When I studied to become certified in nonviolent communication, I was stunned to discover how many of my thoughts were judgmental and even “violent” towards me and others. For Instance, it just never occurred to me that skipping a meal to squeeze in another item on my "To Do List" might be considered an "act of violence” against me and my body, especially if my blood sugar dropped and I was unable to function at full capacity.
I had previously framed and reserved the term "violence" as an act of terror, sexual assault, torture, or murder. I even remember snickering to myself when the trainers during my class suggested that not listening to the needs of one’s body is an act of violence against oneself. Surely they were exaggerating this point, or so I thought back then. They went on to list other examples of self violence, ways that we go against our self; not getting enough rest when our body plainly needs more sleep - we justify going to bed late and getting up early while ignoring signs of sleep deprivation, rushing around without stopping to pause, doing things without joy... the list is endless and you can add your own examples to it.
It has become commonplace for many of us to ignore our most basic and deepest needs to meet the demands of cultural, family, and work expectations all within the confines of a 24-hour day. Many of us may need to get to work by a specific time, regardless of whether we slept well the night before, perhaps we cared for an unexpected sick child or an aging parent during the night. Sometimes, no matter how well organized we are, we have just one more item to check off on our “To Do List” than we may actually have time to do with ease, and we end up racing from one task to another, not being fully present with any of them.
At different times in my life, it became business as usual for me to focus on how much I could get done in the form of “obligated action,” centering primarily on achieving an outcome, as opposed to the quality of my experience during the process. When our daily routine becomes a pattern of checking off “To Do Items” as “a means to an end” rather than operating from a place of “inspired action,” we can end up feeling exhausted, with our life void of meaning. We may end up struggling to get through another day instead of rejoicing that we have another day.
There is no shortage of demands in life, we have to feed the children, walk the dog, change the litter box, clean the house, buy the groceries, trim the yard, care for aging parents, drive the kids to practice, wash the clothes, go to work, earn an income, spend time with our lover, and well you know. Our "To Do Lists" can go on and on, placing unreasonable demands on us, and on our loved ones who are affected by our habit of “busy-ness” when we may be in the room, yet we’re not really present with anyone else in the room, not even with our self.
Being “present” is when we feel vital, joyful, and look forward to our daily activities because “we get to them,” because being radically alive is way more life affirming and fun than dragging our bodies and grumbling minds along for another dreaded daily routine.
So how do you become present to joy, vitality, and experience a sense of being radically alive?
1) One step is to reframe and change a pattern of the mind to realize that you “get to do all that you do” in contrast to resenting life because “you have to do all that you do.”
2) Become more mindful and create “pauses” in your daily routine. Set the timer on your phone once every hour and take a five minute pause to zoom out, become more aware of your surroundings and notice how you feel. Have you eaten recently, have you looked up at the sky today, do you need to use the bathroom yet barely noticed? Have you paused to observe the scenery, or made eye contact with someone nearby lately?
3) Stop and meditate for twenty minutes. If meditation is a foreign idea, take a twenty minute walk and do your best to silently notice the beauty and uniqueness of the trees, the sky, the buildings, people walking by; literally look for the good in yourself and in others as you take a pause.
Engaging in inspired action requires your presence whereas obligated action entitles you to zoom through another day without feeling any sense of heart, no matter how many tasks you completed. The surface mind can justify and rationalize anything, and the more intelligent you are, the more clever the surface mind can be, it can convince you to go against yourself in any circumstance. Every time you go against yourself or you go against the flow of life, it can become violent act against yourself and against those around you.
When we race through life we can become resentful, automatically lose compassion, and start judging what is within us and what is before us. We must end violent thoughts within ourselves before we can end violence in the world we live in.
A special thanks to Anand Mehrotra, Founder of Sattva Yoga from the Himalayas, whose generosity and wisdom continue to evolve within me. http://sattvaconnect.com/
Denise Dolan is a Mindful Living & Relationship Coach, Sattva Yoga Teacher, Nonviolent Communication Trainer, Community Builder, Program Facilitator, Speaker
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