Our lives are packed. We are all juggling so much and spending our time doing so many things. It seems like with all our commitments, responsibilities, and desires, our days spin away and our bodies are swimming through the waters of life. So the idea of slowing down often feels daunting. Taking a look at what has to be done in a typical week often results in a sense of hopelessness in that it is very difficult to be objective about how one chooses to spend one’s time. I regularly hear the desperation in people’s voices when they get to the end of the list of possible places to shave off a little bit of responsibility, thus freeing up some time. So, where do we start?
I encourage us all to challenge our thinking that slowing down starts with making changes to our responsibilities and use of our time. Yes, these things need to be assessed on a regular basis. But, simultaneous to this prioritization work could be a shifting of our perspective mentally to create more space in our lives. While our bodies are busy doing life; our minds are equally busy thinking, planning, working, hoping, reviewing the past, processing emotions, creating assumptions, replaying a recent scenario, making lists, and more. There is a great opportunity here to better understand the power and activity of the mind and the impact that the mind’s activity has on how we race through life. In fact, there is also great opportunity to understand the relationship between the body doing through life and the mind thinking through life.
Thank goodness that the mind has such a powerful role in our lives; the mind and its proper functioning is a gift not to be taken for granted. But there is an opportunity to learn more about the power of our minds and the constant nature of thought. With this understanding, we begin to see that there is a lot of chatter going on in our minds and a lot of wasted thinking energy. If we could be more aware of our thinking nature, we could clear out the useless stuff and keep the valuable. Ahhh…there’s some space!
Meditation has helped me cultivate this kind of space in my life. Through a formal and regular sitting meditation practice, I have learned to “see” the way my mind works and better understand the power of my thought; I am amazed at how many thoughts are firing away in my mind and how difficult it can be to not get caught up in this rapid exchange. Even just through understanding, I begin to create space. And with more practice and experience seeing the activity of the brain, I am learning to unlock the thought patterns and learning not to let thinking carry me away from the present moment.
Jack Kornfield says, “While we usually think of it as ‘our mind,’ if we look honestly, we see that the mind follows its own nature, conditions, and laws. Seeing this, we also see that we must gradually discover a wise relationship to the mind that connects it to the body and heart, and steadies and calms our inner life.”
Letting go of a thought – just acknowledging the thought and releasing it without following the lengthy line of thinking – frees up some mental space in life. Instead of reacting out of old thought patterns, distractions or emotions, this renewed mental space can be used to respond to life from a more intentional and purposeful place.