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Too often, our daily life resembles a frantic race during which we can never afford to rest and hardly take a breath.
When we finish an activity, we embark on the next one as quickly as possible. Possibly because of that insidious feeling of rush and overflow that we have inside, pushing us to speed up whenever we can.
There are no dead spaces. There is hardly any rest. We do not allow ourselves to contemplate our works once they are finished. We do not reward ourselves when we finish projects. We do not celebrate triumphs. We do not enjoy our well-done job. Somehow, we make sure that we do not have the time to do it, and we obsess over all that remains to be done. This apparent inability to sit down, rest, and enjoy what we have just accomplished exhausts us and ends up weighing us down.
Rethinking our methods.
One of the objectives of Mindfulness is to go from the “doing” mindset to the “being” mode. “Doing” more is in no way the solution or the way out of our problems. The list of endless activities will always be present, no matter how much we manage to finish today.
The key lies in using other strategies to face a daily life that will continue to be full of occupations and responsibilities. Different methods could give us a series of options to respond more skillfully when we feel overwhelmed by stress, overwork, worries, and fatigue.
We must be aware of how many of the problems that affect us are related to our way of life and how we live. These are not irremediable and absolute afflictions to which we are condemned. They often relate to how we relate to others and the world and how we use our minds. When we repeatedly encounter the same obstacles, it may be time to rethink our methods.
Not postponing our well-being.
The first step can be to start living right now, without always postponing, especially with what suits us and benefits us. How many times have we said to ourselves: “As from next week, I will start eating healthier,” “I will sleep more at the weekend,” “I will take a good nap when the holidays come,” “I will spend more time with the children when I finish this project.” And how often do we forget those resolutions because something else always comes up? How often do we stop to reflect on our daily activities and whether they nourish us or wear us down?
Of course, it can be challenging to maintain a perfect balance. But it may help to remember that our strength gradually erodes if we do not do a few activities that nourish us. It can be as simple as taking a bath at the end of the day, reading, meditating, taking a quiet walk, or spending time on our favorite hobby. It is something too important that we usually postpone because it seems secondary and almost a luxury.
However, if we do not seek that balance, our mood ends up deteriorating, and we feel less and less energy to change things. From there, we are one step away from entering a cycle of chronic stress, exhaustion, and disappointment, which weakens us and undermines our ability to make the right decisions and approach life with a certain degree of joy and hope.
Allowing to feel.
In my experience, allowing ourselves to experience things as they are and letting ourselves feel emotions can be a significant challenge. No one has taught us to do it; no one has shown us how to relate honestly to our feelings. On the contrary, our conventional culture and social environment push us to escape: if you have depression or anxiety, take an anxiolytic, go to the gym, or turn on the television. The solution to our problems lies in the running away from them…and trying not to get caught, of course.
Philosopher Soren Kierkegaard’s words are pertinent: “Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced.” We do have to remind ourselves that life is now. It is not tomorrow or in a year, when I am on holiday, or when I retire. Although this may not be the existence we had dreamed of, this is the one we have. It is not about correcting what we do not like, arguing with those who do not think like us, fighting against what we cannot change, plugging the holes, eliminating what bothers us, or annihilating the enemies of our well-being. It is about learning to observe with openness and benevolence what happens to us and the mental patterns we incur mechanically.
A mindful way of living.
The practice of Mindfulness allows us to hold our own minds at a distance, detaching us from the background chatter so that we can look at our challenges without distortion. It is not about numbing ourselves from the unpleasant but providing a more neutral mindset to make the best we can. When we have no fear of becoming someone less competitive, we get liberated from the pressure.
Society pushes us through competition and obsession with performance in this modern world. The rhythm it imposed on us and the demands we internalize turn life into a distressing experience. Those programs are deeply installed in our subconscious and run in the background. Without continuous awareness, we fall prey to the survival and success compulsion. We lose touch with our core principles and values and get trapped in counterproductive mental chatter.
We must keep reminding ourselves that the endless striving and brooding and our tendency to get lost in our own thoughts are the real obstacles. When we abandon the struggle, we can focus on the things that nourish our souls.