I just finished a book: 10 % happier by Dan Harris. I likely would not have read, or even known about this book without the recommendation of a friend, but when I get a text from someone who knows me well that’s say, “I think you will like this book” I go out and buy it. (Thanks Matt!)
And I did like it. And it made me thing. Dan Harris is an ABC news anchor and journalist. He had a panic attack on live television. He figured out something needed to change. And what he did made sense to me. There are a lot of quick fixes out there. There are a lot of empty promises. To be honest, there is a lot of weird shit.
And Dan does not have a secret or an easy fix, but his has a great story that makes a lot of sense and really gave me a lot to think about. If Matt told me I was going to read a book about meditating, I would have smiled and never thought about it again. But the book does not say “Learn to Meditate” It says “How I tamed the voice in my head, reduced stress without losing my edge, and found self-help that actually works”. He had me at “tamed the voice in my head”, because my voice needs taming.
The concept that grabbed me right from the start is the idea of mindfulness. I am the least mindful person I know. And people have been telling this to me, in nice ways, for a long time, and I do not listen. My husband wants to me to put my phone down when talking to me. My co-workers want me to not email while I am supervising. My kids just want me to look up from Netflix and acknowledge them.
I justified myself as a multi-tasker. I am not ignoring you, I am multi-tasking. I do better when I have lots of projects going on at once. I am so busy they only way I can get it all done is by multi-tasking. It is a skill and a skill I have mastered. It is one of my greatest marketable skills, or so I thought. In reading this book the statement was made “People are not computers, they are not made to multi-task”. And I had to take pause and think about that. And that idea, combined with being mindful, made me really starting thinking about how I live my life.
And I was not happy about my lifestyle. Maybe there is something behind my husband wanting me to talk to him without my phone in front of my face. Maybe, if I give my co-workers time without emailing at the same time, I could actually be, not just more efficient, but more effective. More invested. More available.
But how do I even begin changing bad habits? The last few weeks I have promised myself I will put my phone away while driving. Except there is always on reason to take it out. I have promised to not have my phone with me at all times, except I just turn it over instead of putting it away. I keep working on 12 projects at a time and think next week, when I am less busy, I do one thing at a time.
But today, as I read the final pages of the book, it occurred to me there will always be an excuse. I have to figure out a way to be mindful. To be present. And I did not want it to be a car crash that sends me flying out my window and unconscious in the hospital for the next year.
Today was also the day that I taught my class and GVSU… and we are reading Paulo Friere: Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Which I don’t recommend unless you are a philosopher. But after really studying it and discussing it with my brilliant students, I had a few more “ah ha” moments. Which are really hard to go into unless you read the book and were a part of the discussion, but we talked a lot about the idea of “paying it forward”. And doing good things because they are good, not because we want something out of it. And by noticing, even the smallest things, you can make a big difference. Because you see humanity in someone when you stop for even a second to help them. You give them worth as a human being.
Like this commercial… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cZGghmwUcbQ
And all of that came together for me as I was walking out of the Eberhard Center. I was rushing out of the building to get home, pulling me cell phone from my pocket, digging my keys out of my purse and I noticed 5 texts, 15 “group me” messages, a few snap chats and a bunch of emails. So I stopped. I read and answered the texts. I check my email and decided what was immediate and what could wait. I put my phone in my pocket, took a deep breath and just walked. And when I did that I saw the faces of the people walking by. I saw the sun setting over campus. I felt the crisp air. I looked into the eyes of the man who opened a door for me and said thank you to his face. And we smiled at each other. We felt worthy.
I drove and listened to my audible book without checking for new messages. And I decided, if only for one month, I was going to be consciously more mindful. Fully present. I don’t have to give up my phone, but will only check it when I can give whoever is on the other side proper attention. Even as I type this, my phone is next to me lighting up and it takes all of my strength to ignore it and just finish writing.
I want to spend February 100% mindful, so I can at least figure out a good balance for March. And, if I really want to push myself, I am going to meditate for 5 minutes daily. Metta meditation specifically in which you focus on sending good thoughts to a variety of people, including someone you don’t like. Because even people I don’t like are worth positive attention. They deserve to be recognized as human beings. Because, as I am learning with Paulo Freire, if you cannot see humanity in someone, you are lacking in humanity yourself.
And I hope, in all of this, I cannot only become mindful and present, (which in turn will make me see more worth in those around me) but also figure out how to tame that wild voice in my head and reduce a little stress. And maybe if I am really good at all this I will magically lose 20 pounds and get a huge bonus so I can go to the Greek Islands and reduce a little more stress.