When I recommend to someone that they slow down, they often raise a legitimate question: “There is so much that I have to do; how can I go through it slowly and get it all done?” I usually answer by referring to my own experience as a teacher in India. As chairman of the Department of English at a large university I had heavy responsibilities. But I wanted very much to train myself to do things slowly and without tension because I knew it would be a help on the spiritual path.
I began by making a list of all the activities I engaged in on the campus, the things I was expected to do and the things I liked doing. It turned out to be a long list. I said at the time what people tell me today: I simply cannot go slowly and take care of all these vital matters.
Then I remembered my spiritual teacher, my Grand-mother, who had great responsibilities in our extended family of over a hundred people and in our village. She always fulfilled those responsibilities splendidly, and I recalled that she had an unerring sense of what was central and what was peripheral. So using her example, I started striking from my list activities not absolutely essential.
I was amazed at the number that could go. I began to avoid those functions that I could not justify to myself. Putting aside my likes and dislikes, keeping an eye on what was necessary, using as much detachment as I could, I struck more and more from the list. Soon half of it was gone, and I found I had more time to give to what seemed likely to be of permanent value.
Re-engineering our patterns in the way I have mentioned will not be easy or painless. It will require persistent efforts for a long time. But the benefits are magnificent and we begin to receive them from the very first day we try to make a change.
An excerpt from ‘Meditation’ , a book by Eknath Easwaran.
SEED QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: How do you relate to the author's observation of how being selective helped him grow on the spiritual path? Can you share a personal story where you experienced a re-engineering of your own patterns? What helps you let go of the unnecessary and focus on the essential?
It is almost 5 years, I have been trying to let go of my tight schedules. People have started questioning whether things are ok with me and I wonder whats wrong with me. It is my understanding that people can't believe that by going slow mean taking time to accomplish more things in a peaceful manner and that adds to one's personal peace, which eventually contributes to the Peace around you. I too have started discarding unnecessary friend circles, functions that disturb my food habits and time for the peace meditation. Also I am fully content with what I am and what am i here for: Love and more love that never says enough!
I also have begun cutting on unnecessary phone calls and WhatsApp and emails, which is time consuming and superficial, instead I have begun visiting needy people and if need be I accompany people to the doctor and hospital etc.
My relatives are coming to visit us and we will always welcome them with open mind and heart, yet the willingness to accept that I hold an absolute duty to be of service to their needs continuously escapes my hands like water in open palms. The patterns that are actively reengineering in my view are crafting a willingness to transform my open palms to cupped hands of a recipients devoted service to the love she deserves ð¤, then loving in return...those who can be possible recipients of my empathy ð.
For me, a spiritual path entails remaining aware that all is one and sacred and my activities are part of that big picture. I can get so busy and stressed that I forget that. Being selective and prioritizing regarding activities reduces the number of activities and allows me to slow me down, be in the present, and maintain awareness of the big picture. That sounds good -- I ought to do it more often. Taking time most every morning to physically stretch and exercise and to meditate, even when I have many activities to do and many things on my mind, is my reengineering my pattern to take time for me physically and spiritually and start the day with awareness of the big spiritual picture. The unnecessary is always intruding, and being in the present including meditation helps me to let go of the unnecessary and focus on the essential.
If we equate time with money, then we are the losers. It is like putting myself in the ever-busy hands of time. So when I say I don't have time, I need to pause, be quiet for a moment to ask the question: Whose voice is this? When I realize that this is not my voice I consciously distance myself from the "I don't have time" voice, I become free from my own self and make the wise choice. Do I need to unnecessarily hurry or I can move slowly? Is it that important that I have got to do it right at this moment? What if I do not rush like crazy and take it easy?
I have found the word "pause" very helpful. It helps me to reset my time button. After pausing and taking a few deep and long breaths, I make a wise choice. I jump if I need to jump. I run if I need to run.I know what I need to do. I know myself. I am not a work -shirker. I am a responsible person. As the author says, use discretion. Identify what is central and what is peripheral and then respond to the task accordingly. I do not like to be Type A Personality or Type B Personality. I want to act like Type A person when needed to move fast and act like Type B person when it is time to take it easy. The hyper or hypo cycles in my opinion are counter productive. We need to strike a wholesome balance.
May we take some time to see the real value of time, pause, breathe and make a wise choice!
Jagdish P Dave
I relate very much to the feeling of needing to let go of the periphery and focus on the essentials. Feeling grateful that more days than not it is possible and only when I get caught up in life is it still a challenge. Two things truly helped in this process: spending time in other cultures where time was measured differently and where "success" was as well. Time expanded and days felt longer and not so rushed, perhaps this was due to rising with the sun and going to bed shortly after dark. The view of success was more about kindness to fellow humans and the quality of relationships rather than quantity of possessions. I've carried this into my every day life. It helps me to focus on what is truly important when I get caught up. Example, this week my book about my volunteer project came out. I felt both a sense of relief as it had been 10 years in the making from the start of the project to release of the book which details the journey and hopes to serve as a blueprint for others to take the leap. I also felt this rush of, "my goodness, I need to get it out everywhere right now!" I felt a sense of urgency and it was overwhelming as I was also caught up in other work commitments at the World Bank and in several other performing projects. Then I sat down on Wednesday and I just breathed, in and out over a cup of tea. And I let go of "right now" and I let go of urgency. I reminded myself it took 10 years to get to here, what is the difference of another few weeks at this point? What do I need to do right now today? What is truly necessary? What can I let go? I felt so much more at ease. That afternoon I even took a nap before performing that night and in the end the performance connected so much more deeply to the audience because I was fully present, and at peace in my heart and mind. Hope this helps! Hugs from my heart to yours![Hide Full Comment]
Being in presence (and in present) is a requirement for being able to sharply distinguish the baggage activities (tasks we may be robotically continuing, needless and indulgent activities) vs the essential.....I see it as a practice, the indication of it working is that what I do starts becoming more 'concentrated' i.e. more intentional, more leveraged and more impactful.
One of the things that works though is not a very mindful cutting out but moving in a flow, where what is important playfully emerges based on where the awareness flows....this is a curiously different way of moving to the essential, where it is what the moment presents (which for me in the moment is this passage!)
Is it essential to reflect and share - maybe not. But then as it pops up in the flow, I trust the Universe to organize it for me!
Dropping what feels unnecessary has been very liberating for me. Over the years, it has felt like more and more time has opened up to just stay with what feels meaningful. There is a sense of leisure in the rhythm of the day, at least some of the time. I also notice that everyday I am being asked to choose: there are many urgent and/or Important tasks that need to get done. I am choosing to go with those that feel the most nourishing for ones inner development.
Easwaran's reminder is a good gift for starting my day. My life began changing when I began to incorporate "First things first" in my life. As often as I can, I ask myself what is the priortiy action NOW. When I focus on the next priority action, I don't waste time analyzing and thinking, much of which wastes time and energy. Slowing down and aiming my thoughts and energy at what is truly important has changed me and my life. The ego, feeding off of drama and fear, thinks so much is important that is not. Recognizing what comes from my ego versus what is necessary for life is easier when I concentrate on slowing down.
Enjoy this day, slowly.