Very often, we feel overwhelmed by our thoughts: we have a thousand things going on in our mind, and it never seems to stop. Consequently, we end up feeling constantly stressed. But there are other ways to deal with such a hectic life. Meditation can help you clear space in your busy mind, making it easier to stay calm.
The great excitement of a busy life
These days are some of the busiest of my life. I am working on my darling Pause, translating it into French, and recording it in that language. I am directing a play with a 20-plus crew. I am finishing the translation of a book about Northern Thailand, and getting it published.I now have a full-time job in film production. I teach, I perform. I have a partner and I honor our commitment to the best of my abilities every single day.
In short, my schedule is probably fuller than it should be. Fuller than my desire to rest. Fuller than my desire for entertainment, although this particular desire has been fading over the years.
But I am not busier than I’ve ever been. I have, at times, been busier.
When I worked in festival production and the three days of the actual festival would literally not allow for any sleep at all. With 800 volunteers and 1 million participants a day, most of them sleeping on the premises, an emergency was always coming at us. When I organized an international event for the French ministry of culture in 2005, we worked 20 hours/day in the last week, sleeping under our desks. At 4am, slightly unhinged, we would joke with our boss, an uptight civil servant, that this would be the perfect time to bring in the cocaine barrels. He agreed – but never delivered. When we toured France in the summer, we had to find places to sleep, to set up our stage and perform imperturbably in 100 Fahrenheit degrees heat.
I used to be proud of my resilience in those scenarios. We made it, we were so badass, we survived. It didn’t matter that I had to eat my ballooning weight in chocolate in order to keep at it. It didn’t matter that no such events could only be complete unless every single member of the team had had his or her spectacular meltdown. It didn’t matter that my will to live seemed to erode and would take months, sometimes, to come back.
I was a badass. I could take anything the world threw at me. I could disregard hunger, thirst, fatigue. I thrived off stress!
Yeah, no. NO. Never again. I consider my past self with great compassion.
When stress starts to destroy you
How different my busyness today.First of all, I do not feel proud of being so busy. It is not a badge of honor any longer. In fact, if I were to talk about it extensively, in Thailand, I would probably become an object of pity. Secondly, my busyness today does not have the same quality as before – at all.
At the end of the first Matrix movie, Neo goes through an important change.
Earlier on, he famously uploaded kung fu to his brain, but his moves – while still efficient – were jerky and somewhat uncoordinated. But in his last face-off with Agent Smith, he suddenly gains a deep understanding of the nature of reality. He seems to move slowly, but that is simply because he is at peace, inwardly. He is ten times more lethal in his newfound state of awareness and alignment.
In the past, when I was busy, I ran to and fro, expanding huge amounts of energy. I sometimes substituted noise for actual work. I had no structure. I would let things get to me, because I was too tired to realize some of them were relative. And then I would crash, and even a charging mammoth could not have roused me. Again, as my teacher said – “Too much fire!”
How meditation enables you to gain clarity
My busyness today is colored by my meditation practice.
Whatever happens, I always have a place to go back to – myself.Whatever happens, I nurture my inner self. I make it a comfortable place to stay, and I use it. Whatever happens I gain clarity and the right distance, just by taking a few minutes for myself multiple times every day.
I move slower but with more purpose. I prioritize better, because I check in with myself often what my priorities are. I don’t let other people’s agendas hijack mine, because, again, I stay in touch with my needs, emotions, priorities.I learn to say no, because I pay more attention to the warning signs within myself. For instance a few days ago my eyelids started twitching – a vitamin B deficiency. I bought vitamin B, but I also cleared my schedule of any social engagement.
Whatever happens, the final authority on myself IS myself, and I check in with her OFTEN. I keep silence and peace so I can hear her. I give her regular times when she knows she can talk to me – every morning, and a few times during the day. I pay attention to details, to ideas, to dreams, to bodily reactions. I listen.
And in all my tasks these days I do not feel overwhelmed, although I am much more productive than I ever was. I go to bed with a clear conscience and the satisfaction of having done a good job, looking forward to the next day. I sleep well.
I used to destroy myself through stress. Now, I am building muscle. The rhythm, the feeling, the consistency – everything is different.
This is one of the gifts mediation gave me. I hope you will soon feel such effects in your own life…!
“I usually meditate 30mn a day, unless I am very busy. Then I meditate 1 hour a day.”