I have a client who laughingly says she loves to “cheat the system” — find a short cut, an easier way, a faster route and get “more bang for her buck.”
She remembers doing it as a child at school. When she was supposed to be learning how to touch type she got so frustrated with how slow it was she peeked under the hand-guard and typed faster by looking at the keys.
When she was studying and working in the corporate world she became addicted to multi-tasking — if she could possibly get two or more things done at once she would definitely feel like she was “cheating the system”, saving time and getting more done.
And when she was driving she used to compete with the other cars in the lanes next to her to see if her zippy lane changes could get her just that little bit ahead of the pack. No she didn’t have any car accidents, but she did feel she had an edge.
And this is not unlike many in our “quick fix” “instant” culture — if mindfulness was a pill we might all be taking it, but like exercise, it takes effort to realize the gains.
Cutting to the chase, getting the short answer, moving on faster and not wasting time doing it the standard way all felt like gaining ground and making the most of the time she had.
So when she came to me for coaching in mindfulness — and even self compassion — she was really keen to find short, sharp, quick fixes that could get her to the destination without sitting for hours or going on retreats.
The good news from Richard Davidson, pioneering researcher from The Centre for Investigating Healthy Minds is that even with as little as two weeks practice, we can achieve lasting change in both behavior and our brains.
With my help she also discovered many short exercises she can do throughout the day like this mindful pause, mindful driving and a gratitude bedtime routine she now does regularly with her children.
And it only takes a few minutes each day to experience brain changing gratitude that is rewiring her brain for happiness and well-being.
But (yes, you knew there would be a “but,” didn’t you?) she can’t cheat the system when it comes to lasting stillness and self compassion. And that’s where the deeper self acceptance and peace lie.
Just like multi-tasking reduces productivity and cheating in typing class didn’t really get her where she needed to go (she still has to look at the keys and it slows her down terribly) nor will whipping through practices of mindfulness and self compassion. Or trying to practice without slowing down and being still long enough to genuinely touch in on what is tender and fragile.
My client really resonated with this Facebook post when she noticed a bit of cheating going on:
She acknowledges that the pull of “getting more done faster” can interfere with genuine and heart felt mindfulness practice. The kind of practice that creates lasting peace and well-being.
So yes, she will keep doing her mindful pause, her mindful driving practices and the whole host of other short and realistic practices I teach busy parents like her — but she will also:
- Tune in to her tendency to move quickly and send that feeling kindness and compassion.
- Choose to slow down several times a day and just savor some stillness with no other agenda.
- Dedicate time to longer sitting practice that goes deeper and grounds her more strongly.
- Be curious about any disingenuous tone to her practice.
- Embrace her humanness and remind herself that in this crazy busy world of ours, “other people feel this” too, that this is a lifelong habit, heavily influenced by our culture, and that she needs to be patient with her efforts to shift it.