The Way to San Jose (Part 2 of 2)

Two weeks back on the job.  The temptation to fall into old ways is enormous.  I find myself waking at night thinking.  I find myself in work, thinking about all I have to do, all the tiny disparate tasks that arise from running multiple projects at the same time.

But so far I’ve managed to pull back from the edge of full scale immersion in frenzied thinking, plotting, planning.  When it comes to thinking, to the activity of the mind, I’ve discovered I can do serial monogamy.  I can confine myself to thinking about one thing at a time and dismiss from my mind thoughts that don’t relate to the task in hand right now.  My trip to India has shown me how.

It seems my western mind’s version of the eternal present is based on discipline–tell thoughts to go away, even if for only a few minutes.  Finish one task, or part of a task, before moving to the next.   Tell people to wait until the task in hand is completed.

This is a basic and well-known key to stress management.   Perhaps the reason it doesn’t work for so many people is because the buzz that comes with having an infinite number of things to do is addictive.  And being over-worked and impossibly busy seems to be part of the corporate culture.

Like Scarlett O’Hara, I’ve learned to think about things tomorrow.  But underpinning this strategy is a recognition that the real difficulty lies not having too much to do, but in worrying about not getting everything done.  And worrying is a misguided attempt to control the future.

Will this last?  I don’t know.

How do we reach stillness in the middle of a western life?  How do we live in the moment when 40 hours a week we are focused on the future?  Please leave your ideas in a comment.

5 replies
  1. larry
    larry says:

    My ideas are too westernized to make any difference. What you suggest is to be Eastern in a Western world. While you may be aware for 40 hours a week, you take your western ideas with you everywhere you go. You’re fighting what your environment has made you. Even being aware for the time you are in work is a western idea I think. The whole idea of succeeding in something is western in thought. We’re stuck in this big machine created by our culture and all we’re really doing is trying not to get too beaten up by its inner workings. Go find a cave, it’s the only way.

  2. Brigitte
    Brigitte says:

    With my husband and I separating, possibly selling the house we’ve just taken 10 years to build together, and facing a rather uncertain future, there is only one thing I seem to be able to do, and that’s living in the present moment.
    I was in India too, experienced the apparent madness and also experienced the magic of the present moment.
    I enjoy the simplicity of the present moment. Being aware of my breath helps anchoring it, as I know you know, dear Catherine.
    Every time I remember about it, I breathe consciously, check my body for sensations, consult my heart, and confirm that what I am doing or who I am being in the moment is in line with my whole self. If not, I modify it. Honoring commitments or deadlines are also taken care of, but not in a way that have me fall out of balance.
    Another thing India told me, is that we are all part of a bigger whole and that it is importnat I take care of my own well being, as it has a positive impact on others too. It’s kind of cool. Plus a big jump from my self-sacrificing Calvinist education.

  3. Maddy
    Maddy says:

    Listen to Woman’s Hour on your iphone and hear about other people’s woes and celebrations while walking the dog in the park–helps if you don’t have to earn your own living.

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