Bringing Peace to Your Busy Life

These are difficult and complex times. We are living in a digital age in which our time and attention is increasingly being mined by more and more technological devices. As the changes in technology increase in speed, our bodies struggle to keep pace with the changes.

Digital vs. Analog

So first you should understand that computers are digital. And that’s why we love them. They get things done very quickly. Digital information comes in bytes. They’re either on or off. This allows computers to do amazingly fast computations. So it’s important to appreciate that we mere mortals are not digital. We’re analog. We take time to process information. We appreciate and value context. We tell stories to make meaning in our lives. We go a a slower pace than digital devices in order to know what we are feelings or needing.

When you fail to differentiate the difference, you begin trying to do things in digital time which is crazy making. You feel like you always have to be on, but are strangely never really here. This contributes to the busyness you experience on a daily basis. It’s important to reclaim your humanity and your human rhythms in order to have greater peace of mind.

I Don’t Have Enough Time

You probably wouldn’t be surprised if I told you that people tell me all the time, that they don’t have enough time to meditate. But I’d ask you to take another look at that statement. Why don’t you have enough time to meditate? Don’t you waste time on video games or browsing the internet? In fact, I would ask you to tell me what you are so busy for? What wonderful thing will happen at the end of your busyness? What’s the payoff for all that running around you do? When you ask the question, the answer seems absurd. Maybe you collapse, pass out or implode on yourself from exhaustion.

So it seems that you are busy running away from your present experience. There is something unsettling to you about being still, or about dead space. It’s boring and for some reason you are afraid of that.

Attention is Everything

This fear of being with yourself in this way, has many consequences. It contributes to a frenetic, multitasking energy that fills you with busyness but divides your attention. Most people take the quality of their attention for granted. But you really shouldn’t do that, because the quality of your attention has a important impact on your well-being. Without an ability to focus your attention, you can’t learn very much, nor can you carry on any kind of quality connection and communication with other fellow humans.

Introducing Mindfulness

It’s not an accident that mindfulness has now become popular throughout the world. For mindfulness helps people deal more effectively with stress and anxiety. It helps people slow down and improves the quality of their attention so they feel more peace of mind. It helps cut through the distraction and busyness that we’ve been talking about here.

The Power of Mindfulness

There are many reason why mindful awareness can help you overcome stress or work more effectively with worry, anxiety or anger. First, let’s start with a definition. Mindfulness is an intentional, embodied awareness that is without judgement. Mindfulness meditation strengthens a hub of awareness within yourself that allows you to watch your thoughts, emotions and experiences instead of totally identifying with them. This allows you to notice how these experiences arise in yourself. So for instance, if you are caught up in some very harsh and negative inner critical voice, mindfulness can help you notice how you are doing this. If you are constantly worrying about the future, mindfulness can help you observe how your mind is anticipating the worst case scenarios. There is great power in this kind of reflective awareness because you can learn to drop these negative inner voices altogether. And that can greatly facilitate a change in your disposition, attitude and stress level.

Keeping Yourself Company

Increasingly I see people coming to our Zen Life & Meditation Center who are experiencing a kind of free-floating anxiety that has no clear object. The most effective practice I know for addressing this is the practice of loving-kindness, in which you learn how to attune with yourself in a way that is kind, gentle and loving. Many people think meditation is just a technique, but it is so much more than that. Meditation is a way you learn to be with yourself and slow down. But many people are afraid to be still or to be alone with themselves in this way. So I teach people to work with their resistance, because I think this is the key to learning to be more mindful. Mindfulness is a shift of awareness that requires no effort. In fact, effort gets in the way. Once you know what this awareness is like, you can generate the intention to make this shift in yourself quite simply and easily. And that is the nature of mindful awareness. So I encourage you to take up a daily practice of mindfulness meditation. Think of it as a kind of brain fitness. You are strengthening parts of your brain that will help you integrate many of your experiences. And when you strengthen this hub of awareness in yourself you will have greater resilience and stability in the face of change and uncertainty. This is the way to find peace in your busy life. I encourage you to take the plunge and make a regular meditation practice a part of your daily routine.

by Robert Althouse
Zen Master
Zen Life & Meditation Center, Chicago, ©2013