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Stop and Reflect (Part II)

I am currently reading Cal Newport's book, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, in which he explains how we can get more done in less time on projects that are important to us, by focusing our full attention and eliminating distractions. He cites convincing research about the negative effects of multi-tasking on our overall productivity to support his argument. Since starting the book, I've been increasingly noticing how addicted I am to distraction and how I tend to ease my boredom or procrastinate via social media (specifically, Instagram), mind-wandering, opting for a snack or beverage break, engaging in superficial conversation, fidgeting, running non-essential errands, and etcetera. The questions I am now asking myself are (1) why do I distract myself; and (2) how do I stop? For the second question, Cal offers practical tips which include having a meditation practice (I'll say more after), setting aside specific times during the day for deep work done in a private space where you won't be distracted (consider your local Starbucks out). While you are working, put a "do not disturb" sign on your door, shut off email notifications, turn your phone off or put it out of sight, and commit to not doing anything else until the allotted time has finished. Similarly, he recommends an "Internet Sabbath," where we designate specific times during the day to use our technology (web surfing, phone, email, video games, etc.) and then avoid it for the rest of the day, so we can focus on work that is more meaningful.

As a meditation teacher, it would be remiss of me if I didn't say a little more about the benefits of meditation for deep work. Meditation can help settle the fear-based thoughts in our minds that keep us stuck in toxic emotions (anxiety, guilt, regret, etc.). Settling our thoughts also clears our head to make more room for the deep work. It also gives us the opportunity to reconnect with our heart/intuition to access its wisdom. Meditation can additionally help us become more aware of when we feel triggered, so we can choose to respond to our environment in a loving way. Lastly, it trains us to become more comfortable with discomfort, so we can acknowledge and accept when negative emotions/experiences arise, to work through them and then let them go. (Please send me a message if you want to learn more.)

In regard to why I turn toward distractions, I've been doing some reflecting and trace it back to a fear of "not being enough." Why do I distract myself with Instagram? Consciously, I want to see what other people are doing, so I can be inspired. However, unconsciously I believe I want to measure myself up against others and confirm that I have valuable things to share. Perhaps I am also looking for something outside of myself (an external distraction) to make me feel happy and whole, which again implies that I think I need to be and do more; and that my life needs to be more. Or perhaps the present moment is uncomfortable and feels out of my control and I don't have confidence/trust in my ability to handle it, so instead of dealing with the moment, I opt instead to distract myself or procrastinate. These beliefs are toxic and not only do they distract me from my deep work, but they are also destructive to my overall confidence, courage, and growth.

Potential remedies for this fear of "not enough-ness" have been showing up in my environment of late (synchronicity?). Author Mel Robbins (The 5-Second Rule) suggests "to stop giving a shit" and just take authentic action. Who cares what your friends think?! If they aren't supportive or at least understanding then they don't belong in your tribe. Maya Angelou also laments on the sadness of "a story untold." When we escape this moment or when we hide ourselves from the world, we not only deprive ourselves of self-love and the gift of being able to live authentically, but we also deprive the world of our bird song.

"I'm not enough" is a battle I started to fight some time during my teenage years. I'm learning every day how to win this war and am becoming more and more aware of when it rears its ugly head in my life. The more I become aware, the easier it is for me to choose new thoughts and behaviors that reflect the love I want to express in the world, for both myself and for others. My first step towards change will be to continue cultivating this moment-to-moment awareness of my behaviors (we can't change what we are not aware of); and then putting Cal's tips to work will be the second. As such, I commit to (1) increasing the length of my morning (meditation) sit, (2) setting 2 times during the day (after breakfast and lunch) for my social media and internet usage, and (3) listening to a guided meditation my partner (David) created for me to directly penetrate my subconscious with suggestions of peace, calm, confidence, and courage, every night before going to bed.

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