Not in his goals, but in his transitions, man is great.Ralph Waldo Emerson
Many of us rush through our day without ever thinking of how we got from one place to the next. We focus on our end point, not on our transitions, and the result is that we lose a big chunk of time! No wonder we feel stressed!
Stop doing that.
Think about all the daily transitions you make — between meetings, errands, places. Do you ever pay attention? Why should you? How do you go about it? Can you learn to move slowly about your day?
1. Getting up in the Morning
The alarm goes off. You hit snooze 3 or 4 times, and perhaps even swear at the clock. (okay, maybe that’s just me). You finally drag your lazy ass out of bed.
Holy cow. What a horrible way to start the day.
My favourite Buddhist monk (come on, we all have one!), Thich Nhat Hanh, says to smile every day as soon as you wake up. It sets the tone for the day. Sure, it feels silly, but who cares?
Or perhaps roll out of bed and do some simple stretching. Signal to your body that you are about to transition into your day. Signal to your mind that you own the day and it’s going to be a great one. It doesn’t take much time, but make that transition count.
You move from meeting to meeting. Do you take time to absorb what happened in the first one before heading to the next? Often times, our workdays all blur together and we have to take time at the end of the day to review everything. But what if we allowed ourselves 5, 10, even 15 minutes between each meeting? What if we made it part of our schedule and blocked it out in our calendars? What if we… dare I say it … scheduled a meeting for 15 minutes PAST the hour?
What? Who does that?
You. Because you would give yourself a chance to stop, take 5 deep breaths, make a few notes, and regroup before moving on.
You get home at night and you rush from chore to chore, or activity to activity. It’s always about the next thing, and generally we’re guided by how much we can fit into a single day. Transitions are frustrating, because they are seen as a waste of time. Time better spent on an activity or errand rather than on moving from one thing to the next.
Give the family a few minutes on their own while you take some time for yourself. Take 5 deep breaths, be grateful, and move forward. Stop multi-tasking and think about single-tasking. Take one thing at a time, and at the end of each, pause. The more space you can create in your day, the more meaningful everything will become.
How often are you on auto-pilot in the car? I can’t count the number of times I’m following a car, for instance (let’s say a white car), and I notice its license plate, or perhaps its bumper sticker that says “I used to be cool.” I start thinking about all the ways that I used to be cool, then all of a sudden I realize that I’m following a honking SUV. I think, “what happened to the white car? Did it turn? Is it up ahead?” And for 5 minutes I’m thinking about this white car and I worry that I didn’t even register what happened right in front of me.
Our journeys in the car are our transitions from one place to another. And we don’t care about them, especially if it’s a drive that you frequently make. So instead you’re thinking about what happens when you get home, or how your day was, or why people use the fast checkout line at the grocery store when they have more than 12 items. We often use our driving time this way and we miss out on what is happening in the present. Practice mindfulness as you drive to work. Focus on the car in front, the scenery around you, the gravel shoulder. Notice something you never have before. When you feel your mind get off track, draw it back. Just like you would in yoga or meditation. Use the transition to tune into the present moment, and don’t lose that time in wasted minutes and hours.
5. Going to Bed
I read before sleep every.single.night. If I don’t have a book (or 6 or 7) on the go, I’ll grab a magazine that I’ve probably read a hundred times already. Point is, I read something.
I’ve been doing it all my life and it’s my way of turning off my day and transitioning to sleep. If I don’t do it, I carry the worries of the day with me. Sometimes my husband will try and chat, and I SHUSH him. I tell him it can wait until morning because I’m getting into sleep mode. He gets it. He often puts the TV on for 5 minutes or so. Others do gentle yoga, or listen to music, or meditate.
If you want to drift into a peaceful sleep, try doing something to signal to your body and mind that it’s time to turn off and go to sleep. Think about it — if you have kids, the most important thing in their life is their bedtime routine. A bath, a book, a snuggle. But we stop doing that as adults. And our sleep suffers for it. Give it a try, and sweet dreams!
Slow it down
I was away at a large conference not long ago. Each morning, we had the option to join some Buddhist monks from Plum Village in a 20 minute walk. We strolled through the streets and parks in downtown San Francisco, completely unhurried, completely in silence. It wasn’t meant to be a walking meditation per se, it was to teach us to slow down and enjoy our transitions, to notice as we moved from one session to the next. Notice our surroundings, our thoughts, our emotions.
It was frickin’ AWESOME!
And I carried it into my days. The conference was full of meetings, many with a 15-minute walk between venues. But I paid attention and everything seemed so much simpler. I was able to absorb what I learned, enjoy the experience and feel clear-headed.
Slow it down. Don’t rush through your day. Think about ways you can use your breath, your smile, or your body to transition from one thing to another. You’ll find your stress levels will naturally start to go down. How awesome is that!
Let me know in the comments how you’ve built healthy transitions into YOUR life. Have fun!