I have a wise friend whose tag line on his e-mail is: “There is more to life than getting things done.” My first response is always a smile, maybe a little smug even, and then I often hurry off to get some more things done. I am big on getting things done. Let’s face it, it feels good to knock stuff off the list, doesn’t it? But what if that list starts to tyrannize you, starts to call your name in the wee hours and won’t let you go and read a book for fun, meet a friend for lunch, sit and watch the leaves fall off the tree in your back yard? What if you never quite get around to letting go of worry, tension, feeling behind (behind what, you might ask?!), ever reaching for that carrot at the end of the stick, the crossing off of the final item on the list–what is the quality of that life?
Jon Kabatt-Zinn, in his workshops, often notes how hard “doing nothing” is. He’s talking about mindful meditation and quieting our noisy, busy minds. We are both designed and trained to be active, to problem-solve and to be busy. Designed by our genetic make-up, and trained by our busy culture of productivity, materialism and comparison. If our ancestors weren’t busy, we probably wouldn’t be here. But when darkness fell, they sat by the firelight and told stories, learned songs and weren’t quite so busy. They knew how to wait to do some things and to attend to what was happening in the moment.
There are ways that busyness and mindfulness can be in harmony. Stopping while you are busily doing something to just listen, or check in with your body, or breath, can bring that busyness to a brief standstill and give yourself a moment to relax into, to soften into. Pay attention to the process of whatever it is you are trying to achieve. Learning to attend fully to the task at hand, is another way to bring space into the busyness of life.
So next time you feel like you have to get something done, think about how you might bring your attention and joy to the doing of it, rather than the “done” of it. Enjoy the process, and go ahead, enjoy crossing that deviling thing off your list, too.