Think of a typical busy day … What time is it? … What are you doing? … Are you at work? … At home? … Who's there? … What are you saying to yourself? …
Now let go of all the stories in your mind … Tune in to your body … What do you feel? … Where do you feel it? … Are you excited or energized? … Are there butterflies in your stomach? … Is there tightness in your chest? … Are you at peace? … Are you tense? …
Follow the sensations wherever they lead you. Don't try to make them go away or to change them … Just observe what you're feeling without any judgment about whether it's good or bad … The only thing that matters is your willingness to be aware and stay present to your feeling.
Those words are from a guided meditation Joan Borysenko, a clinical psychologist and expert on stress, led recently at a conference of high-powered women in the health-care profession. As you considered the words – even if you have still been on vacation this week – you were probably plunged back into some of the darker moments and sensations at work. Like the women at that conference, the feelings of busyness may have stirred up anxiety, fear, sadness or grief. In that group setting, there were lots of tears, hugs and quiet expressions of comfort.
"You can talk about busyness and stay in your head, or you can move into your heart and feel the emotional reality of busyness in your body. When you're willing to do that, a space opens for emotions to do their work of informing, energizing, and motivating you to live your life in alignment with what's most important to you as a compassionate, caring human being," Dr. Borysenko writes at Mindful.org.
That's an important insight, but she adds another revelation from the group's experience that may apply to your own tussle for proper work-life balance. Several women realized that they were keeping themselves busier than they had to because the distraction of constantly being on the go suppressed unpleasant emotions from coming up. She suggests you address that possibility, and tackle the healing work so that busyness is no longer hidden, dysfunctional therapy that is distancing you from the life you would prefer.
Harvey Schachter is a Battersea, Ont.-based writer specializing in management issues. He writes Monday Morning Manager and management book reviews for the print edition of Report on Business and an online work-life balance column.
E-mail Harvey Schachter