The Busyness Paradox
We hear it all the time: pursue your passion. But what the actual f*ck—how?
We can think back to our childhood and picture what used to make our hearts sing, but when reality hits, we brood over our current job, bills to pay, obligations, kids, and time constraints. We think to ourselves that our true passion, old or new, is just not realistic.
That passion for me is hip-hop dance.
I danced throughout my childhood, and then I grew up.
There was always an excuse. Throughout college, I couldn’t commit to dance because of nursing classes and clinical shifts. If dance wasn’t my career, the responsible thing to do was to let it go.
After college, I felt too exhausted after night shifts in the ER to have the energy to make it to dance classes. When I switched to day shifts in a surgery center, the next excuse was that I didn’t have the money to spend on classes.
On to the next job change, and I told myself I shouldn’t dance because I feared being the next YouTube catastrophe—a school nurse dropping it low to a DMX remix.
But the truth is, when you engage in your passions, there is a total non-struggle with what arises. And when I wasn’t following my passion, struggle was my middle name.
There’s a Sanskrit term, shamatha, that means “calm abiding.” It is the practice of training the mind to be present and settling the mind in the here and now. It’s about awakening to the world just as it is.
This term comes up often in regard to meditation, but I think shamatha can be awakened by simply following our passion. The mind—the crazy, wild, always-spinning mind—wanders, and life has a tendency to introduce many obstacles that can tie us up in a knot. Our troubles seem to pile up and we focus on the negative. We feel physically tired and mentally drained. We dwell on the past and worry about the future. We rush through our to-do lists.
Finding peace sounds like something one can only attain while on a vision quest in the Himalayas, and, quite frankly, I don’t have the time or money for an Eat, Pray, Love kind of expedition.
In The Code of the Extraordinary Mind, Vision Lakhiani speaks of the “busyness paradox” in regard to meditation. He discusses the concept that making excuses for avoiding meditation doesn’t actually make logical sense. It’s like saying, “I’m too hungry to eat.” He says, “Just twenty minutes can help you come to your senses or slow down enough so that natural intelligence—the part of you that knows what the right action at any given time might be—can click in.”
Much like meditation, I believe the massive beneficial impact of pursuing your passion over your productivity makes up for the 20 minutes per day that might otherwise feel “wasted.”
I invite you to first think of what your passion is. Maybe you haven’t given this concept much thought in years. What was that one activity you did where you were truly in the moment? What did your mind concentrate on the last time there was no worry, no rushing, no anxiety?
Next, find 20 minutes in your day (set your alarm early, put your kid down for a nap, de-thaw the chicken you’re going to make for dinner, ditch the TV show you were going to watch before bed).
Whatever your passion—get your fix. You don’t need to join a soccer league, but you can go into the front yard and juggle the ball. You don’t need to set aside hours to paint on an easel, you can sit on your front steps and draw a picture with crayons. Sing out loud, like you mean it. Bust out the guitar, it doesn’t have to sound good.
Do something for you. Just for 20 minutes.
I take 20 minutes every morning to dance in the living room before work. I move the coffee table out of the way, hang up a mirror, and play music. I set my alarm 20 minutes earlier than I used to. With the 20 minutes of sleep that I lost, I have gained an exponential amount of hours in which I am happier, more productive, and mindful.
I’ve found that it’s not just my passion, it’s my meditation. It’s where I go to look inward and get lost in the moment. The energy I cultivate in 20 minutes carries me throughout my entire day. The 20 minutes I took to be “selfish” has, in turn, given me the clarity and perspective to be a better support to those around me throughout the day.
When I engage in my passion, thoughts are just as they are, emotions are just as they are, and sights are just as they are. Everything is just as it is. I can actually find peace in the present moment.
Devote time today to think about your passion and how you can sneak it into this crazy, wild life. For 20 minutes a day, you can choose to not struggle against what arises. You can learn to become fully engaged in your life and live wholeheartedly.
After a while, you will begin to feel calm and happy, even when you’re not in that 20 minutes of reprieve.
In just 20 minutes, the struggle against life weakens, and you will feel joy and content within the crazy, beautiful world you live.
Author: Jackie Shea
Image: Paulette Wooten/Unsplash
Editor: Emily Bartran
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