Busy is not a four-letter word

“Busy” is not a four-letter word. Busyness is not a badge of honour.

People have looked at me with “sad” eyes when I said I was busy, extending their sympathy to something perceived as negative and perhaps concluding  that I must not like it. Similarly on many occasions when I enquired about someone’s professional (or personal) life only to receive this reply – “oh, so busy”. These same people who seemed to be perpetually busy, as if proudly saying to the world, “look at me, I have much to do!” when what I could see was weariness and irritability.  

Have you encountered someone who is happily busy?

Many articles in recent times are denouncing the glorification of busyness, how being busy can negatively affect our mental health, that busyness  is unnecessary and that we ought to embrace the slow movement.

All true, but none is absolute.

The practical reality is, there are times when we are busy – necessary times when we work more hours that we’d like. There are times when accomplishing what we set out to do notwithstanding the long hours is fulfilling and a boost to our sense of self. Sometimes our perception is skewed in those moments when we are under intense time pressure and professional demands. Yes, busyness seems like an undesirable thing.

Yet if we pay attention and as we slowly zoom out for a wider view, away from our keen focus on the “harried life”, we may notice that we did work long hours or cram our day with many deadlines but only for a short period.

What we pay attention to, is amplified.

Through our perception and our narrative interpretation, we in fact create a world which becomes our reality. 

What does “busy” even mean? Busy is essentially keeping ourselves occupied or having a great deal to do. It does not speak of the quality of the occupations.

“It is not enough to be busy; so are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?” ~ Henry David Thoreau

The meaning and purpose of these occupations to us are what differentiate the felt sense of “being busy”. It can feel great or it may seem too much of a burden. 

What does “busy” mean to you, now? On this occasion? 

Instead of unknowingly defaulting to saying “busy” with a sigh or hearing “busy” with a flinch, perhaps we ought to find out the nature of this busyness and to have a conversation about being busy, with mindful awareness, within context and without the bounds of common narratives.

Are you the always-busy kind of person, or just busy at this moment? How do you tell?

Or are you determined to take it slow? Because the opposite is also true. Going slow is not a badge of honour, and slow is not a bad word either.

As we head to the end of the year, to the much longed-for break in the festive season, consider this.

Why are you choosing to be busy or to take it slow? 

 

 

© Transfigure Therapy 2019

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Preparing for self-awareness

Can you conceive of the “why” to what you  say or do? Beyond the reasons and rationalising.

To thine own self be true”, Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet. So how can we “be true” unless we know our self?

What do we mean when we speak of self- awareness and “being conscious” of our words and actions??

To be self-aware requires attention and effort. It is easier and quicker to evaluate others’ words and actions, or judge their motives and intentions than it is to decipher ours.

Perhaps unthinkingly or unconsciously we direct our attention outwards more often than we do inwards because it is challenging to look at ourselves, especially our Shadow (to use Carl Jung’s term) – this unconscious aspect of our personality which our conscious ego has trouble acknowledging or seeing.

Self-awareness will allow us to know our humanity and our place in it. We then are able to understand and know others .

So how do we learn to be self-aware? We have to be prepared

  • to be present to, and aware of our thoughts and feelings. A contemplative practice is useful, and over time, it will become easier. I have no answer as to the measure of time this may be for you nor even for myself.  It is not about arriving somewhere. I am not certain if there is even a destination we need concern ourselves with.  It is the contemplative practice itself which brings to light the judgement, blame and shame we hold and from which we act.
  • to hold our flaws gently in the palms of my hands, sometimes in playful lightness, sometimes in repose, always mindful to not judge.  In this I do not always succeed. That is okay too. The very act of being aware of my Shadow is by itself, empowering and humbling – to walk this life with consciousness.  The crux is to know when we are judging; if we can name it, we are more likely to be able to let the act or thought go.  

The essence of any contemplative practice is twofold – silence and stillness. As opposed to being ‘silenced’ by a fear, in protest or by resignation, silence in meditation is empowering because we come to sit in that space in which we are aware of ourselves, of our world and our relationship with the world; and we then have the choice to accept ourselves for who we are – to be true.

“The point [of meditation] is not to improve yourself …but to come back to who you are, the awareness that is your birthright” ~ Jack Kornfield

To do this,

  • we need to be prepared to turn to which is difficult in order to learn something of value,
  • be willing to seat ourselves in the middle of everything, joys and sorrows,
  • to trust this space of awareness with a loving and compassionate heart, and
  • to acknowledge this is our humanity.

Be still instead of perpetually chasing or running away. This is what it means to be present – to not look to our history and judge and attempt to fix it, to not look to our future and judge it against ideals we have inherited from our past or history.

Presence and awareness becomes the springboard from which we take our next steps – understanding and evaluating, inwards and outwards.

