Most of us know this feeling…. Like we’re in a rush all the time, we need to get somewhere, need to do something, no ten things… no a hundred things. How are we ever going to get through it all today? I can feel it now, just talking about it…. Tightness of breath, like there’s not enough time, not enough me to go around…. Not enough energy to attend to everything…. You know this feeling well…. STRESS.
We live in a busy world… it’s a fact. When companies have let go of staff and the work remains the same, there’s less of us to get it all done. So how do we cope? How do we get to a place where we feel we’ve done everything we can each day to feel good, to feel happy, calm, fulfilled, relaxed?
Two years ago, there I was, working away, frantically trying to finish everything I could before 6 pm. My team sat around me joking and relaxing, telling me to go home, saying we’ve done all we can for now. I said “if you’re not working, then you go home. I need to finish this or I can’t rest.” It was 6 pm on Christmas Eve. They looked at me like I was crazy. I looked up at them and thought…. “Sigh… I need a stronger team. I can’t deal with a lazy work ethic”. I smiled and said, “no worries, guys. Thanks for all your hard work. Have a wonderful Christmas and a beautiful vacation”. That was the beginning of a downward spiral… I just didn’t know it yet.
By the time we got back from vacation in the New Year, it was full speed ahead. I worked myself hard and I worked my team hard, until one day they refused to go at my speed. The race was too intense. I was more and more exhausted each day and becoming short tempered. Then it happened… my team revolted. They just stopped performing. Stopped reporting progress. Stopped caring. Just. Stopped. And so did everything. I had always been great at building strong teams with commitment and dedication, but also pride and satisfaction in working together and now… here was my team, walking away. From the work? No… walking away from me. I was dumbfounded. I took some time to reflect and understand what happened. I walked to get a coffee and noticed how fast I was breathing, how fast I was walking, as though the world was ending in the next minute and I was sprinting… ALL THE TIME. That’s just not sustainable. I noticed how utterly exhausted I was. Right then, the project took a turn and was postponed for a short time. I sat down in my office and noticed all the tension in my body. I asked myself why was I going so fast? Breathing so quickly? As though subconsciously I wasn’t even taking the time to breathe fully, because I didn’t believe I had the time. Let’s just process that for a moment – I DIDN’T HAVE THE TIME TO BREATHE… Life giving, life sustaining oxygen… barely reaching my lungs… slowing shutting everything down. It was then I realized I needed a break. I immediately made a request for time off and took a holiday.
Relief. And then dismay. Now I had to figure things out. Where would I start? I was wired this way. I was wired to be a high performer. Where do I begin to change these unhealthy patterns? How would I find a way to be productive, get it all done, look after my work, my family, my friends, my bills and also regain my sense of well-being, my health, my inner peace…. And then a bigger question – how would I continue to do all I needed and be relaxed, at peace?
Now, I must tell you… I was raised with meditation as a regular practice, but even when I engaged in it, I could never quiet my mind… those busy little thoughts and voices, telling me about all the things I needed to do. So I started reading about Happiness, positive psychology and the secrets of successful people. Guess what they all had in common? Yup… meditation – in whatever form that takes – connecting with nature, connecting with your breath like with yoga or tai chi, or simply just taking the time to be still. Then I read a book by Eckhart Tolle, called Stillness Speaks, which said: when we “connect to the Stillness within, we move beyond our active minds and emotions and discover great depths of lasting peace, contentment and serenity. But how to get there when I couldn’t slow down my thoughts? And then I read “Look at a tree, a flower, a plant. Let your awareness rest upon it. How still they are, how deeply rooted in Being. Allow nature to teach you stillness.” And I finally got it. That elusive feeling of going beyond thought… to be completely present, to be utterly still. And then I noticed something… my shoulders dropped, my breathing got calmer, deeper…. I was immediately more relaxed.
And so began my real journey with meditation… each morning I woke up and sat, while I sipped my coffee in silence. Some days, I got to 5 or 10 minutes. Other days I made it to 15 minutes. Now I force myself to sit for 20 minutes a day. I take some time to be quiet and still. I also take time to contemplate how all areas of my life are progressing. Finally, I take time to set my intention for the day. How do I want to feel? Calm, happy, energized, like everything comes together easily in each moment. It is the single most powerful thing I ever did to bring me inner peace, happiness, contentment and calm. It brought me back to myself again. It brought me back to life again. And then I noticed another thing. I was happy.
By Zahra Karsan