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This week, I want to talk about intensity.  More specifically, I want to talk about a quote I heard.

I can’t remember exactly where I heard this quote, but I wrote it down and recently found it.  I think it might have been from a Sharon Salzberg meditation, but I am not sure.

It said, “We count on intensity to feel alive instead of stillness”

Wow.  How many of you can relate to that statement?  I definitely can.  I’m an excitement junkie. I love doing things at a fast pace. I like being busy and having tons of plans and projects but as I have found out on more than one occasion, it can also lead to overwhelm and burnout.  When I heard this quote, it hit home.  I do admit to feeling most alive when I’m out doing and pushing.  My biggest challenge is to slow down. To be still. To avoid filling empty minutes or seconds with something else and to just be.  I’ve always pushed for more and more because I love the excitement of learning and creating. I like adrenaline. I like pushing myself physically and mentally.  There’s a cost to pushing too hard.  I asked myself, “why do I need so much intensity?”  While I don’t have the answer, I decided to add in more stillness and see how it felt.  The reality is that the more restorative moments I take during my day, the more calm and at ease I feel.  A morning journal prompt I sometimes answer is “how do I want to feel today?” and a common response has been calm and at ease.  Doing more, achieving more, and being busier was not contributing to feeling calm and at ease.

Last summer, I sat down and wrote out the things that make me feel unhappy, stressed, or overwhelmed.  Next to it, I had a column to mark whether those things were in my control.  Almost all of them were.  And in a column next to that, I wrote down what a potential solution would be.  The answer to 90% of all of my stressors or feelings of overwhelm was the same.  Slow Down. 

In addition to scheduling less this year, saying no a lot more, and deliberately deciding that I will not do as many tasks in one day, I have consciously been adding in more moments to pause and slow down. It doesn’t have to be a big thing that’s hard to execute.  It’s taking a few seconds here and there. You don’t have to sit down and meditate (although we all know it’s good for us. It’s a habit I’m still trying to adopt. I constantly fall off the daily habit).  A meditation teacher would say that someone like me needs to sit down for even MORE time. I’ll get there one day I hope.

What are some moments of stillness you can add that contribute to feeling alive?  As I mentioned, it’s been helpful to simply add in many small moments during the day and it adds up!  It’s looking for those mindful moments that make you feel connected to earth, another person, or even to your body. For me, it’s been stopping on bike rides and just staring at or smelling the flowers. It’s appreciating nature instead of letting it zoom by because I need to get a loop done on the trail.  It’s paying attention to when the dirt changes color, or the striations in the rock.  It’s stopping and looking at the sky.  Out and about, it’s looking for human connection in moments when a lot of times, we’d zone out in our own thoughts or be on our phone like at the grocery checkout. An example and something I enjoy doing is looking the person in the eyes and asking them about their day and in a conversation where they can’t answer on autopilot. I always feel good after I connect with a person.   Other ways I’ve been adding in stillness are just sitting on my back porch step without anyone, without a device, and just seeing what I smell or feel.  Or if I’m standing in line somewhere, it’s feeling the tip of each toe while I’m standing there.  If I’m at a red light, I take 3 very big, slow breaths while I wait.

When I feel the excitement inertia starting to pull at me to jam something else into my schedule or start a new project, I try to remind myself that I don’t need more intensity, I need more stillness to feel calm and at ease.  When I do that, I always feel better. Having the calm or mindful moments help me feel more focused and even better when I am busy pushing, doing, creating, or going.

I’ll repeat the quote one more time for you.  I’d love to hear how you find stillness during your week and how you pendulum between intensity and stillness too!

“We count on intensity to feel alive instead of stillness”

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