When I have free time, it can feel like a burden to ask myself what I want to do or what I should do. I sometimes bring judgement into it, about what would be the BEST use of time, the MOST fun, or the most productive... And then if I can't decide, I'll just play around on my phone for a long time without even realizing that it means I have decided to do something after all...just not something that feels good So I have lately started to ask myself: what is required? What does my current state call for? And sometimes: what would show the most love to myself? It is always something different: my body might be hurting, and gentle yoga is called for. Maybe a snack is required. Perhaps my head feels jumbled, and writing would be just the ticket.
I can't exactly say why this phrasing works so much better for me, but it does. Actually, now that I think about it, maybe I can point to why it feels better. To ask what I should do next encourages me to use my brain and my judgement to think about what activities are valuable or desirable. But to ask what is required encourages me to be mindful of myself, inside and out. It asks me to scan the state of my mind and body and figure out my actions based on what I need at the moment.
I've been consciously doing this for a couple of weeks and each time I've asked the question, a quick and easy answer has come to mind. Today, though, it took me a little bit to figure it out. Despite the fact that Sunday is still the weekend and I'm as free as a bird, despite the fact that my Monday is looking to be very low-key, despite the fact the the sun is shining...there is some anxiety and sadness mixed into my feeling-potpourri today. I feel a bit down and on edge. I don't want these emotions. I want uncomplicated joy and peace, and maybe a little curiosity.
So first, I thought, "What is required?" None of the "activities" that I thought of really sounded appetizing or effective in terms of addressing these unwanted emotions. As I thought about it more, I realized yet again that the point is not to get rid of negative or inconvenient emotions. The answer is not to write or run or eat or whatever and get rid of the negative emotions. Sometimes what is required is just to be with the emotions. So that's what I am doing now-- being with, turning toward my emotions, even though they aren't pretty. Yes, I will do other things, too, but not as an antidote to having unwanted feelings. The feelings can stay as long as they need to.