Today's fast-paced world can easily have you feeling like you don't have enough time. After working long hours, commuting to and from your office and indulging in your 'necessary' distraction of choice (often TV), you may feel like there aren't enough hours in the day to exercise, make a healthy meal, have a quiet/reflective moment, let alone catch up with family and friends. If you have children to care for, that's even fewer hours available for taking care of yourself.
I used to succumb to the frustration (and from time to time I still do). I would come home from work expecting to do some yoga, make a homemade meal, do some reading, work on some of my personal projects and get a sufficient 8-9 hours of sleep! Given that I usually get home around 7:30pm and aim to get up at 7:00am, the math just doesn't add up.
I realised two things:
- I was, as ever, being over-ambitious and in truth, setting myself up to fail. As much as the intended activities may aim towards it, this is not kindness.
- It's all about how you frame things. If the point of all these activities is indeed kindness and making time to care for myself, how else can I approach that same goal with the resources (i.e. time) available to me?
Mindfulness is perhaps one of the most effective ways to turn a situation around. I remembered an exercise I'd been given while attending a Brahma Kumaris meditation course. It had to do with washing dishes and doing so slowly while paying attention to every sensory detail – how the water and soap suds felt, the smells, the temperature and observing what was going on in your whole body as you engaged in the task. It was about bringing your consciousness to that very moment; to that very act.
The result: a dreaded chore actually becomes a pleasurable and calming experience! You stop thinking about what else you have to get done, what you didn't get done, what so-and-so said, where you need to be tomorrow and what you're getting your mother for her birthday. You stop thinking about past and future completely. Blogger, Singing Bird Artist says "If life is too hard then do the washing up. The rest will follow" and I cannot agree more.
It is with that spirit that I have been trying to approach my chores (in fact, I should perhaps change 'chores' to a word that does not have such negative associations!). From washing the dishes to cooking primal meals, from cleaning the bathroom to decluttering, from washing and twisting my natural hair to doing the laundry. All things that have to get done but that previously had me feeling like they were keeping me away from doing the 'good stuff'. By adjusting my mindset to look at them for what they really are – opportunities for self-care (afterall, a clean home is in my best interests, physically and emotionally!) – and bringing mindfulness to them, I am able to enjoy them as practices, rituals even, of kindness.
How can you bring more mindfulness and joy to your everday activities and responsibilities?
- Focus on one thing at a time. Multi-tasking usually promises more than it delivers. Sure you may get more things done but the quality of the results is likely to be mediocre and you'll likely end up feeling (more) stressed out.
- Breathe. And appreciate that this very moment is all that you have. Anything can happen tomorrow or even in the next few minutes. Worrying now about things that might happen later keeps you from actually DOING the things that will better prepare you for your future ambitions and for the inevitable unexpected.
- There will always be more things that you want to, need to or 'should' do. There is only one you and you have only one life. Put things in perspective. Taking an extra few minutes so that you can savour the experience of cleaning the bathroom (oh yes!) will not keep you from changing the world. You might, in fact, get struck by a winning insight in the process (see how mundane routines can produce creative magic)!
How do you find ways to practice kindness in the everyday?
- 2013: The Year of Kindness
- Giving into Routine: Tips on How to Make Ones that Work – plus 5 essential reads/resources
- Going Primal: Why and How – and what I'm eating
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Image: a very satisfying fruity snack I lovingly prepared for myself!