Breathe. It sounds so simple, doesn't it? But how do we take a breath when there is simply too much to get done? And when we take that breath ... Will we ever catch up again?
This is something Shonda Moralis tackles in her new book, Breathe, Empower Achieve: 5-Minute Mindfulness for Women Who Do It All.
Shonda knows as well as any other that when you’re juggling a career, personal life, and family (plus your side projects), a smidgen of self-care, and the occasional need to sleep, “mindfulness” can sound like just another thing to do.
But as psychotherapist Shonda Moralis says, when we take five minutes for mindfulness now and then, it may not only save our sanity – but can springboard our success.
Here’s an exclusive excerpt from her exciting new book …
Excerpted from Breathe, Empower, Achieve: 5-Minute Mindfulness for Women Who Do It All © Shonda Moralis, 2019. Reprinted by permission of the publisher, The Experiment. Available wherever books are sold. theexperimentpublishing.com
The Green-Eyed Monster ...
Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for. – Epicurus
There are those workday mornings when the kids are en route to their respective schools and I am dashing out the door to my car, loaded down like a modern-day Sherpa with briefcase, handbag, and lunch box dangling precariously from my shoulders. As I pull out of the driveway, I glance over at my good friend and neighbor as she strolls back home from the bus stop, coffee mug in hand and ambling dog in tow. We each wave and extend a genuine smile goodbye. As I catch my breath and settle in for the short commute, I notice an uncomfortable tug of envy in my chest, as jealous thoughts begin to bubble up inside. Man, I would love to have time in my schedule to meander about with the household chores, lie down for an afternoon nap should the urge arise, peruse a magazine while sipping tea, and relish the freedom from deadlines, work schedules, and infinite e-mails.
I detect the emergence of envy for my friend’s relaxed pace, the fresh air and sunshine I imagine she has all morning to bask in, the stay-at-home-mom-of-school-age-children schedule wide open in front of her until her kids arrive home some seven and half hours later. Sheepishly, I catch myself, sigh, and coax my mind back to reality and the literal road in front of me, and then I commence the self-judgment. What is wrong with you? I admonish. You know her life is not all free time and bonbons nibbled decadently on the couch. I do know. This current object of envy is also one of my very best friends. She is an attentive, loving, carpooling mom (to three active kids) who also single-handedly keeps her household operating smoothly.
Hold on there, Shonda! my inner voice of reality booms firmly but kindly, you know exactly what this is about. For better or worse, the green-eyed monster of envy is not unfamiliar to me, creeping in every so often when my life balance has tilted too far in one direction. Thankfully, though, I have learned to recognize its appearance as an invaluable source of information if I am willing to examine it, and myself, with honesty. Though unpleasant and powerful, envy can also clue us in to what is missing in our lives. Lo and behold, here is that green-eyed monster again.
I ask myself, What is it you are really craving? The answer appears with surprising ease: I crave free, open, unscheduled time. Period. Not the imagined naps, not the magazines, not the work-free life. I am simply longing for more spaciousness in my calendar. When I am able to pause, take a step back, and examine my thoughts and emotions objectively, the bigger picture emerges with clarity. (This is one of the skills we are honing when we sit down each day to meditate. The more we practice noticing those thoughts, the more we can impartially observe them in the midst of our days.) With this bit of curious investigation and acceptance, the potentially destructive green-eyed monster skulks away as our focus turns to reality instead of assumptions, solutions instead of resentments.
It is only in naming our internal dialogue and feelings that allows us to tame them. (Name it to tame it, teaches the wise Dr. Dan Siegel.) Once I have acknowledged the existence of my thoughts and feelings, however unwelcome and humbling, I am free to choose what to do with them. Without the recognition of and owning up to my less-than-admirable musings, however, the potential for a palpable rift between my friend and me is likely, as envy positions itself firmly between the two of us, allowing those feelings of jealousy and resentment to fester.
This brief pause to gain a wider perspective not only alerts me to the green-eyed monster, but also reminds me that the proverbial grass is not always so green, opening up the perfect opportunity to reconnect with why I work (besides the financial need) and why I’ve opted for this particular career. Helping others is one of my most deeply held values. Though there are costs involved, I continue to choose my work because it brings me deep satisfaction. The thought of its absence is much too big a void, both in its lack of purpose and engagement and in the knowledge that without it I could imagine myself slipping easily into lethargy, boredom, and discontent. The benefits far outweigh the costs.
It is imperative not to compare the downsides of our lives to the perceived upsides of someone else’s. Comparisons are unhelpful at best, downright disastrous at worst. Life happens to everyone; we all face daunting challenges at some point. Letting go of comparing allows me to return to the true source of my envy in the first place—the imbalance, the longing, the simple desire for more white space on my calendar. Instead, I can put some problem-solving skills to work: How can I act on this realization? Where, precisely, can I carve out a bit of downtime and sense of freedom?
Since that morning in the driveway I have been more conscious about taking slow, mindful walks in the sunshine and periodically shutting down the computer a bit early to simply sit and allow my mind to wander. Not only have I carved out a bit of white space in my calendar, but, just as important, I have reconnected with and strengthened my deeper motivations for choosing my particular career path. I harbor no great delusions, though, that I am free of the green-eyed monster’s return. He will be back, I am sure. I will be waiting and curious to see what I can learn.
The Green-Eyed Monster Mindful Break
- When you notice a twinge (or more like a punch in the gut) of envy, congratulate yourself for catching and owning this very human reaction, perhaps even thanking it for bringing such valuable information to light. Only when we are aware can we choose our response.
- Pause to consider what the green-eyed monster is hoping to communicate. Sometimes the first answer is not the most enlightening. Keep asking. For instance, it may initially appear we are jealous of someone’s wealth, but when examined more deeply, we might uncover our true longing for financial security, less worry, or more positive social regard.
- Let go of comparing yourself with others, as this is essentially juxtaposing the outside of someone else with the inside of ourselves. Our comparisons are not exactly fair or accurate and bound to be a fruitless exercise in frustration. Firmly but kindly coax the focus back to yourself, heaping on a healthy dose of self-compassion and positive self-talk.
- Take some action on your own behalf. You have bravely identified what it is you are craving; now what steps will you take to ameliorate it? What is the smallest, most easily accomplished move you can make toward fulfilling your longing? Start with that.
- Do not fear the green-eyed monster. He is a prevalent and, if handled skillfully, benevolent visitor to us all.