As Zen master, Suzuki Roshi, said,

I do not know anything about higher consciousness, I just try to teach my students how to hear the birds sing.”  

How beautiful, how simple!  Be here.

When we do not look to judge, blame or shame, perhaps then the task of becoming self-aware becomes less confronting.

~ FlorenceT

© Transfigure Therapy 2019

Be who you are and empowered

What an incredible weekend!

Spending time with my sisters in Law at the Aust. Women Lawyers Conference reminds me of why I chose to be a lawyer. The stories these amazing women told also sadly reminds me of why I left the practice of law. Though I am never far… for I am inspired to create change. These familiar stories are not intended to reinforce “victimhood” rather to make our, and women’s stories in general, visible. They are told in the spirit of recognition, solidarity and support.

They and the many actions women lawyers have taken to stake their claim to their rightful inheritance in the law, and to better the lives of women add to my inspiration and motivation. There was much discussion, and provocative and innovative ideas.

Some key messages (taken from my Tweets as I live-tweeted the event):

Lawyers need to engage their curiosity, be adaptable to change, collaborate, be inclusive, develop business acumen, have great communication skills and to not lose sight of the humanity in law.

These are essential human skills, salvaged from the trench of the “soft skills” label.

I will not be defined by the many labels you may put on me. I am complex.

And knowing who we are and what we stand for, are precursors to being fulfilled in our personal and professional lives, to being successful.

Inclusion and diversity require – in the words of Aretha Franklin, RESPECT.

Respect is a conscious act. What does it look like in practice? How do we do it?

Investing in the future (as was the theme of the Conference) begins with investing in the now, in ourselves.

Do we value ourselves enough to proclaim through our words and actions, “I am worthy”, “I am enough” and thus, “I belong”, feeling comfortable in the space we inhabit.

Sounding much like the work I do in Transfigure to empower professionals. Perhaps this is the reason why I am now more energised than before, to create change by facilitating others

  • to engage with their human skills,
  • to own their true selves and stand tall,
  • to practice compassion and kindness on themselves and others, and
  • most importantly, to take time for themselves for personal and professional development.

Fuelled by the passion of these incredible women, and to quote the AGS AWL Award recipient, the estimable Fiona McLeod SC, I will “get to it”.

~ FlorenceT

 

© Transfigure Therapy 2018

How to connect

 

Building relationship is a “thing” now, a mantra within the networking, management and leadership circles. And rightly so. Seeking to build relationships honors our humanity, we are more than conduits engaging in mere exchange of insights and information, time and money and the cost-benefit analysis of these currencies.

We cannot build relationships unless we learn how to connect.

And the essence of real connection which we find so appealing, supportive, enriching and rewarding is intimacy. Intimacy is the glue that binds people. Without it, any connection is barren, void of the positive meaning.

But what is intimacy? It is a close, familiar and affectionate personal relationship with another and it arrives in different ways. We may have cognitive or intellectual intimacy with another with the sharing of ideas, visions, viewpoints, dreams and hopes. We may have experiential intimacy as we do work, however defined, together. We may also have emotional intimacy where feelings are shared between two or more people and our emotional needs are met or affirmed. And we have sexual intimacy which involves the sharing of sensual expression. This would include for example, the person whom we share our epicurean or creative interests.

There are many ways through which we develop intimacy in our professional life and connect.

And which comes first? Do we connect to enable intimacy to grow? Or is intimacy a prerequisite to connection? Instead of a linear cause-and-effect correlation, the relationship between intimacy and connection is reflexive.

Intimacy and connection are deliberate and conscious processes.

We must be willing to explore, to be interested in another’s life, to be present and available to them. Most importantly, we must be real. And we have to give it time to develop.

Hold new interactions lightly, watch it and see where it will grow. Let go of preconceived notions of how, what and why. Not every interaction becomes positive connection.

So how do we connect?

Be open and sociable. This does not mean be naive and gullible. It does however mean you do not approach every person you meet as a threat. Keep your head, open your heart.

Be authentic. Show who you really are. Stop being so guarded. It may feel vulnerable but my experience has been that most people are happy to receive the real you. Few people are out to harm.

Maintain your values. People with whom you connect will be those who share a certain ‘thing’ with you; this ‘thing’ which calls to you are underpinned by your values. Be yourself. Be honest.

In this endeavour of building relationships especially as a leader, let us be gentle, kind and respectful.

Which of us would refuse a genuine connection? On this premise, building relationship need not feel like an unsurpassable challenge.

~ FlorenceT

 

© Transfigure Therapy 2018

You’re not normal, and it’s okay

Yale researchers have confirmed our feeling different is normal, in that there is no normal. Our experience is by reference to our environment and “normality” is circumstantial.

“Change is the only constant.” Don’t we know this already? Our struggle lays in our denial and persisting attempts to maintain a status quo.

Check out this article in Curiosity.