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Finding Peace While Being Busy

On my first four-day meditation retreat, I was given the task of cleaning the dishes after breakfast for the 40 people attending the retreat. Piles of dishes and pots and pans loaded up two sinks: one for soaping and scrubbing, and another for rinsing. A fellow retreatant was at the first sink and I was at the second.

I was mindfully and carefully washing each dish, making sure I was breathing deeply and taking my time to make sure each dish was perfectly clean. A monk came over, frustrated with me.

“What are you doing?” He asked, raising his hands.

“I’m mindfully washing the dishes,” I told him.

“Well, mindfully wash the dishes then. But do it fast,” he said. “If you keep this up, we won’t have dishes for lunch.”

It was then that I realized: We can be both mindful and fast.

I also learned that when doing things mindfully, I didn’t actually have to be sitting in meditation to get the peace I wanted. I could embody the meditation practice in every moment of my day-to-day, even while being busy.

Then I moved to New York City. My lifestyle was suddenly super fast-paced, and it was a huge lesson when it came to my meditation practice. Suddenly, I really had to apply that whole “mindful and fast” thing to my life.

With that in mind, here are 5 things you can do to live a stress-free lifestyle while keeping up a fast-paced life:

While rushing somewhere . . .

Feel the bottoms of your feet. Heel to toe, heel to toe. This keeps you grounded and in your body and out of your head. Especially when you’re super busy and stressed, this is something to remember. It will calm you almost immediately.

While checking off your to-do list . . .

Note beginnings, middles, and ends to stay present while completing action items. As you approach one action step on your list or chore, note:

I am beginning to do _________.
I am in the middle of doing ___________.
I have finished doing _____________.

This keeps you present and engaged. It speeds up productivity and also diminishes mistakes. The work is far more thorough and it also creates a calm, relaxed state.

Pay attention to distractions . . .

We can fill our spaces with our ears plugged into music, TV, podcasts, talking, gossiping, texting, playing with our apps, social networking, writing lists — there’s always something to distract us from the world passing us by.

Do what you need to get done — your work, your chores, your time with family — without any other distractions. Learn to appreciate quiet, and savor it.

Quiet is not something to fear. It’s luxurious. Have a family night without the TV on. Turn off the radio at work. When you’re at your local café or in a waiting room, sit quietly without being on your phone. Grab moments of stillness wherever you can.

Set a timer every few hours and stop whatever you’re doing for a 10-second pause . . .

Look up at the sky or out the window and feel all of your senses. A “pause” means that wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, no matter what you’re racing to — you stop.

Feel everything around you. The air. The noise. The smells. The people. Take it all in. And sense the sky, the clouds passing overhead, and ALL of its spaciousness.

All of a sudden, the busy life we’re in gets wider, more expansive, and we remember where we fit in the grand scheme of things.

Here’s to having peace all the time!

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Lynn Newman