The weekend is over and it is time to return to the grind.
And yet, the mind longs for more than the usual routine. A peaceful acceptance can be gained through step-by-step inquiry into our current state of being.
My personal journey begins with the question: Where does this all come from?
As a culture, our ambition has its origins in our competitive drive and incessant work ethic. Such relentless obsessions with achievement get many of us nowhere, and slowly.
How surprising it is that the average car commuter spends an unbelievable 38 hours a week stuck in traffic?
How can many of us function without our To Dolists and smart phones?
Who are we without all our activities?
I come from a long-line of East-Texas backwoods workhorses. My parents set the example with their unwavering discipline and determination. More than anything else, I want to make my mark in the world. And no, I do not want a throne or the keys to the kingdom.
Yet, I want to keep striving for the extraordinary. I want life filled with accomplishments and to turn my dreams into reality. Unlike most Alpha-males, I do not always have to win. Nevertheless, I do not want my family’s sacrifice for my success to be in vain. It was not easy for my family to tolerate the underachieving son struggling throughout school.
Every day I am hustling and I am not alone. Over the past few years of my life, I wanted the fortitude to fight on forever. But pushing myself usually got in the way. Some of my biggest mistakes have stemmed from rushing to finish an assignment.
Sometimes, I am doing my best to manage the exhaustion from the work week.
In order for me to change, I realized that I have to nurture my development and take time to cultivate learning without regard to outcomes. My reasons for deciding to change go beyond ambition or professional advancement.
As cliché as this first step may sound, it starts with identifying intentions. While growing up, my family and friends constantly challenged me by asking are you paying attention? Unfortunately, I have been struggling with my way ward attention span for all of my life and am a work-in-progress. Fortunately, I have an extraordinarily patient family and wonderful friends. I am learning so much.
Self-knowledge is not feasible when we mindlessly surrender to routines, so examining motives seems worth the time. Meanwhile, it helps to set limits on activity.
We have to cut out both physical and mental clutter in order to focus and think calmly.
We cannot move forward until we understand the reasons behind our actions. More importantly, we cannot be true to ourselves until our actions fit our intentions.
For the impatient person, the planning process appears less sexy than the desirable outcome. Our culture celebrates instant gratification. However, advance preparation, set in place with patience, sets the necessary baseline of forbearance, a tool with which one can face most situations gracefully.
The most successful coaches always create a game plan ahead of time in order to defeat their opponent. Also, no one expects a construction crew to begin work without the architect’s blue prints.
Focus means giving total concentration, attention and awareness to what happens in the present moment and just ahead. Stress, on the other hand, tends to scatter brain cells, sending our awareness all over the map.
As a society, I notice our increasing love for multitasking. Often, I think multitasking involves making several mistakes at the same time, and it feels like I’m living life with my eyes on a rearview mirror.
By shutting down my use of social media, taking time to breath deeply, walk in nature and meditate, even the most fragmented of minds can tune in to the true self and tune out every little bit of irrelevant brain chatter.
When I feel stuck or overwhelmed, I walk away from my desk. In the past, I trained myself to plough through everything. In other words, I sucked it up and suffered.
I realize now there is wisdom in regrouping and allowing my mind to relax for a few moments. I never thought a lunch-time walk could become a mental and emotional refuge.
Decompression from a stressful situation shows just as much dexterity as forging ahead.
Doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results, simply constitutes insanity. Regardless of how carefully we proceed, we will make mistakes. When this happens, we need to take a few steps back, reflect, gain perspective and understand what happened, but only before quickly using that information to create new strategies for the future.
I’ve heard “We’ve always done it this way” used for the purpose of staying stuck, and I consider this a most dangerous phrase. Life does not always reward perfection, but it does repay resilience.
This is why yoga has been so invaluable. I do not have the flexibility to muscle my way through each posture. There must be a balance between ease and effort in working through a sequence—an important lesson which I can apply in life.
Enjoying the journey and not just the destination makes life so much more rewarding.
This attitude requires patience, though, since overnight successes rarely occur. For most of us, this evolution of consciousness may take a lifetime of commitment, practice and improvement.
Bit by bit, each step towards cultivating awareness and acceptance allows us to appreciate more of our important, valuable lives, leading us out of the ordinary and into the extraordinary.
Originally published by Elephant Journal