Thich Nhat Hanh is well known in the circle of those that study mindfulness. I first became familiar with his work after reading his book Living Buddha, Living Christ and I enjoyed his simple yet profound insights into the similarities of Buddha and Christ. It’s been many years since I’ve read this book and I think it’s time for me to revisit. So, yes, I’m a fan of Thich Nhat Hanh’s work. Imagine my delight of having at my disposal a video of him demonstrating how to do Ten Mindful Movements. I discovered this wonderful YouTube video during my online MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) course modeled after the founder of MBSR, Jon Kabat-Zinn. This video just happens to be one of the many, many, resources available to those that do the course. I’m proud to say I finished the course and received my certificate several months ago when I began my gap year. Pride is a strong word, but I do feel a sense of accomplishment, and was introduced to so many ways to practice mindfulness. These Ten Mindful Movements are one of my favorites. It only takes 15 minutes and the movements are so gentle and you use your breath to guide your movements. In breath… Out breath…. And don’t forget to smile. The other thing I like about it is that it’s a moving meditation, obviously, and it’s perfect for limbering up the body in the morning and working out all of the kinks. I had to use the video a few times before I memorized all 10 movements, but this is now my go to mindfulness practice when I want to do a moving meditation and the area is not conducive to yoga poses on the ground. And it’s super easy to adapt and use for all kinds of mindful movements. Chris and I love participating in moving meditations. I hope you also enjoy.
Today is quittin’ day, 2nd month of this leap year. My last day of work. On my drive home I notice a sort of release in my entire being, a letting go.No real thoughts attached, just a sense of relief. Chains being broken. Energy being restored. By the time I get home, I feel elated, excited, expansive, energized. It’s contagious, and Chris begins to catch what I have. We find ourselves giggling, talking fast, creative juices flowing, ideas pouring out of what things we want to do and learn. Wow! It’s not that I didn’t love my job, it’s that my job left no room in my being for anything else. My job clearly bound me, and I struggled every day with how to let it go. Let it go! Simple but not easy.
There’s much written about work/life balance. But work is life, a big part of life, and life is full of work, whether paid or unpaid. Work is not the enemy, but sometimes a job can be. Sometimes, a job can be so demanding, it interferes with our other important work such as the work of caring for our children, the work of tending to our families, the work of nurturing our friendships, the work of nourishing our souls. It’s all work. Work is a beautiful thing. So I think when we talk about work/life balance, what we’re really saying is job/life balance. A 40 hour per week job is about a quarter of our life, but depending on the job, it may be much, much more. For some, this is okay. Their job is their life and their sole focus. For many others, they have other important work to tend to. How much time do we spend beyond the 40 hours we get paid for: ruminating about “job related” stuff, reading emails, travel time to and from the job, and the list goes on and on. As I’ve been practicing being mindful of my thoughts, I have noticed they are almost totally consumed with job related things from the first thing in the morning until I go to bed at night. See here for article about thoughts by Wes Nisker that I read while doing my MBSR course. My colleagues frequently talked about waking up at the 3 A.M. bewitching hour, obsessed with worry thoughts about their job. Sometimes a job can consume us so much, we have nothing left for our other important work.
So, it seems that part of this job/life balance is practicing mindfulness and being aware of each precious moment, and stop wasting so many precious moments lost in thought or conversation beyond the 40 hours we are paid for, and instead use those moments to be fully engaged in our other imporant work. Again, sounds so simple, but not easy. Sometimes a job, even one that we love and gives us meaningful work, may run so much interference with the rest of our life’s work, that the only way we can really let go, is by simply leaving, by actually giving ourselves the physical space we need to reduce the chatter and run away thought train. This is the choice I’ve made, but I’ve been fortunate enough to minimize my financial risk by saving and planning for this next chapter in my life, I just may have departed sooner than previously planned. My letting go actually involved ending my job. I believe we are created to work. It brings us much fulfillment and meaning in our lives. Me writing this blog is work (though unpaid) and I love doing it. As I write this, Chris is doing research on purchasing a Come-A-Long to help his building project. He is “working”. As Chris and I start this next leg of our journey, I will be curious to see how our work evolves now that I am not confined to a job…but then, there’s always the issue of money.
Until next time ~ Diane
It’s the new year and Chris and I leave for our road trip soon. In the meantime, I’m still working long hours at my job as a clinical director for a non-profit organization and it feels rather bittersweet. More sweet than bitter, as you can see from my photo as I jump for joy in our beautiful local park. Bitter because I so love and believe in the mission of our work and I will miss it along with all of my amazing and dedicated colleagues and the bravery and inspiration of the women we are so honored to serve. Sweet because I will not miss the frustration I so often feel from working with challenging systems. Chris and I have been planning our ‘gap’ year for some time, and the process we’ve gone through to make this major change in our lives reminds me of stages of change that one goes through when changing a behavior related to their health, such as stopping smoking, or exercising more. We’ve been stuck in ambivalence for awhile. Things feel very serendipitous, and it feels as if the universe is speaking to us saying there is no time like now. It becomes apparent to me that Now is the time for me to leave my job. I’m not handling the stress with my typical equanimity, and somehow lost myself somewhere along the way. My health suffers and my heart hurts, literally and figuratively. So like the stages of change, the universe helps us to see the pros of making this major life change now. It really is related to our health, both physical and mental. Now is the time to strengthen our mindfulness practice, something we’ve been practicing and teaching for twenty years, but that seemed to fall by the wayside. In preparation of our trip, I’m doing an 8 week online Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course, now in my 4th week. I’ve been wanting to do this course for years, but have found it too cost prohibitive, so I’m thrilled to find this course for free. My intent is to strengthen and deepen my daily mindful practice. You may want to check out this free online MBSR course for yourself. There will be much for us to explore and share on this exciting journey. Until next time, enjoy the NOW. ~ Diane