Posted on December 30, 2015.
The Hidden Benefit Of Planning: Becoming Immortal
Ever since my great big Burnout of 2010, I've been practicing mindfulness and slowing down the passage of time.
Don't believe the "Time Waits for No Man" rhetoric. Time on a clock is one thing -- time in our minds is something completely different.
What's the most memorable happy moment of your life. Pick something you can remember in exquisite detail. How was time passing for you? How about this moment. Right now. How are you experiencing this moment as it passes?
When I wrote SURRENDER™ to Passion in 2010 it was a real wake-up call for me. I was telling myself stories about how burdened I was, and I believed it. I was not honoring myself as an introvert and spent 4 and a half years running around to a wide variety of events, making myself shake hands and take business cards and talk to strangers. And it didn't make me uncomfortable in a bad way at all -- I'm not shy. But it utterly and completely exhausted me.
For me to do anything at all diligently for 4.5 yrs is an achievement. Seriously. It's not in my nature.
But the crash and burn taught me one of the most important lessons of life. I thought I had already known it, but it's pretty simple on the surface:
Every moment is precious.
And I'm not kidding about this. This is a pretty deep statement, one we nod and go "yeah, yeah..." to. But let's break it down. In my book SURRENDER™ to Passion, I tried to get this point across -- and I'm not sure I emphasized it enough. Slow down. And that's a statement that also doesn't make sense unless you suddenly get it.
Time is passing right before your eyes. Are you paying attention?
In the 5.5 years since I published SURRENDER™ to Passion, I have been practicing mindfulness. I have to say the last 2 years of that have been very rough for me -- tumultuous changes at home. So for 3 years solid, I cherished and paid attention to every. single. passing. minute.
Like a monk. I was practicing what I preached in my book. Breathing. Wiggling my toes. Getting back into my body -- no mean feat for someone diagnosed with a severe dissociative disorder. Paying attention to what was going on around me. Looking at the highway while I was driving, feeling my hands on the steering wheel, watching the cars around me shifting lanes and sleepily drift into the shoulder, looking for hawks in the trees as I drove past groves of forest, watching my chickens, feeling my body, and looking at every moment of every day intensely as it happened.
So when the proverbial poop hit the propeller and my home life started falling apart, I was deeply engrossed in this habit. Steven Covey's moment between action & reaction -- that Proactive moment -- when you practice mindfulness it feels like forever. I had the wherewithal to CHOOSE my reactions, to take every single instant as it came.
It's like living life in slow motion.
If you hate your life, this isn't for you. You are not fit for eternal moments in a job you hate, in a home situation that is shutting you down and painful. You have to really love every moment of your life to spend this present moment of eternity wedded to it.
The poop hit the propeller and I watched the house of cards as it collapsed, every single card, one at a time, in exquisite detail. And somehow managed to keep my cool and maintain my self-respect in the middle of it. I even stopped grinding time to this level of detail -- I wasn't as in love with my life, so why do it -- and time still grinds on with aching intricate detail. I had gotten it. I had reprogrammed my brain and body, and at least for the last 2 years or so I haven't gotten back that rushing off ignoring every day, days blending into each other, where did the time go? problem. I feel every minute of the day. By way of habit.
I don't pretend it's a permanent habit, so I need to get back into the swing of things. Renewing my purpose, making sure I'm on-track, continue to practice mindfulness and zenness. Because while things didn't turn out as I planned, I enormously enjoyed cherishing every moment of those years passing. It was so slow. I watched my children growing up -- now 18 and 20 years old -- with the precision of stop-motion-photography of a hummingbird in flight.
That, my dear reader, is immortality. As close to it as I need to get. When moments feel like minutes, and minutes like hours, and days like weeks, and months like years -- what more can you ask for?
And the wrong way to do it....
I had experienced this zen quality once before, naturally without instruction. It was 2 months that felt like 2 years back in 1986. Time passed achingly slow. Every moment stretched to the horizon. I was both falling in love and falling into the most uncomfortable place I had ever known at the same time -- and it was down the rabbit hole into a cycle of absolute clinical insanity. Oxymoronic, eh? I had found immortality and insanity at the same exact time. So the exquisite agony of my anxiety, the darkest depths of despair, the chill of paranoia and fear -- all stretched out and made larger than life by this slowed passage of time.
If you're going to find zen, do the right thing with it. Use the extra moments to get yourself as healthy as possible. Find a happy healthy place to practice your immortality in, because this unhappy strange twisted world I found back then is one no one should visit, and it ended in my suicide attempt and the loss of my love, and like my 3 years of happy zen, the echoes of time passing so slowly continued for 9 more months (or more) while I was in the mental hospital.
How does a planner work into this picture?
A planner reminds us to slow down and pay attention to the passage of time. It helps us build good habits, to see the things we can be happy and satisfied with in our life, and to actively change the things that we're not thrilled with. It's not enough to be aware of every moment -- but to choose that moment and make the absolute best of it. What I experienced in 1986 was a nightmare and no one should go there. Being so exquisitely aware of the wrong things, of making bad choices, of choosing to feel lousy, of being a victim of fear chemicals running through my veins -- was singularly devastating to the point of not just wanting to, but seriously attempting to die and the loss of the person most dear to me.
When we combine making good choices, feeling our love and passion, banishing fear, and planning ahead with feeling every moment so exquisitely, even the bad things that happen to us aren't as devastating, and we know that we will have another choice to make in just one moment and we can make better choices. It's almost like having a do-over episode without the time travel. You can correct the bad word choice before you even say it in the first place, you can react to an emergency situation with all your thought processes at your disposal, you can spend your time so wisely that you have no regrets for your choices.
This is all up to you. To plan or not to plan. I choose to plan.