gonna get up, take some deep breaths, you’re gonna go back to work, and take it one step at a time. But first you’re gonna get a twenty minute massage from the massage guys outside Lucky Brand and THEN it’s game time.” And that’s what I did.

Yes, of course the massage was a big factor in all this ;). BUT I will say, I hardly felt that massage because I was so focused on breathing and repeating my mantra. I said it over and over for twenty minutes straight. I remember looking out of that little face hole in the massage chair, staring at the floor and letting my mind go numb with the hum of my mantra. With each breath, I could feel the masseuse push through the tension more and more. I carried this mantra back to work, inside me like a tribal drum making way for my path. I kept focusing on my breathing using my mantra as the metronome to my breath and could feel all areas of my being relax, and more importantly I was able to focus and finish out the day with some work I was proud of.

Now, even with a few successful days like this (I only had a massage that one day..), the true challenge was initiating this intimate moment with myself. In realizing this, I was reminded of the sad reality that it’s hard to own our waking moments, our downtime, our day, when we have some many things to do to make sure we can pay our rent, and secure our place in this cycle that gives us this “comfortable” lifestyle. Giving yourself a space of vulnerability is difficult, but once done, I find it can do wonders for my state of mind.

For June, I hope to carry on the daily mantra challenge, and hope to utilize the Relax Guided Breathing feature on my fitbit to help center myself and have “mantra time” on my commute to work.

One word that I used in a lot of my mantras was “today”. Saying it makes me feel more grounded in the moment. Today – Today is still today. Today is not over. Today you can. Today I will accomplish x, y, z. What are some mantras that help you get through the day? Do you pair it with a breathing exercise? Do you say it out loud or quietly to yourself over and over? I’d be interested to hear how you incorporate mindfulness into your daily practice.

Planner Layouts

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…and that concludes my monthly report in Illusions of Productivity =)