For far too many years, my to-list felt like my saving grace. I lived a busy life. I was ambitious. I wanted to make a difference and be financially rewarded for my hard work and efforts. I didn’t want to compromise. I knew I could have it all and for a while it seemed like I really did.
Two businesses, a house, a husband, two children, two step-children and a relentless quest to not miss out on anything that life had to offer successfully created the longest and most complex of to-do lists.
But what seemed like highly organised living was very nearly the death of me!And boy was I efficient. I had the ability to project manage to the nth degree. Whether it was a creating a business programme or planning our wedding day, I could guarantee that everything that needed to get done would be done. I mastered time management. Nothing was overlooked and the plans worked with consistent accuracy.
Today as I sit here in this office writing this article, things are very different. The epic to-do list is gone. The ambitious goals are but a distant memory. Nothing drives me on or pushes me around. But rather than being inefficient or disorganised, my life has never run more smoothly or effortlessly. I mostly feel calm, centred and tranquil. I didn’t know how much I longed for peace until I stumbled upon it.
Busyness is a curse that holds any sense of contentment at bay. If you don’t have sufficient space to be consciously present to your life, then you are not living, you are dying.
The fear gremlins will have you believe that space is a luxury rather than a necessity. Perhaps you hold onto a belief that there is too much to be done and not enough time. Maybe you think that you will eventually get there — when the kids have grown up or you don’t need to work so hard or some other reason that the anxious mind creates to keep you hooked into being busy because you might not like what you find when you stop. Instead you compromise with occasional ‘me’ time — a day out at the spa, on the golf course or shopping. Then it is back to the busyness once more.
Frantically rushing around in between temporary moments of calmness doesn’t count as living. You may think you are successfully ticking off items on the to-do list but how much of your life are you really experiencing? Let’s take an easy example. You are working at your desk when you become aware of feeling thirsty. You get yourself a glass of water. In all honesty, can you say how much of that situation you really ‘experienced‘?
Were you aware and present in each and every moment or did find yourself at the tap with no conscious recollection of the process of getting there? The chances are that between noticing your thirst and taking the first sip, your thoughts were not about the water but rather filled with hundreds of other mindless distractions. It’s how most of us are living (or rather not living) every day!
This is a simplistic example but in how many other ways are you disconnected from the journey — being too busy getting there to notice what is happening right here? Do you see the leaf dancing in the wind? Do you notice how the clouds shape shift in the sky? Do you spot the sparkle of delight in a child’s eye when they take a lick of ice-cream? You won’t ever find these on your to-do list but they are the joyful bi-products of conscious and aware living. It’s what it means to be alive.
As I finish this post, maybe I will find something else to do. I don’t know what that might be. Then again, I may just sit for a while. I will be present and open to what draws me in. In this way I get to choose my actions (or non-actions) in the moment. This is peace. Now I am truly living.