Just as at the eye of the hurricane there is stillness, so in the midst of confusion or distress there is an inner place of stillness, the secret place of the Most High.
– Martha Smock
The last year of my life was very hectic. I went from being unemployed to serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA Volunteer, more than hour-long drive away from home. Most of the time, I wasn’t mindful. I spent months walking around tense and uncomfortable. Stressed-out and irritable had become my default way of existing.
We all know people who live this way. And I certainly don’t think I need to lecture you on the fact that many illnesses are preventable because they are stress related.
What I am going to say, though, is that I started this blog so I could exist in this world without succumbing to its torments. Over the last year (or two) I wasn’t blogging and I wasn’t doing anything about my stress levels.
My solution to stress has always been to immediately abandon the operation: My health came first and either I would let go of the goal entirely, or find another way to reach my goal. Sometimes, this isn’t always feasible. I
couldn’t didn’t want to quit my job.
My actual job wasn’t all that stressful, and it was a joy to be around the people I worked with. My commute, however, seemingly sucked all my energy and free time from me. Life started to feel like a never ending wash, rinse and repeat cycle.
I’d squeeze in grocery shopping, cooking, laundry and whatever other chores that were obligatory for me to continue existing as a human and working at my job.
But the problem with wanting a slow-paced life, and having a fast-paced job is that these two life choices are at odds with one another. So how could I find the time and space to just relax, when there seemingly wasn’t any?
Well, I’d seen articles that say the average American (with a 78.9 year average life span), spends 6 months to 2 years of their lifetime waiting. (I apologize for the vague statistics, I really couldn’t find any hard data or studies on this and I didn’t want to just make up stuff like other people on the internet.) But Timex did do a survey a number of years ago to determine how much time people spend on a daily basis doing various activities, including waiting. We wait in line, in traffic, on-hold, for public transit, and for a significant other to get ready. We spend so much time waiting for the “real action.”
While waiting, I always felt impatient, stressed out, frustrated, and in a hurry to get on with my day. I felt my time was too valuable to just be standing around doing nothing while I have to wait to get one menial task completed. Especially when this waiting time, I thought, could be better served, well, not waiting, of course.
But the mindfulness I learned by practicing yoga made me realize that I was missing an opportunity.
I was missing an opportunity to take some deep breaths.
I was missing an opportunity to clear my head.
I was missing an opportunity to center myself.
I was missing an opportunity to calm down, find peace and relax.
I lamented the fact that I had no time to relax, but I ignored all the time I did have to relax.
Those little quiet moments I had between the crazy, busy ones, were moments I decided to reclaim for myself. Every moment that I was “waiting” was a moment to find peace.
Now, I try take those little moments to come back to myself: relax the tension in my neck and shoulders, quiet my mind, and release any lingering worries or thoughts. Maybe even say a prayer.
You may not have long spans of time where you can just relax, but I bet you have plenty little moments in-between the busy ones where you can re-center myself.