Photo by David Taylor
It has been a long time since I’ve written though I haven’t forgotten about writing. You see, I’ve run into this problem of “Not having enough time”, and when I am too busy or feel too busy, I can’t seem to write. It just doesn’t happen. Perhaps the mind is too busy worrying about what it has to do. Creativity becomes blocked and it feels like all the other things to do are pressing in from all directions. Have you ever felt this way? I suspect that most of us do at least some of the time. So the question has become, “Am I actually too busy, or do I somehow need to let go of the thought that I’m too busy”? I decided to investigate the situation and invite you to come along for the ride.
On a personal level it is not surprising that with a new relationship including a child, I have less free time than when I was single. By necessity, everything has now become heavily planned and free time sometimes feels like a distant memory. But this subtle feeling of being tugged in too many directions was often there even before the relationship. It is perhaps only more noticeable now. So I sit here peering at this busy feeling and wonder why it feels so persistent and stuck. What are the deeper lessons to be learned here?
I have only to think of someone like Father Charles Ogada to know that simply cutting back on activity isn’t the solution. He has many more responsibilities than me (try parenting 20 children instead of 1 part-time) and yet almost never seems to be rushed nor pressed for time. In fact, in his presence, one enters into a great sense of peace even when there are tremendous amounts of activity going on. I don’t think I’ve ever heard him use the word busy. What is his secret?
To unravel this mystery, I have started to look at times in life when that subtle time-stress was not present. Perhaps you can do this too. Can you recollect experiences in which the awareness of time faded into the background or disappeared altogether? I can think of many starting in my teens when I would spend time in the forest, or later at the age of 18 when I was traveling in the Middle East. I was doing a lot but it never felt “busy”. While traveling I had no big plans, minimal agenda, nothing to accomplish, no one to impress, and minimal material needs or financial responsibilities. Nobody knew me and there were no expectations of how or who I should be. Further, there were no smart phones, email access was very intermittent, and communication primarily consisted of written letters or phone calls from phone booths. As a result, the days simply unfolded. Each one was an exploration with moments of wonder, joy, fear and sorrow. New connections were made, streets were walked, beauty was seen, history was felt, conflict was in the air, displacement was all around. I was there, taking it in… fully.
While this kind of travel now seems remote given my current life circumstances, I do wonder if there is some way to bring those qualities of spontaneity, openness and inner ease to my current, highly structured life. Is there a way to trust life a little bit more and to let go of some of the rigidity of excess planning and agenda setting in order to allow space for more spontaneity? Can I give myself permission to change plans when circumstances change instead of feeling compelled to keep my word no matter what? Is it possible to let go of expectations for each day and open to the surprise of what life actually brings? Is it possible to relinquish the excessive sense of responsibility for other people’s wellbeing and trust that they and the universe can take care of themselves (which isn’t to say that one should not care or help others but rather to let go of the identification and compulsive quality that can go along with it)? Is it possible not to care what other people think and to let go of the feeling of needing to Be A Someone (BOS) (Do we not seem to overly identify with our job and profession in this society?) Can I stop excessive checking of email and/or social media sites due to Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)? Can I be a free traveller on the inside even while living in this modern world with its multifold challenges?
Here are a few strategies, both inner and outer, that I’ve come up with to address this feeling of being too busy. I will:
1. Remind myself that I’m not personally responsible for saving the world or anyone in particular. I will look at the big picture and remember that there are many greater forces at work in each person’s life and that the “I” is but a small speck in the great expanse of time and space. To the degree that I can help I will happily do so but without the added pressure, guilt, and worry. (This is a tough one that I’ve been working on for a long time but it still shows up.)
2. Plan chunks of time that are unplanned (haha the irony!).
3. Remember it’s ok to say ‘no’ to excessive planning knowing that I may miss out on some things or be judged for non-committal answers but enjoy the possibility of free time to do absolutely nothing or anything instead.
4. Know it’s ok to change plans because sometimes stuff happens and it’s just like that.
5. Let go of the fear of being judged as irresponsible or uncaring.
6. Turn off my telephone’s data and wifi connection as well as my computer in the evenings.
7. Further let go of the need know about or talk about what is going on in other people’s lives and release myself of FOMO (Fear of missing out) trusting that I will connect with those who are truly important in my life when the time is right. (Isn’t this what we used to do before social media and email? I seem to recall waiting months for a response to a letter and being quite ok with it!).
8. Not allow myself to feel guilty for taking so long to write this newsletter and future newsletters because sometimes it’s just like this….
9. Dwell in the space between the words.
10. Remember not to take myself personally.
11. Pause, breathe, enter the vast expanse within and know that everything is perfect exactly as it is.
12. Enjoy every beautiful moment of life, even the sour ones, because they are all so very fleeting.
I suspect that everyone’s list will be slightly different as we all have different hooks (beliefs about ourself and the world) that keep us stuck. If you have time (I mean it!) I would love to hear your strategies on for dealing ‘not having enough time’. The phenomenon of social media in particular, is affecting us all in a constantly evolving way. How do you manage it?
Wishing you all a peaceful spring day.