Friday, April 30, 2010

Making Space for What Matters

I recently wrote a "HELP ME!" sort of email to someone whom I truly admire. I see her as someone who has it together on all levels. She is fit inside and out. From afar, it also looks like she has a lot on her plate and manages to keep it all working gracefully.

I basically asked her how she does it. How she fits it all in. I asked her a nuts and bolts sort of question: what does your daily routine look like?

She wrote back with an unexpected (and yet not...) answer. This woman, whom I look up to as a powerhouse of the Get-It-Done sort, said to me (in a nutshell): "Yes, when you added dance and teaching to all you do, I was worried. Something has to give; you have to make choices."

But wait, I wanted to yell to her! What about your daily schedule? Don't you have a favorite calendar that keeps track of things and smacks you in the ass when you aren't working fast enough, hard enough, good enough? HELP!

Her Gentle & Wise Reminder of What is Important was not exactly the kind of smack this CrazedChick had in mind. Where was the magic pill or liquid or cake or whatever?!

I can make fun of myself now, many days of thinking later, but at the time, I was crazed. I did want a magical calendar system that would Fix My Life.

I spent some hours online looking for an application that would simultaneously: 1) Keep track of every single idea that flitted across the surface of my brain (God forbid I lose any of that brilliance!); 2) Tell me what to do and when and for how long; 3) Guide me through the writing of three books at the same time; 4) Interrupt me when it was time to meditate; 5) Chronicle ideas for choreography directly from my muscles to paper; 6) Mainline my espresso at regular intervals...

You get the idea.

After some breathing and talking to Marcy, I calmed down enough to start soaking in my mentor's wisdom. (Yes. Mentor. That is how I see Ana Brett.)

Now, slowly, but surely, I am Making Space for What Matters. My priority is dance. Period. I must make choices that support that. Some of these choices will be difficult and some are only a matter of changing ways of thinking that do not support my creative life.

For example, I moved more of the furniture out of the living room. Easy, right? But I had to stop and think about what the real purpose of our home is. And it's not to entertain! It's to be the space we need it to be.

By moving that furniture, I remind myself every day that I am to be using that new space.

Yesterday, I read this great post over at Zen Habits about killing our to-do lists and focusing on One Thing. I am instituting that, starting today. I am putting all those bits of paper that hold a million ideas into a folder. They aren't going anywhere but letting them cover my desk is only reminding me of what I am not working on, when I should just be focusing on what I am working on.

Each day, when I wake, I will ask myself, "What is my One Thing today." I will learn to trust my instincts, just as I do every time I get in front of a group to teach yogadance.

Last night, with that Zen Habits piece floating around in my brain, I also realized that I am working with old ideas of myself when it comes to something as seemingly simple as my reading choices.

I do not let myself read what I really want to read right now, because I think I should be reading certain sorts of things.

Silliest idea ever!

But this is how we stop ourselves from really diving into our Passions. We resist even the best sorts of change by continuing to live with old labels.

I am making space by giving up those old labels.

It's scary to me. I've lived with those labels for a long time, and they served me through great difficulty in this life.

Time to say "thank you" and move on.

Like Ana said, something has to give. If I want to live my priorities, my bliss, I must choose to be brave.


svasti said...

Actually, my teacher has a similar idea but allows for three things. You get to write a list of three things that you will absolutely do that day - your three most important tasks (and you define for yourself what's important).

Anything else you do in the day is cool, as long as you get your list covered first.

The making space thing is good, in both literally and as an analogy of what you're trying to do with your life.

Because you need space to make it happen, just like Shiva and Shakti. Shakti is the creative force, but it requires Shive (space) in which to occur. One can't exist without the other... :)

tinkerbell the bipolar faerie said...

Sounds like some very wise advise. This makes me think of Tess's post on framing and focus, and also the concept of composition in photography. Photographer must choose carefully what to capture with her lense. An attempt to capture too much results in visual chaos.

Tess said...

