It’s been a snow week – for some more than others – but for most of us, we have been affected in some way by the snow and ice storm. Maybe you had the whole week off work, maybe you got to show up late for a couple days, or maybe you had to work extra to cover for someone who could not make it into work. Whatever the case, your schedule was likely altered, and your routine was surely interrupted. This was probably a positive thing if you had some unexpected time off, some freedom from being at a place at a certain time. Maybe you got to spend time with family or friends, maybe you caught up on sleep, maybe you had to be creative making meals out of the things that have been sitting in your cupboard or freezer, maybe you walked to the coffee shop instead of driving like you do most days. A spirit of adventure and spontaneity might have taken over as you lived out your day a little differently. You might have felt more connected to others as you all crowded into the one open coffee shop in your hats and boots. You might have even met a neighbor you never knew before!
It’s interesting how it takes a mild emergency to get us to slow down a little. I also found it incredible how I could make work for myself and create some routine even when I was “off the hook” for those very things. As always, I’m reminded that I have farther to go on my intentions and more mindfulness to practice. The thing is, there is a time to rest and a time to work. When we have a chance to rest, we should do our best to use it without thinking of the task we have to do after our rest is over. When it is time to work, we should do it 100 percent so that we feel we have done our best and feel a sense of accomplishment for that. Maybe we Americans just have a harder time with these concepts because we are told to work 40 to 60 hours a week so we do it sometimes begrudgingly, and our idea of rest usually involves the addition of distractions like watching Netflix or scrolling through social media feeds. When we have unexpected time without work, if we sit without a distraction for very long, we will inevitably start planning what we are going to do next. We put ourselves right to work again. I am one of the worst offenders at bad resting habits. I notice my habits often in savasana when I’m supposed to be resting but realize I’ve quickly turned my mind to planning, making lists, getting things done by just thinking about doing them. Being productive. But how productive is it to constantly be in motion or be distracted, even when I’m not actually moving my body physically?
If we can rest when it’s time to rest, it really is more productive in the long run, so I have to think of it this way to keep myself from making other work for myself to do while I’m resting. Fully resting helps us conserve energy so we can use that energy when it’s time to work. And we do love to work. That was apparent when 22 people showed up for yoga at 10 am after being snowed in for just one day. We like our work and our routine just as much as we like our rest. And we don’t have to feel bad about that. The thing to do is to be present in both. Enjoy the rest, enjoy a small indulgence, enjoy a day off of the routine with mindfulness. Minding the fact that it’s healthy and minding the fact that you can resume the work or the routine even stronger the next day. I do well with routines and goals but I tend to be an “all or nothing” kind of girl, so when I take a day off, it can turn into 3 or 4 days off or a few weeks off. Good thing my jeans don’t let me raise hell for too long. However, the point of all this is that it shouldn’t be the job of my jeans to keep me from going off the deep end. A little indulgence here or there is healthy, and it doesn’t mean the whole day or week is shot. It’s a state of mind. A state of mindfulness.
Wednesday was Ash Wednesday this week. I’m not Catholic but I’m familiar with Lent and the idea that people give things up during the 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday to practice moderation and to preparation for Easter. It has always seemed a novel idea to me, even if it’s not my own tradition. First of all, structure and boundaries, but more than that, structure for a reason. Purposeful sacrifice and mindful moderation. With New Year’s Resolutions becoming foggy and after taking my snow days pretty seriously, I started to think that maybe I should try this tradition out for myself – 40 days of focused moderation.
I’m a day or two late to the game but as I consider picking 2 or 3 things to give up, I found the following questions and suggestions (from another blog by Rachel Evans) helpful.
- What am I preparing for? How would I like to feel different when I wake up on Easter, after 40 days without something I normally have?
- Is there something in my life— a form of excess, a habit, a grudge, a fear, a prejudice, an addiction, an emotional barrier —that keeps me from loving myself, loving my neighbor, or loving God fully? How might I address that over the next 40 days?
- Lent is a time to listen. To God or yourself or something you believe in. And to those who might show you something about yourself or God – particularly the poor, oppressed, marginalized, and suffering. To whom should I be listening? How can I cultivate a listening posture toward others whose perspective and experiences might differ from my own?
- Is there a discipline you’ve been wanting to try – prayer, meditation, reading a particular book? How might I alter my daily routine to include one of these disciplines?
- Other things you might want to consider “giving up” are things that might allow you more time or mental/emotional capacity to allow the things you do want: social media, sleeping in, TV, perfectionism, comparison, cynicism (replace with wonder, compassion, and hope).
- And finally, one ”fast” that has crossed my mind this week is the idea of giving up the consumption of people for Lent. Our culture (through social media, reality TV, celebrity gossip, etc.) has so profoundly commodified people—actual human beings— it’s become a phenomenon we hardly even notice anymore. If we practice mindfulness towards people over the next 40 days, can we start to notice when people, even ourselves, are being commodified and consumed and can we choose not to join in and propagate the problem. Can we stop the cycle when it comes to ourselves?