How our Striving, Searching & Skipping can fuel Stress, Struggle and Suffering...
A troubled way of living...
I believe the way many people are living is ‘out of whack’. I believe it’s an understandable situation given how much things have changed in our lifetime. Being out of whack has costs for everyone. For ourselves, partners, children, family members, friends, and our employers.
A week ago the mainstream news reported a $14 Billion annual productivity cost per year for Australia resulting from issues limiting peoples ability to function effectively - our health, wellbeing, engagement and performance.
3 Troubling Habits
I believe there are 3 habits we have developed, which have been incredibly valuable for our development and success, but which are now overshadowing other qualities and behaviours we have that we once benefited from. These 3 habits are striving, searching, and skipping.
Striving, Searching, and Skipping
Stress, Struggle, and Suffering
We need to expand the variety of habits we draw on which can fit the situations we find ourselves in, and which promote wellbeing as well as performance. When I started writing this post, I had every intention of this being a short blog. It turned into a longer but important and compassionate rant about the challenges we face these days. So, I will share the 3 habits and balancing antidotes I recommend over a series of 3 posts. I welcome you to comment, question or add your perspective to each of the 3 posts over the next 3 weeks.
It’s understandable we spend our time striving. Life is busy. The work-family-friends juggle is challenging. Our world is constantly changing – and at a rapid pace. We desperately want the best for our future, so we spend much of our time focused on striving. We strive to perform at our best. We strive to keep up, to stay afloat, or to get ahead. We strive for what is next – whether its immediately moving to the next ‘to-do’ item, or the bigger house, better car, or book, app, fitness regime or diet that will help us move forward with our goals. For many reasons, striving is useful. Our striving has helped us to generate forward momentum and success in our life. As a result, we may unwittingly assume that because striving is helpful, more of it will be more helpful. This is not always the case. More striving can mean we spend less time allowing for stillness.
Balancing striving with stillness
Just so that we’re clear, I’m not saying don’t strive. I believe striving is likely to be an approach you use to close the gap between where you are, and where you hope to get.
What I encourage you to consider right now, however, is whether you would benefit from balancing your constant striving with periods of stillness. Stillness can mean finding a moment to slow down and stop during your day. Rather than the constant running around from one thing to the next as you strive to get it all done, can you make or even schedule in some time for stillness.
Mindfulness meditation is a stillness practice that is gaining a heap of traction in many circles of modern life. Elite sportspeople are incorporating it as part of their training regime. Organisations are providing mindfulness sessions and spaces for employees to find stillness from the whirlwind of work. Creatives from technology businesses to actors include mindfulness practices to calm and centre – giving them access to a performance zone valuable for taking into their next creative task or performance.
For you, balancing striving with stillness could mean finding an opportunity in your day to just allow yourself to sit still, breathe, and be for a few minutes. Stilling all movement. Stilling the mind, as best you can, each time you give yourself this opportunity to balance the more dominant striving tendency.
In fact, there really is no time like the present – literally, and figuratively. So practice a moment of stillness right now. No – don’t continue your search for what’s next. No – don’t skip this practice. We'll get to those habits over the coming weeks. Instead, simply still your body right now. Limit any fidgeting, and just allow yourself to be in your still body.
In a few sentences, I’ll invite you to close your eyes, but here is what will happen when I give that instruction. You will likely have a lot of thoughts go on in your head when you close your eyes. That’s normal, and it’s fine. There is always a bit of movement in stillness.
“Huh? What’s this guy smoking?”, I hear you say. Hang on a moment. Even complete stillness in the body and mind involve some movement. The movement of breath, digestion of food, flow of blood just like thoughts are an inevitable process of receiving and releasing. This is a completely natural and essential process for living.
As best you can, however, instead of following thoughts - which is usually what we do when we’re striving - simply invest your attention into the feeling of your body sitting still. Allow bodily sensations to be the focus for bringing stillness to your attention – dampening down the need or tendency to think. Allow the flow of your breath as you inhale and exhale, moment by moment, to be where you find stillness within the flow of movement.
12 mindful breaths in 1 minute
See if you can experiment with this stillness practice for 30 seconds or a minute. We usually take 12 breaths in a minute, so if the mind is particularly busy with thoughts, you can try counting your breaths as a practice for bringing stillness to your attention.
Focus on just the one thing – your body is breathing. Closing your eyes will reduce external distractions. So for the next 30 seconds, 1-minute, or longer if you prefer – be still with your breathing body.
When you re-engage following your stillness practice, feel free to provide comments, questions and reflections below and I hope your make the time to read the next of 3 habits – searching.
Until then, it’s time to practice. So, find stillness, rest your eye gaze, and simply breathe...