What does REALLY URGENT mean?
Here are some of my first responses to this question:
1. Someone in your vicinity (including you) is on fire.
2. Someone in your vicinity or related to you: is on the phone right now and has had a car accident* (the cause of which could have been the phone, but that is a story for another day), has had a fall down a flight of stairs, is in the deep end of a pool near you and obviously can’t swim, or appears to be having a heart attack or stroke (perhaps your own).
I think you get the gist. There are life and death situations that need your immediate attention.
AND YET we tend to live our lives like everything that calls to us needs our immediate attention. It’s a pervasive sense of urgency and it’s filling our days with tight muscles and knee jerk reactions that reflect annoyance and judgment.
To further instill this idea, people have been telling us since childhood the necessity and even glamour of accomplishment. All aspects of our culture champion those who DO the most each day, the multitaskers, the captains of industry. These are the ones who always manage to squeeze in one more appointment, errand, or e-mail. Does this sound familiar to you?
I’m inviting you to try something different today. More accurately, I am encouraging you to test how true this belief in urgency is. Watch for the tendency towards hurry and the need to get more things done. When you feel a strong sense of urgency, try slowing down, stopping on purpose.
See what’s happening in your body, in your mind, around you, right now. Investigate. Can you sit with that overwhelming impulse to do anything at all besides just be here now, and look behind it for a moment or two?
Writer Mark Nepo points out wisely: “The doorway to our next step of growth is always behind the urgency of now. …now more than ever, when the weights you carry seem tied to your wrists, you must not run or flail.”
Because being here brings you back to yourself. What is most important to accomplish today gets remembered in a way that reflects best your own authenticity and integrity. Today, for me, it’s noticing light snowfall, blackbirds flying over the gray landscape, writing and a few meetings, a dog walk.
Perhaps you will discover that choosing to be present to your moments and to take time to stop and be mindful, that one or two things on your “to-do” list don’t get done each day. And that the things that do get done are completed with more clarity and enjoyment and precision.
These are what Thoreau coined acts of voluntary simplicity.
Today, the tax prep sheets will not get done, (I have another few weeks), there will be no visit to the grocery store after working (there is enough food for today), so that I can present to my life without ceaseless rushing.
Here is a short meditation to get you here in your own life:
- Center yourself and feel the urgencies that pull at you.
- Feel the tension of each like a string stretched taut.
- With each breath, untie yourself, one urgency at a time.
- However briefly, breathe freely, even for a moment, untied to any urgency at all.