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Thursday
Aug302012

Rooms 42-45: Slow Down and Enjoy the Oatmeal

 “It is better to travel well than to arrive.”
Buddha

Rooms 42-45: Slow Down and Enjoy the Oatmeal
Enjoying the Journey of Everyday Life

I went into the kitchen yesterday morning and at 5:42 A.M. made one of the most profound and important decisions in my life. I had oatmeal. I didn’t weep or anything, but I did hug my kids a little tighter. Kissed the wife a little longer. I felt peace. Finally. 

And, yes, the oatmeal was delicious. A warm, tasty bowl of freedom.  

While I do not keep a daily log of my breakfasts, I can guess that I have not had oatmeal for at least 45 days. The reason is simple. I’ve been stressed out, busy, tired, and overwhelmed. And when you get right down to it, why eat oatmeal, which takes 7 minutes to prepare, when I could be eating Cheerios in less than a minute. 

Of course, I didn’t fully realize the depth of my obsessiveness until I spilled the box of Cheerios onto the kitchen floor, where like a pile of Tarot cards they seemed to be speaking right at me. 

I knew what they were saying, too. I wasn’t living. I was existing. Surviving. 

Somewhere along the line, I had unwittingly bought into the untruth that I am only moving forward if every moment of my day is productive, if every moment has a return on investment. Forget about smelling the roses, I couldn’t even carve out a few minutes for some lumpy oatmeal. I was a captive of my own productivity. 

But what can I say? That’s what anxiety does to you, that and wanting to be somewhere else in your life. It messes with our heads, and makes us feel as if there’s no time for other things in our lives. No time to go to a movie, take a walk, enjoy a sunset, or a nap, a long lunch, time with friends.

This morning wasn’t a choice about what cereal to have, it was a choice about how I would approach my day from this moment forward. 

My choice was easy. Today, I would reclaim my life. 

Yes, I would still make every moment count, but now I would make it count for what’s important. Yes, I would still have challenges to face, places to get to, dreams to achieve, but I would no longer allow my future to take over my life, rob me of my joy, my enthusiasm, my oatmeal. 

Rooms 42-45: Slow Down and Enjoy the Oatmeal
Enjoying the Journey of Everyday Life 

This weeks room is simple. We’re going to slow down our day and in the paraphrased words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, begin to enjoy the “journey as much as the destination.” 

Here are 6 tips to get us started.

1. Don’t try to fit 68 minutes into an hour.
I know we all want to be productivity experts, but enough is enough. Let’s face it. It’s almost impossible to enjoy the journey if we try to pack too much into our day. Just like with our over-scheduled vacations, we get tired and cranky, unable to see or appreciate anything. While we certainly have to be efficient with our time, cramming too much into our day dilutes the quality of it, leaving us with burnout and resentment. 

And this is the exact point in our journey when we scream from the back seat, “Are we there yet?” 

This week, let’s avoid the “more is better” trap and cut our to-do lists in half. We can replace that time with focus and concentration. We’ll not only get more done, but we’ll do it better. Most importantly, we’ll enjoy the journey a whole lot more.  

2. Reward your productivity.
Ever notice how we reward our hard work and productivity by freeing up time to do more work. While we might accomplish in four hours what it use to take us six hours to do, it means nothing if we use those extra 2 hours to do more work. 

We shouldn’t become productive so we can fit more work into our lives, but so that we can fit more life into our day. The payoff for our efficiencies should be that we have more time to do the things we love, not less. 

This week, find 2 or 3 ways to increase your productivity, then take the time saved to do something for yourself that has no value other than to make you happy—share a TV show with your kids, a walk with your spouse, a run in the park, a cup of tea, a good book, a half hour of yoga, some meditation. Whatever. 

If we can find time each day for these moments, it will bring focus and purpose to our work, while bringing balance back to our lives.

3. Work hard, but don’t put your nose to the grindstone.
The problem with putting our nose to the grindstone is that we’ll see nothing but the grindstone. We become so focused on the work that we lose our creative ability to listen to what the universe wants us to know. We shut out the universe with our work ethic, instead of catching the answers in the ebb and flow of every day life, which is exactly where the real answers exist. 

The “24/7—Always On Call” mentality is officially over. This week, let’s devote part of our day, however small, to shutting off and putting away anything work or household related. That means pens, papers and computers; iPhones, iPads and Blackberry’s. No email. No texting. No phone calls. No to-do lists. We’re going to completely shut down our minds and disconnect. 

And if it takes watching the Real Housewives of Iran to do it, so be it. 

The payoff for “shutting down” is not only renewal and regeneration, but cultivating our ability to gently look away from our problems, which is often the exact moment we find their solutions. 

4. Live healthy. Live right.
Keeping up with our busy and stressful lifestyles takes energy.  Exercising, eating well and meditating keeps us active, aware and healthy, allowing us to face the challenges of life. 

Of course, it not only gives us the energy to enjoy the journey, but also puts our focus on our own personal growth, which is where our real journey lives. 

If you’re already active in this area, keep at it. If not, incorporate one or two healthy lifestyle choices into your day, then build from there.  

5. Enjoy the process.
The problem with destinations is that they’re few and far between. If you live to find the new job, sell the book, lose the 20 pounds, climb the mountain, sail across the ocean, what happens when you do it? Well, if you’re living only for the destination, it’s going to feel anticlimactic, which only goes away if you find yourself a new goal. That’s a vicious cycle to fall into.  

But, if you’re wise, you’ll learn to cultivate an appreciation for the process. In fact, that is where the real magic exists. After all, it’s not really about the marathon you’ve finished, but every time you ran when you didn’t feel like getting out of bed. It’s not about finding the job, but all the changes you had to make in your life to get it. 

Everyday there is so much to appreciate in our journeys. Our job is to find them…all of them. Doing so puts focus on the journey and brings meaning and purpose to our lives. 

6. Recognize & value the experiences of your journey.
It’s impossible to look at life as a journey if we don’t recognize and value the experiences that make up our journey. And not the outer experiences, but the inner ones. 

I’m talking about the journey we take alone; the one that’s happening inside our hearts and minds, deep in our Soul; the one that determines whether we’ll become conscious or fall back asleep. 

It’s a journey that begins with two choices. Will we open up to these everyday experiences? And will we see them for the gift they are? 

If we say yes, and we keep our eyes wide open, it won’t be long before we’ll begin to see value in every nook and cranny of our journey—all the up’s, down’s, stops, starts and u-turns; and every challenge and lesson that comes our way. If we say yes, we will begin to see that it’s all there for our growth, a gift to help us become who we were meant to be.  

The experiences of our journeys are not just stepping stones to our dreams, they are how we earn the truth to our dreams. When we arrive at the top of the mountain, we don’t want to just say we made it, we want to say we are different because of the experience. 

This is what it means to be transformed…and it comes through our awareness that it is the journey that has made us who we are and not the destination.     

So, go ahead…enjoy the oatmeal. 

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