Today was my day off. I had nothing official on the schedule, no office work or band rehearsals or meetings or shows to go to. Despite this, there were things that needed to be done, and in many ways they were just as obligatory as showing up at my day job on Monday morning.
This sense of obligation is driven by the uncomfortable sensation that something has been left undone for too long. It’s a heavy, energy-sapping feeling that has a way of blocking action, creating inertia and anxiety and guilt, filling the mind with dread at doing and dread at not-doing. Continue reading “How unfinished tasks weigh us down”
I’m sitting here at my desk after doing some maintenance on a portable music device that has been bouncing around my home for the better part of a decade. Before taking up residence in a niche between the printer paper tray and the mouse pad, it used to hang out on an exercise bike and entertain me while I pedaled away .
The bike is long gone, donated to a seniors’ centre that could put it to better use, but this little electronic device has survived innumerable uncluttering purges. It hits a sweet spot for me: Not too big, not too fancy, and a useful thing to have (even if it does disappear for a year at a time and is rediscovered when I sweep under the desk and find it hanging out with the dust bunnies). Continue reading “Blast from the past”
Every Sunday, when I have no work commitments, no band rehearsals and nothing written in stone on my schedule, I sit down to have an intensive clarinet practice that can go on for hours. This is when I take a long, hard look at passages that are giving me trouble, and deconstruct them in fine detail.
Continue reading “Breaking it down”
At work the other day, I caught myself clock-watching. It was almost quitting time and I had one more item to take care of. Instead of just focusing on doing the work, I had to fight the urge to calculate how much remained to be done, divide by the number of minutes remaining, carry the two. That sort of thing.
In other words, I was thinking about making more work for myself, rather than less. Why? For some reason I wanted to know the exact minute I could shut down my computer, put on my coat, leave the office, and walk (or possibly run) to the bus stop.
It was the sheer silliness of that moment that inspired this post. Continue reading “It’s not over till it’s over”
I’ve had a driver’s license for a little over 16 years now. Lately there’s been a lot of talk in the news about “distracted driving,” which is something I find baffling and worrisome. It’s serious business, controlling an automobile. I don’t care how long you’ve been driving — barring a call for emergency assistance, there is no good excuse for fiddling around with a mobile phone while trying to keep abreast of traffic signals, road conditions and other critical things.
Phones aren’t the only potential distraction. There may be a cup of coffee and a breakfast sandwich in the compartment next to the driver’s seat, or a couple of kids fighting in the back of the car, or an unkennelled family pet who wants to cozy up on the driver’s lap. I don’t even like to have the radio on when I drive, unless it’s to get a heads‑up on traffic conditions going through a busy part of town. Even if you take away all these things, though, one distraction remains: The chatty part of one’s own mind.
Continue reading “What do you think about while you’re driving?”
For a while I’ve been pondering two things that seem to be diametrically opposed but related in some way. Mindfulness is a state of mental engagement where attention is deliberately focused intently on whatever is happening in the current moment. Flow, a concept that can be attributed to psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, puts the emphasis on performing an action near the limits of one’s ability.
What I find odd is that mindfulness seems to slow or even freeze time, whereas flow makes entire hours vanish in the blink of an eye, in the spirit of “Time flies when you’re having fun.” In my experience they’re both highly desirable states, well worth the effort to cultivate. Do they play well together, though? I think they can, and this is why: Continue reading “Mindfulness and flow”
It’s one of those lazy Sunday afternoons. I slept in, made a nice breakfast, and then started arguing with myself over what I have to do today. It would seem that whenever I have a large block of time open, my inner taskmaster immediately tries to fill it with sundry obligations.
Rather than immediately rushing off to do something, I finished my tea and then read a couple of articles in a magazine that had been left open on the dining room table, giving breakfast a few more minutes to digest. It didn’t take too long to come to the conclusion that most of my taskmaster’s orders were actually suggestions, without any urgency. Continue reading “Gotta, oughta, wanna”