I was driving into work last week, and in front of me, an SUV was making a right hand turn. And for a moment, a split second really, the driver was distracted. Maybe she was fiddling with the radio, checking a text, or looking down at her GPS. Maybe there was no real reason, just a moment, like we all have, where she wasn't fully engaged in what she was doing. But in that moment, she didn't see the nanny pushing the double stroller across the intersection.
I stopped, everyone stopped.
Luckily, everyone walked away from the accident physically ok. A few bumps and bruises, a broken stroller, a dented bumper and a lot of tears, but they were all able to walk away. A miracle really.
But as I stood there, with my arm around the sobbing driver, as others comforted the frantic nanny who was trying to calm the terrified little girls (both the exact same age as my own daughter, who at that moment was probably on a walk with her own nanny) while she tried to reach their mothers, I knew no one was going to walk away from that moment unaffected. Their lives would never be the same. I was only a witness, and even now, a week later, my hands still shake a bit as I write this.
In this country, in this city, we make multi-tasking an art form. Read any job description, and I bet you will see "must be able to multi-task" somewhere in the job requirements. Why? Why must we all be masters of doing 20 different things all at once? When did care, and attention to detail become secondary to checking things off a list? And when we do 20 different things all at once, are we even doing any of them very well?
If we're being honest with ourselves, when was the last time you can say you were fully present in something you were doing? Driving to work? Doubtful. Playing with your children? Unfortunately probably not. In a yoga class? I bet not even then. Compare that to the last time you felt you did something really well. Not "well enough," but really and truly well. The truth is we're all living a distracted life. And it only takes a moment, one split second in time, where a distraction can turn tragic.
But can we really live a life where we're fully present in all things? Of course not, it's too much. "Living every moment as if it was your last" is fine advice, but it's awfully heavy. What pressure to put on ourselves! And it's just not practical in this world we live in, where multi-tasking is the norm.
But what if we made a commitment for 2 hours a day, every day, to be fully engaged in something we were doing? One hour can be spent on doing something we had to do, like finishing up a project at work, making dinner for our family or driving with our eyes on the road. And then another hour on something we were choosing to do? Going to the park with our kids, writing in a journal, enjoying a meal. Just 1 hour each where we don't check our phone or email, turn on the TV, or let our mind wander to the 10,000 other things we could probably be doing at that moment. Some days, this might be the easiest of tasks, other days it may seem impossible. But either way, whatever we're doing within those hours would be done well, with our fullest attention and deepest commitment. Plus, I think we would soon find that our life feels richer, time moves at a bit more of a manageable pace and each moment has a little more value to it.
Multi-tasking is a great skill, but even better, is living well.
(First, a disclaimer: this post has absolutely nothing to do with the novel or film. I don't even know what they're about, though I hear good things. Sorry if you're disappointed. I hope you'll still read on.)
After a heartfelt marital discussion, with complete sincerity, I remarked to my husband...
Maybe the reason things seem so overwhelming right now, is that Mercury is going into retrograde.
He rolled his eyes and smirked...
Yeah, or maybe it's because we killed all the unicorns.
He's a funny guy...a funny, cynical guy.
But seriously, when things seem too much, when we get overwhelmed, it really helps to be able to put that blame elsewhere, far outside the self, in order carry us through. And as yogis, we tend to give ourselves lots of options. Mercury always seems to be going into retrograde, doesn't it? What's up with that?! And don't even get me started on the perils of vata season! (I'm serious, don't...it can really f things up) And while the validity of these explanations is up for debate - as is, in my opinion at least, the terrible outcome of having killed all the unicorns - how do we remain levelheaded and clear seeing when things seem to be spiraling out of control around us?
It's hard to look at the state of the world and not feel distressed, but what about when the spiraling is all our own doing? When we take on too many responsibilities, too many commitments? Maybe we hate letting people down, or maybe our drive is driving us out of control. Or maybe we just love life and want to embrace all it has to offer. When we do it to ourselves, it's even more appealing to put the blame elsewhere. Not just on the change of seasons, or on poor misunderstood Mercury, but on our job, our parents, our children, our partner.
In those moments, we need to have the self awareness to step back, to exhale and ground down and connect to the earth, to something solid and constant. Yoga, meditation, hiking, a cup of tea - these are all means to access a moment of peace and perspective in a world spinning around us.
But let's be real, the demands aren't going to disappear just by acknowledging their true cause and taking a deep breath. There are always going to be pulls on our time - both welcome and not. There are always going to be commitments we either want to make or have to make. Life is going to continue, every blessed moment. So what we have to do, is be a little selfish.
Selfish...this word always gets a bad wrap and I'm not entirely sure why. Shouldn't we be concerned with the self? This is where we live, where we experience. Without the self, we simply aren't. I agree that too much attention is ill-advised, but isn't that the case with everything? The honest point is, we actually do need to put ourselves first. A bold statement perhaps, but what I mean is that we should always check in first with the self to see what it most truly wants and needs. And perhaps that will be to make a sacrifice for someone or something, to put someone else's needs above our own or choose some aspect of our life over another. But you have to make sure that is truly what you want and need to do. Because if it's not, then the commitment won't come from a solid, grounded place. And with no anchor, things will quickly begin to overwhelm. And there won't be anything Mercury can do to help.
So have a care for yourself, in the vata season and always. You are the most wondrous thing you will ever have the privilege to experience. Honor that.
yoga teacher, filmmaker, wife, mother and citizen of the world. this is my journey into radical gratitude and living each moment in pure joy.