I am drawn to (driven to?) productivity, as many of us are. It comes through our culture, this emphasis on doing, doing, doing. It feels good then, to be productive and to accomplish a lot in a day. It feels gratifying, as if all of this doing means something. If I dig way down deep, achieving seems to mean that I am enough-- good enough, hardworking enough. At the same time, this can feel like a kind of tyranny-- that I MUST accomplish a lot, and if not, it could mean that I failed in some way. But what if I’m tired? What if I’m not feeling well?
I feel sometimes like I have been given a ten-speed again. Opportunities come my way that are justout my my comfort zone, that I need to really stretch to meet. My emotions go all over the place-- gratitude, fear, excitement, anxiety, overwhelm, and then the guilt of feeling negative feelings at all, when clearly opportunities are GOOD!
That swim seems to me like a miniature model of life. Anxiety crescendos and decrescendos; joy alights and then flies away. Grief goes on and on; overtaking me for a time and then lying low. Those anchovies are still out there somewhere in the ocean; sometimes they're all I can see, and sometimes the water is clear. Things come and then they go.
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.
Fredrickson gives a map of how to induce the upward spiral in our lives-- by intentionally creating and savoring positive moments, states, activities. I took the general principles that she mentions and brainstormed my own lists-- things I could do in my life to shift the balance just slightly from the negative to the positive. Each week, I would create a set of little goals for myself.
The purpose of sitting meditation is not just to learn to quiet our minds while sitting, but to increase our capacity for whole-life meditation, living and breathing mindfulness in our regular lives. Have you felt these moments? The glimpses of what it is like to be so "meta"— to be aware that you're aware?