Find ways to pause, rest, and be mindful.
We live in busy times. Times are so busy that when people ask us how we are, the word “busy” has replaced “fine” as the standard answer. It’s not just that we’re running around at work, but that we are constantly barraged with news coming from the TV, radio, newspapers, websites, social media feeds, and even from notifications on our phones. A lot of this news is incredibly stressful, and many of us are living with a low-level panic all the time. No wonder we’re all so sick and none of us can sleep. No wonder we’re all so “busy.”
I went to a lecture once with the late yoga teacher and writer Michael Stone, who spoke to the dangers of this shallow, stressful 24 hour news cycle. “We all need to stop, internally,” he said. We need to move away from the buzz at the surface of everything and really find some depth in our lives. He went on that the “way that we need to find depth is that we have to be able to stop.” So many times in my life I’ve felt like I’m on a train that is speeding and I just can’t get off. Everything is happening too quickly for me to really make any choices about what I really want. How can I know what I want when I’m rushing to this next deadline?
So much of what we do and think in our day to day lives is automatic. We go through our routines because they are what we have always known. Our thought patterns are so old and well-grooved we lose our creativity. Some of this comes from habit, some of it comes with how we were raised, and a lot of it comes through cultural messaging. When we never really stop, all we can do is follow the scripts we’ve already been given.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. A lot of us have perfectly good lives that we’re happy with. But did we choose them? Did we really pause to ask ourselves if we wanted this marriage, this child, this city, this job? So many of us seem to “wake up” after a decade of investing in some project in our lives and realize it’s not what we want anymore and maybe it never was.
When we are constantly taking in information, we’re not giving ourselves any time to process that information. It’s not possible to have original thoughts or opinions about what’s going on in the world if all we are doing is absorbing other people’s opinions and never taking the time out to form our own. When we never stop, we can never be sure that we are fully participating in our day to day choices because we are just following the momentum of whatever is already happening.
So we must find ways to stop. To slow down the intense buzz of the constant stream of information coming in telling us how to feel and what to do. We need to create space, somehow, to sit with ourselves, be with our discomfort, and simply feel our feelings.
Meditation is the most obvious way to do this, but there are many ways to stop. Putting our phones on airplane and turning off the screens in order to go for a walk, sit with a cup of tea and look out the window, or enjoy a meal with someone you love and really pay attention to what they are saying are all ways we can stop. It can be uncomfortable to do this at first. The silence can feel deafening. It can make us paradoxically anxious when the constant stream of information stops and there’s nothing in particular to think about. When there’s nothing in particular to think about, we might dare to feel our pain, heal our wounds, and consider our deepest desires. Or we might just rest. We might simply stop.