Avoid The Rush

Avoid The Rush

What’s the hurry?

The Practice:
Avoid the rush.

Why?

As I was meditating one morning, our cat hopped up onto my lap. It felt sweet to sit there with him. And yet – even though I was feeling fine and had plenty of time, there was this internal pressure to start zipping along with emails and calls and all the other clamoring minutiae of the day.

You see the irony. We rush about as a means to an end: as a method for getting results in the form of good experiences, such as relaxation and happiness. Hanging out with our cat, I was afloat in good experiences. But the autopilot inside the coconut still kept trying to suck me back into methods for getting relaxation and happiness – as if I weren’t already feeling that way! And of course, by jumping up and diving into doingness, I’d break the mood and lose the relaxation and happiness . . . that is the point of doingness.

Sometimes we do need to rush. Maybe you’ve got to get your kid to school on time, or your boss really has to have that report by end of the day. OK.

But much of the time, we rev up and race about because of unnecessary internal pressures (like unrealistic standards for ourselves) or because external forces are trying to hurry us along for their own purposes (not because of our own needs).

How do you feel when you’re rushing? Perhaps there’s a bit of positive excitement, but if you’re like me, there’s mostly if not entirely a sense of tension, discomfort, and anxiety. This kind of stress isn’t pleasant for the mind, and over time it’s really bad for the body. Plus there’s a loss of autonomy: the rush is pushing you one way or another rather than you yourself deciding where you want to go and at what pace.

Instead, how about stepping aside from the rush as much as you can? And into your own well-being, health, and autonomy?

How?

For starters, be mindful of rushing – your own and others. See how other people assume deadlines that aren’t actually real or get time pressured and intense about things that aren’t that important. (And yep, you get to decide for yourself what you think is real or important.) Notice the internal shoulds or musts or simply habits that speed you up.

Then, when the demands of others bear down upon you, buy yourself time – what the psychologist and Buddhist teacher Tara Brach calls “the sacred pause” – in order to create a space in which you are free to choose how you will respond. Are you letting the rushing of others become your own? Slow down the conversation, ask questions, and find out what’s really true. Consider the sign I once saw in a car repair shop: “Your lack of planning is not my emergency.”

On your own side of the street, try not to create “emergencies” for yourself. You can get a lot done at your own pace without rushing; plan ahead and don’t procrastinate until you’re forced into hurrying. More fundamentally, be realistic about your own resources. It’s a kind of modesty, a healthy humility, to finally admit to yourself and maybe others that you can’t carry five quarts in a one gallon bucket. There are 168 hours in a week, not 169. It’s also a kind of healthy renunciation, relinquishment, to set down the ego, drivenness, appetite, or ambition that overcommits and sets you up for rushing. And it’s a matter of seeing clearly what is, a matter of being in reality rather than being confused or in a sense deluded.

Nkosi Johnson was the South African boy born with HIV who became a national advocate for children with AIDS before dying at about age 12, and not one of us can do more than what he said here: Do all you can, with what you have, in the time you have, in the place where you are.

Also watch how the mind routinely gets caught up in becoming: in making plans that draw us into desires that draw us into rushing. The trick is to see this happening before it captures you.

Most deeply, try to rest in and enjoy the richness of this moment. Even an ordinary moment – with its sounds, sights, tastes, smells, sensations, feelings, and thoughts – is amazingly interesting and rewarding. Afloat in the present, there’s no need to rush along to anything else.

Even when you don’t have a cat in your lap.



Dr. Ramani Durvasula is a licensed clinical psychologist, author, and expert on the impact of toxic narcissism. She is a Professor of Psychology at California State University, Los Angeles, and also a Visiting Professor at the University of Johannesburg.

The focus of Dr. Ramani’s clinical, academic, and consultative work is the etiology and impact of narcissism and high-conflict, entitled, antagonistic personality styles on human relationships, mental health, and societal expectations. She has spoken on these issues to clinicians, educators, and researchers around the world.

She is the author of Should I Stay or Should I Go: Surviving a Relationship With a Narcissist, and Don't You Know Who I Am? How to Stay Sane in an Era of Narcissism, Entitlement, and Incivility. Her work has been featured at SxSW, TEDx, and on a wide range of media platforms including Red Table Talk, the Today Show, Oxygen, Investigation Discovery, and Bravo, and she is a featured expert on the digital media mental health platform MedCircle. Dr. Durvasula’s research on personality disorders has been funded by the National Institutes of Health and she is a Consulting Editor of the scientific journal Behavioral Medicine.

Dr. Stephen Porges is a Distinguished University Scientist at Indiana University, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina, and Professor Emeritus at both the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Maryland. He is a former president of the Society for Psychophysiological Research and has been president of the Federation of Behavioral, Psychological, and Cognitive Sciences, which represents approximately twenty-thousand biobehavioral scientists. He’s led a number of other organizations and received a wide variety of professional awards.

In 1994 he proposed the Polyvagal Theory, a theory that links the evolution of the mammalian autonomic nervous system to social behavior and emphasizes the importance of physiological states in the expression of behavioral problems and psychiatric disorders. The theory is leading to innovative treatments based on insights into the mechanisms mediating symptoms observed in several behavioral, psychiatric, and physical disorders, and has had a major impact on the field of psychology.

Dr. Porges has published more than 300 peer-reviewed papers across a wide array of disciplines. He’s also the author of several books including The Polyvagal Theory: Neurophysiological foundations of Emotions, Attachment, Communication, and Self-regulation.

Dr. Bruce Perry is the Principal of the Neurosequential Network, Senior Fellow of The ChildTrauma Academy, and a Professor (Adjunct) in the Departments of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago and the School of Allied Health at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia. From 1993 to 2001 he was the Thomas S. Trammell Research Professor of Psychiatry at Baylor College of Medicine and chief of psychiatry at Texas Children's Hospital.

He’s one of the world’s leading experts on the impact of trauma in childhood, and his work on the impact of abuse, neglect, and trauma on the developing brain has impacted clinical practice, programs, and policy across the world. His work has been instrumental in describing how traumatic events in childhood change the biology of the brain.

Dr. Perry's most recent book, What Happened to You? Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing, co-authored with Oprah Winfrey, was released earlier this year. Dr. Perry is also the author, with Maia Szalavitz, of The Boy Who Was Raised As A Dog, a bestselling book based on his work with maltreated children, and Born For Love: Why Empathy is Essential and Endangered. Additionally, he’s authored more than 300 journal articles and book chapters and has been the recipient of a variety of professional awards.

Dr. Allison Briscoe-Smith is a child clinical psychologist who specializes in trauma and issues of race. She earned her undergraduate degree from Harvard and then received her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of California, Berkeley. She performed postdoctoral work at the University of California San Francisco/San Francisco General Hospital. She has combined her love of teaching and advocacy by serving as a professor and by directing mental health programs for children experiencing trauma, homelessness, or foster care.

Dr. Briscoe-Smith is also a senior fellow of Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center and is both a professor and the Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the Wright Institute. She provides consultation and training to nonprofits and schools on how to support trauma-informed practices and cultural accountability.

Sharon Salzberg is a world-renowned teacher and New York Times bestselling author. She is widely considered one of the most influential individuals in bringing mindfulness practices to the West, and co-founded the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts alongside Jack Kornfield and Joseph Goldstein. Sharon has been a student of Dipa Ma, Anagarika Munindra, and Sayadaw U Pandita alongside other masters.

Sharon has authored 10 books, and is the host of the fantastic Metta Hour podcast. She was a contributing editor of Oprah’s O Magazine, had her work featured in Time and on NPR, and contributed to panels alongside the Dalai Lama.

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