Life on the Learning Curve

Is your life full of busy-ness? Some days I feel like I’m drowning in busy-ness. I’m not the only one. I find it hard to get people together at one time and in one place – even for something fun. Scheduling conflicts abound. There are so many worthwhile things to invest time in. Maybe too many choices sometimes. The biggest clue for me that I’m DOing instead of BEing is a simple lack of joy. I feel like I’m fighting against life itself.

Like a brick upside the head the lack of joy reminds me that I need to consciously create space for the important things in my life. This often means I have to choose ‘best’ things over ‘good’ things. The question is, how can I arrange my life to fit everything in?

Creating Space

Years ago a Stanford professor, endeavoring to teach his students about life’s priorities brought out a jar, some fist-sized rocks, pebbles, and sand. As I heard the story, he put enough big rocks into the jar to come up to the rim and asked his students if the jar was full. They said yes. But then he added the pebbles so it wasn’t full after all. “Is the jar full now?” They were a little more cautious this time but again said yes. So he added the sand. It filled the space between the pebbles and the larger rocks showing that there had been more room in the jar after all. “Is the jar full now?” Hmmmm. Looks like it. So he poured water into the jar, which filled the remaining gaps. All this showed that a lot can fit in the jar if arranged and prioritized in the appropriate way. (I’ve seen a later adaptation of this where beer is used instead of water… showing that there’s always room for a beer in there somewhere.) Here’s a silly little minute long clip I found on Youtube that illustrates what I’m talking about.

This illustration shows an important life principle. If we put the sand in the jar first there is little room for pebbles and no room at all for the bigger rocks. So many of us fill our jars up with the minutia (sand) of the day to day: phones ringing, emails to answer, endless computer tasks, searching for lost socks – that when we want to fit in the things that are truly important – like our various relationships, our life goals, creative outlets, or even a dream vacation, there is simply no space left. The space is already taken up with the insidious stuff that really doesn’t matter. There is no room to even shoehorn in the big and important things.

Up until this moment I haven’t given much thought to identifying my big rocks. Hmmm. Might be a good idea to know what they are. Here’s my short list as I’ve identified it so far. I hope you, too, will identify the important things in your life: goals and dreams, important relationships, creativity, maybe some health stuff. It’s hard to fit those in first if you don’t know what they are.

  • Connecting with Spirit, finding my center and personal power
  • Spending time with friends and family
  • Health tune ups with my naturopath to keep up my energy and strength
  • Being in nature to align myself with the earth’s natural rhythms
  • Being with quiet to give my inner creative breathing room
  • Writing, journaling, or taking photos to capture my thoughts along the journey
  • Exercise, eating well, and sleeping enough to have the juice to do all I want to do
  • Body, hair and skin care, read: massages, sauna, steam room, and luxuriating self-care once in a while

These are not in any particular order but I do notice they they are all in service of the first one. Connecting with Spirit is where I find peace and joy. It’s a great relationship in which to invest. Friends and family have next priority. Though those encounters can be haphazard I will rearrange my life to accommodate them when they appear on my radar. Those opportunities pass quickly and I don’t want to miss them. Parents age, grandchildren grow, friends move. I want no regrets from missing opportunities with any of them.

When I give place to the big things that are important to me the other stuff seems to settle naturally into its given place. Even as I write this I am laughing. The teacher always teaches what she needs to learn, yes? I don’t always remember to prioritize as well as I would like. Sometimes the sand of life gets in first and clogs things up despite my best efforts. I get caught up in fighting the fires of daily living rather than creating anything. Since fire fighting demands every ounce of my attention I find that I want to get it done quickly and off my to do list so I can get back to the more important things. Though that sounds good, honorable, and all that jazz, the drive required to do that usually just makes me cranky. If only I could remember that the big things have to be first it would be so much easier. In order to fit it all in they have to be. It’s physics.

The second part of this article will be arriving in your inbox in a couple of weeks. Stay Tuned for some practical ways to create space in your life. Until then perhaps you’d like to identify your big rocks so you know what you’re prioritizing

From the Bookshelf

Power of Now

by Eckhart Tolle

Many of the things I have learned about accessing the present moment I learned from the book ‘The Power of Now’. This isn’t a novel that you can read in one sitting, or even a self-help book that you can one day grow past. It’s more like a compilation of daily meditations that will teach you how to expand the present moment when life feels constricted and cramped. If you feel like life is running you instead of you running it, I encourage you to check into this book. You’ll be glad you did. I believe that learning to be in the present moment is one of the best things divorcing people can do for themselves. It will give you a new approach to all the things other than you that want to run your life.