Mindful Alarm

Marcus Cadman, Protector of the People

Its a common practice to rely on certain phrases as self-motivating, activating mantras; mottos to get us going, to hurry us along, put a move on it, pick up the pace, set stuff in motion and focus our attention. These inner incitements come in many forms, but they all have the same, underlying message: We’re really screwed this time, unless we work ourselves up into a lather.

Let’s listen in on these enlivening mantras: “I’ve got to get myself together… It’s later than I thought… I’ve got to get going… There’s not enough time… Time’s running out… There’s even less time now… Oh no, I must’ve forgotten something… I’m not gonna make it… Get out of my way… So many things to do, and I’m not getting it done… I have to do more… There’s something I have to do, but I don’t know what it is…”

Put all these panic phrases together, and the underlying message is that the world will end if we don’t meet a deadline or get to work on time. In short, we inspire ourselves through fear and panic, purposely telling ourselves the end is nigh.

Many of us start using these motivational mantras young in life, during our school days, as a way to push ourselves along; perhaps then our inertia was due to a lack of clear, discernible rewards for digesting and regurgitating the information required to move through grades and graduate. And so we learn to rely on fear and dread as catalysts, and how addicted do we become to the drama.

If we want a way out, it’s important to understand how these inducements work, to observe exactly how they motivate us. When we become aware of what’s going on beneath the thoughts, we’ll note that they’re not as benign as they appear.

What happens to the breath when we focus on this inner chatter? The breath quickens, the inhalations emphasized, the exhalations pushed out as quickly as possible, so we can pull in more oxygen; the breathing pattern of someone running from a wild bear, even though its just another morning.

What happens to the body? The brow tightens, the jaw clenches, the shoulders lock and lift, the chest feels hollow, the abdomen contracts, the muscles of the arms and legs engage, we’re in a state of fight, flight or flee.

What happens to the mind? It jumps about, unable to settle down, moving from one perception and speculation to another (the trains not coming… the clock… unhappy co-workers… the train…).

The more we peek behind the curtains and investigate, the more we diminish the power these phrases have over us. Once we really investigate the toll each alarm takes on us, we may become more willing to take life at its own pace, and actually allow ourselves to get down what we can achieve without the self-inflicted threats. And then we stumble upon what’s really surprising: We get just as much done without all the huss and fuss as we do with it. So, really, what’s all the fuss about anyway?

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