March 15, 2015

Life, Distracted. How a Trip across the World Changed My Perspective on the Art of Keeping Busy.


I just returned from a two week service trip in South Africa with the Africa Yoga Project.

It was a gloriously beautiful trip filled with profoundly impactful work, incredible people and stunning countryside.

I couldn’t possibly have asked for a better experience.

As my last flight began its final descent and my 30 hours of travel sunk in, I took a moment to meditate on my experience. I created mental images of that for which I was grateful, desired to manifest, and then cleared my mind.

We landed. And then, for the first time in two weeks I turned the cellular service back on for my phone.

Bing. Chirp. Tweet. Zip. Gong.

My reality, the one I had left behind while I immersed myself in a new world, is rather noisy, as it turns out.

Too noisy.

I had messages from work. Appointments that had been set for me and I had missed. Paychecks that didn’t get deposited. Payments that were now due as a result. A computer that no longer worked. A malfunctioning phone that refused to let me make an appointment to repair said electronic life sucking device. Student emails asking about grades and deadlines. Messages from my editors about articles that were due or needing revision. Updates about my view-counts, statuses and number of followers. Voicemails from my friends. My Google calendar to do list alerts.

I hobbled my swollen feet off the plane and got a call from my roommate: “Your bikes were stolen this morning,” she informed me. Fantastic. After negotiating with my renter’s insurance on the drive home from the airport I walked in my house and immediately began (manically) cleaning the kitchen.

Noticing the rather concerned look on my roommates’ face, I dropped the mop, cleared a space on my bed and crashed out until morning.

I’d love to say the next day was clearer and calmer.

It wasn’t.

I spent the entire day running around putting out fires, giving permission for Apple to charge me an exorbitant amount to repair my computer and with no guarantee anything could be salvaged. Spending three hours at urgent care and then the pharmacy because I brought home an infected left foot along with my memories. Wincing in pain at the chiropractor’s office before she put my spine back together. Laundry. Dishes. Finding the floor in my own bedroom.

So. Much. Shit.

So much, in fact, that when I attempted to take a picture of my children when I picked them up from school, my phone alerted me that it was unable to take a picture because the storage was full.

Hmmm. Interesting.

Where else does that show up in my life?

Everywhere, evidently. Pretty much everywhere.

My life is busy. Too busy. I go fast. Too fast. I have commitments. Too many. I have priorities. All competing for my time and attention. I have problems. Mostly first world, and pretty much all of my own creation.

I connect to my community, friends and family via media and messaging. I have become tethered to my electronic devices, rendered paralyzed in the life and workforce without them.

In Africa, I spent very little time on my phone, other than to take and post pictures and chat with my children a few times. I didn’t obsessively check and respond to e-mail. I didn’t hyper task. I was present. I ate my food and tasted it. I worked with real people and not a virtual audience. I held hands, hearts and conversations.

Why did it take a trip to the other side of the world for me to notice how unbalanced I had gotten? Why was I ignoring all the messages, like adrenal fatigue, anemia and newly graying hair while telling myself I just could work harder, smarter and better and still get it all done?  Why was I pushing myself so damn hard? What message is that sending out to the universe? What model is that forming for my kids?

Do everything. All the time. Going slow is for slackers. Speed up or move over.


Now, on the other side (literally), I have some reflection to do. What am I willing to let go of? What’s not serving me? What’s not serving my family? My health? My heart?

What exactly is it that I’m trying so intensely to achieve?

For whom does that actually provide benefit? Is it worth it?  What can I shift: my life, priorities, perspective or attitude? What can I change: my habits, workload or direction?

I don’t know the answers yet, and I don’t think I’m meant to actually. It’s a constant education, one meant to grow with me.

I do know this, however, I will always be a “yes.” I will always be ready for whatever, whenever, however and with whomever. The last part though, giving up what I must, well, that I’m working on with a whole new level of dedication and understanding.

Depth, not breadth. Work, not tasks. Purpose, not lists. Authenticity, not arbitrary accomplishments.

More living. Less doing.

“Keep your heart clear and transparent, and you will never be bound. A single disturbed thought creates ten thousand distractions.”

~ Ryokan



9 Quotes to Help ‘Busy’ Mothers Stay Sane.


Author: Michelle Sweezey

Editor: Travis May

Photo: Huffington Post

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