I suffer from the same illusion that I can fit an endless amount of things into my life. Sometimes I really resent sleeping, although I love it and I love dreaming.
I love Leo's post as well (in fact I think his writing at ZH and Mnmlist is going from strength to strength). I think this has to be taken in tandem with one of his other big pieces of advice, which is to get the "big rocks" out of the way first. Those can include things you have to do rather than passions, and that's where another kind of choice comes in.
But as we slowly whittle away the things we have to do and don't want to, it leaves much more time for the passionate stuff.
I love that so many of us are on this journey together, simplifying and chipping away at our lives.

StorytellERdoc said...

A fantastic post, C. Thanks for "passing it on".


organicsyes said...

Yes...I have chosen 3...folktale method, I think of it as:)

Christine Claire Reed said...

Leo over at Zen Habits based his whole book on the formula of THREE most important things.

This recent post is about simplifying that even further and I think he's onto something with it. his original post that I link to. It also happens to be some of his best writing ever, I think.

The post is about killing those lists. I agree with him -- they sap our energy. If you can't keep it in your head, then it's not important enough.

Christine Claire Reed said...

Oh, and Tinkerbell, yep, this is a continuation of a reaction I had to that great Tess post about framing, which I linked to in the original reaction. She is writing some great stuff about all of this.

Megan Matthieson said...

Oh..I love my lists! But what a great idea. Choosing the one thing and REALLY doing it. The main course anyway, and then I can have a couple of sides. :)

claire said...

I already know you're brave, Chrstine. Best of luck with your life simplifications...
I'm simplifying my own life all the time...

Rowena said...

I know this feeling and this problem. But maybe we're not supposed to have it all figured out, perfected, and productive.

Maybe we're supposed to have failures and fall downs and forgettings.

I've had a lot in the last few years. But I've also had successes that I've never managed to attain before. So maybe we are on the right track, after all.

Lisa said...

Am laughing because *I* wasn't the 'fit' friend you contacted with that email! Apparently I don't appear to have it all together! Hee, hee!

I'm giving up trying to control my life and relax more into going with the flow. Obviously, there is the necessary DO-ing, but it is really more in just BE-ing that I find my peace.

What I 'do' doesn't matter as much as to 'who I AM' when I'm doing it. I'm finding the same is true for the people with whom I spend time. We may be working on a very worth cause, but if they're driving me crazy and tweaking my anxiety switch, then it's not healthy for me to be with them.

Our egos try and trap us into puffed up versions of worth by accomplishment or importance. My daily goal is just to BE present and enjoy what comes, noting each step of the way that I have a choice of whether to create more suffering or more happiness and peace.

Many wise blessings to you as you seek balance in this part of your journey, dear one.

Brooks Hall said...

Yes, I can relate with what you're saying here. And I know what my One Thing is for the month of May...

Laurina said...

I love the idea of just prioritizing...I've been trying to do that outside of work, but I tried narrowing down my to do list at work ( I cant really choose what I feel passionate about doing at work)...and of course doing just one thing is impossible when you work for an organization that, as wonderful as it is, totally expects you to multi-task, scatters you....thanks for sharing and Ana Brett is amazing!

Lisa said...

Boy can I relate to this one. And based on the comments, so can everyone else!

I am in a similar phase right now. IO need to re-prioritize on a general level, and then find that 'one thing' each day. And somedays it is out of my control - if one of my kids get sick or has a crises, obviously that comes first. I guess that is always true for all of us - life's not in our control.

But glad to find the reinforcement and honest new thoughts on this here, the real-life stuff we all are going through every day...

Patty - Why Not Start Now? said...

Hi, just discovered your blog, and it's great. This resonates so much with me too. Did you ever hear about the photographer Jim Brandenburg? I wrote about him last week. Anyway, he decided to take just one photo a day for 90 days, to really focus and concentrate on only what his heart needed/wanted. Such wisdom there. I try to cram way too much into my day/life, and my creative visions sometime overwhelm me. So lately I've really been focusing on what I need to let go of, and my big awareness is that letting go is not just about things I don't want. That's easy. Letting go is also about things I love.

Susan said...

Boy this post is timely, Christine! I also read Leo's post and today was thinking...what is my one thing. I also found a simple method of keeping projects on target...a version of what I've used for years over at about "getting things done"...using a simple notebook.

I'm doing some similar choices...clearing out old to make room for new, identifying what is important.

Great timing - great post!