I was at a morning tea the other day when someone mentioned that there was only seven more Saturday’s before Christmas/New Year break. Almost immediately the tone of the conversation changed: we had been talking happily about holidays and hobbies, but then everyone got that look in her eyes.
You might know the one I mean: that is the tension that comes when we know an unavoidable deadline is coming and do I have enough time to do everything I need to do before then? Not only have I got enough time but do I even know all that I have to do before then? Can we do it all in seven weeks and what do I need to do anyway?
With that one comment we had all gone into high alert. We were like a herd of deer that had caught the scent of a predator and our bodies and mind had switched from relaxed to tense in an instance.
And what was the predator? Just the reminder that a certain date was coming up and we all had obligations we would need to meet before then.
It got me thinking, how much time do we spend in high alert due to deadlines and the pressure of our “to do” lists? How much tension do our minds and bodies accumulate just thinking about what we need to “do”? What is the cost to our emotional, mental and physical health of having “so much to do”?
One of my favourite exercises in group or individual meditation is to ask participants to write down all that they are currently worried about, thinking about, concerned about on a piece of paper. Then we take the paper and put it in a basket or box and take it out of the room. It is a simple way to clear the mind for meditation.
In the action of removing our “to do” lists, we can become more present to the here and now. We can relax, become focused and calm. We can evoke creativity and compassion. We can create the space we need to understand our selves.
Getting rid of the “to do” list is a path to innovation, energy, clarity, even happiness.
So for the next few weeks, why not try an experiment: when you are feeling overwhelmed by the pressures and obligations of your life, write out your to do and then give yourself the freedom to throw it away.
Give up trying to be perfect and complete for a few days or a few hours. Allow others to support you, to play their part. Trust yourself to know what to do in any moment. Try it for a few days and see what happens.
Rather than piling up your life with more obligations, use this time as a chance to find out what is truly most important to you, right now.
You might find yourself doing everything you thought you had to do anyway, you might find yourself doing much, much less. You might find yourself doing surprising things, which really fill you with satisfaction, inner peace and joy.
If nothing else you will have consciously chosen to be true to yourself, your values and needs for those moments.
And that has to be better than being a deer on high alert for the next seven weeks.