“I feel so unmotivated,” my student said. “There’s so much to do, and no matter what I do, it doesn’t seem to make a dent in what I need to get done. I get so frustrated. Then, I watch Netflix, and then I feel guilty for doing that. I don’t know what to do.”
I said, “I understand.”
He said, “So what do I do?”
I said, “You give yourself a break.”
He looked at me, unconvinced. The whole class looked at me like I was a teensy bit crazy. Give ourselves a break? DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH WE NEED TO GET DONE???
YES, I DO. I know how much you think you need to get done. I know that our whole nation thinks there is so much more you should be doing. And I know that the good old NOT DOING ENOUGH train of thought is a very popular ride. I’ve been on that crazy train. Every stop is frustration station.
How do you get off a crazy train? You don’t need a meditation retreat. You need a minute. Give yourself a break.
Slow down. You have a minute. Take a minute. Take a deep breath. You can speed up that crazy train, and you can slow it down.
Tried, true, and well-traveled neural pathways are called “trains of thought.” They move fast because you practice them. My crazy train sounds like this:
You are never doing enough. Never skinny enough. Never good enough at your job. Never good enough to your friends. Never get your dog enough exercise. Never make enough of a difference in the world. Always screwing things up.
AAAAAAAAAAA THAT FEELS TERRIBLE. UGH UGH UGH. Are you ready to get off that train? Well, before a train can switch tracks, you need to slow it down.
Deep breath. Exhale. Another. Take a minute. Slow it down. Practice this:
It’s ok. I’m feeling frustrated. That’s ok. My smart brain is running old programs. My busy brain is tired and afraid. I can be compassionate with myself. I can observe my thoughts. I can question my thoughts. Are they true? I know I am ok right now. I am ok right here.
This past weekend, I heard Tama Kieves speak. She said that when you get upset you’re like a shy kitten hiding under the barn. How would you deal with a shy kitten hiding under the barn? Would you yell at it?
No. You soothe a shy kitten. You coax a shy kitten. You put out a saucer of warm milk.
I said to my student, “It’s ok that you’re watching Netflix. Watching Netflix is legal. There’s nothing wrong. You are calming yourself down. Let that be ok. Let yourself relax. When you relax, you will think of a better idea. You will calm down and make a plan. You will calm down and focus. You will calm down and reach out to a friend. You will calm down and seek out help. It’s all ok. Everyone in this room can relate to you right now. You are brave. You can do this.”
Hey, kitty cat: I know you think you have so much to do. I know you think you aren’t doing enough. I know you don’t believe me when I say it, but you really need to give yourself a break. Who you are right now, today, is enough. What you do every day is enough. Enough is enough. Refuse to judge and shame and ridicule yourself. You don’t think that way.
You give yourself breaks. You let your crazy brain calm down. You stay on your own side. You know that, from a calm place, you always find a better way.
Slow down, step back, deep breath. Over and over again. All day long. For the rest of your life.
And maybe… just maybe… you might even start to realize that you are way better than ok. You might even realize you are doing more than enough. You might even realize that your brain just wants to protect you. You might realize that you are becoming mindful and compassionate and courageous and brave.
You may even start to believe that you’re purrfect. Oh, yes. Mmm hmm. That feels right, shy kitty.