(Originally published on Consciously Woman: January 31, 2018)
“If the bamboo is carefully tended, watched over and nurtured, in the first year it grows two inches, in the next year it grows two inches, in the third year it grows two inches, in the fourth year it grows two inches, and then in the fifth year it grows eighty feet!” ~Mary Manin Morissey
I was thinking about the question. “How do you work smart,” when I remembered this quote about growing bamboo. You tend it, water it and wait. You don’t dig in the dirt, and pull the roots, and pull the top of the plant to make it grow. You tend it, water it and wait…
Coming from a family of doers who value productivity and tangible results, I was conditioned to work hard and that led me to burn out a few times in my life. Why? Because I thought that my value was in the doing, the working, the long hours, and in truth, the suffering. The more I worked, the harder I worked, the more value I had. One of the things that changed my life was a lay off from a job, and an illness that led to more time for meditation and writing. I had to stop and see all of the ways I added in busyness, when what I really needed was something else.
The magic in my life started to appear when I learned to push the pause button and create space for daydreaming and wandering. I learned that you can’t push the river, there is a time to climb the mountain, and there is a time to stop and look around at what is on the mountain. To breathe the air, to taste the sweetness, to hear the birds singing, to watch the clouds drifting.
Pushing pause for me now is stepping away from the computer and taking the dog for a walk, or staring out the window to see what I can notice in this moment. It means walking 250 steps every hour when my Fitbit vibrates and says, “Ready for a stroll?” or the computer voice, Alex calls out the time change every hour. These are reminders that time is passing and I press pause, even for a minute or five minutes to see it, feel it, and tune into my body wisdom.
Yes, I have a flip chart in the corner of my room with goals, lists and checklists. Yes, I do like to work and I am super productive. But the real power in working smarter is the breath, the pause in between the “doing.” I close my eyes for a moment and notice what my body is telling me. What am I feeling? What am I experiencing in this moment? Is this the best use of my time right now?
I know that the answers I seek are encoded into the cells of my body. To hear the next awakening, the next inspiration, I must create the space to listen and to witness what is happening within and around me. It takes slowing down long enough to hear. Pause. Listen. Reflect. It is a practice like meditation and yoga. Finding the balance in being and doing.
My mantra: Enjoy the adventure.
My life is an adventure and I want to enjoy every minute of it! A hot cup of coffee. A smile exchanged with a stranger. An idea for a blog post. A coaching session with a client. And even a check mark on one of my to-do items that sets off a pause to celebrate and dance!
Andrea Hylen: Author of Heal My Voice: An Evolutionary Woman’s Journey. Creator of The Writing Incubator, on-line writing community. www.andreahylen.com