We see this message everywhere. It’s the subject of many of the articles on elephant journal. It’s on most of our friend’s Facebook walls in one form or another: mindful eating, mindful walking, mindful talking, mindful listening, even mindful pooping.
The problem is, to me it feels like something else I need to add to the already overflowing to-do list. Like the lady whose interview went viral after her apartment building burnt down, “I ain’t got time fo’ dat.”
I am busy. I am chauffeur to two busy pre-teens. I am a homeowner. I have two jobs. I write. I am in a band. Five holiday concerts by three people in two weeks. I try to squeeze in a social life or at the very least, a few minutes to sit and read a book. My days are pretty full, and to get through them, I multi-task regularly.
“Practice mindfulness”…a whisper in my ear.
On Thanksgiving, my kiddos and I enjoyed dinner with family. I had to bring two sides (sweet potato soufflé and stuffing), apple pie and some other non-food things. I cooked the pie the day before, but the soufflé and stuffing had to be done that day. I planned the sides to cook simultaneously.
Mother Nature threw a wrench in my plans when I awoke to about six inches of heavy wet snow on the driveway with the snow bank from hell at street level, courtesy of the town plows. I had 45 minutes to snow blow my driveway and then take a quick shower while the sides were in the oven.
Powering through, I got the sides in the oven, went outside, did everything I always do when I get Xena the Warrior Princess Snow Blower going (add fresh gas, plug her in, turn on choke, prime the pump, hit the go button, start singing “I’m Every Woman”). I’ve done this many times over the past few years and she always responds with an enthusiastic, gusto-filled vroom. Off we go, satisfying my borderline OCD with pretty stripes on the driveway.
After doing everything again, still she didn’t start. So I did it again. Still no start. After about 15 minutes, I walked to my neighbor’s house to ask for help. Although he is male, and older, I learned that he is not mechanical.
Walking back to my house with me and standing in front of Xena, he asked me if I had the choke on. I said yes, but crouched down to double check (and prove to him that I was right and it was on, so there).
It was off. I’d accidentally turned the choke all the way off instead of all the way on.
Had I not assumed I’d done everything right, and actually crouched down and looked, I would have gotten Xena started sooner and I wouldn’t have felt so rushed, running in to pull the sides out of the oven before they burned.
The snow blower incident delayed my departure; I was now on schedule to be about 15 minutes late. I was hungry, and everyone waiting for me was hungry too. I loaded the car and headed out. While driving to the family’s home, about half way there, I was smelling the wonderful smells in the car: the apple pie and stuffing in the back seat … why couldn’t I smell the sweet potato soufflé?
Let me just say how much I love sweet potato soufflé. It’s a holiday staple for me. I am obsessed with it. I love it so much, that if I were a poet, I would write it a love sonnet. There are six eggs in it, a little sugar, lemon rind and stick of butter, whipped to perfection, egg whites fluffed and folded in, then baked.
It’s got so much delicious bad-for-you stuff in it that it pretty much negates the health benefits of the sweet potato base. In my rush to get out the door, I’d left the sweet potato soufflé on the kitchen counter. I turned the car around and drove home to get it. Instead of being 15 minutes late, I was 30 minutes late.
Driving back to my family the second time, “practice mindfulness” was not so much a whisper as a roar in my ear.
“Practicing mindfulness” doesn’t seem like another time-suck to complete anymore. Had I slowed down and done so, I would have been on time, with all of my goodies, and way less stressed out.
Like my favorite yogi is fond of saying, “the way we do one thing is how we do all things.” This is a way of my life: cram it in, get it done and skid into home plate.
The holiday season can be the busiest, most stressful time of the year when everyone is supposed to be happy, dammit.
What if it didn’t have to be that way? What if we listened to the still small voice that says, “practice mindfulness” before it becomes a loud roar? Slow down. Breathe. Think. Then do. If we can do this at this time of year, doing it the rest of the year will be a snap, yes?
After all, when all is said and done, it’s not the doing that stresses us out and takes the most time, it’s the re-doing.
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Author: Kendra Hackett
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Kenny Louie/Flickr