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"What's Next"

I am not sure what compelled me to write about this, but the idea came to me (as most things do) at about 11pm at night while laying in bed. I struggle deciphering if this "what's next" stress so many of us experience is just normal adulthood or has it increased over the last 25 years due to having everything at our fingertips as far as technology, and communication goes? I wonder, if this is why we put such an emphasis on mindfulness in counseling the past 15 years or so.

I was having a discussion with my husband the other day, longing to get a landline phone for our house. Maybe I am just exhausted from feeling the need to respond to an email right away when the notification pops up on my phone, or a text from a friend, etc. It was nice just having people call you when they needed you, and if you were not home, you had no obligation to respond. He reminded me, you still don't have an obligation to respond if you are out and about and busy. Yes, he is correct, but why do I feel like I still have to? Maybe because I feel if I don't reply right away, I'll forget, and I don't like the ever-growing mental checklist in my brain getting longer and longer.

So, what is with the title of this post: "what's next"? I find that so many of us are so focused on the "what's next", that we struggle big time with things like mindfulness. We finish one task and while we are working on it we are already thinking about what needs to get done next. What's on the agenda for the next hour, the next day? A mental to-do list. It becomes difficult to just "be" in the present moment even when we are in the process of completing the task. As I am typing this, I am thinking about the dishes that need to go into the dishwasher once I am done, and my workout that I should complete on my day off before it's time to make the kids' lunch. While this can be productive, it is also overwhelming. A part of me loves that I am task driven, and another part of me says... slow down, enjoy this moment.

The problem lies with when it is too noisy in our minds thinking of "what's next", we often can't hear what we need RIGHT NOW.

And this is important. We need to create space to listen to what we need in the moment, and we may be bypassing some very important things. This is often one of my most favorite questions in a counseling session, "what do you think you needed then"? (when you were going through x, y, z). We may have been too busy or crowded with things in our busy minds, that in the moment, we neglected to find the space to listen to that. I suppose, this is why that skill of mindfulness is so important.

I have found (with trial and error) there are a few things that force me to just "be" in the present moment. A warm beverage (tea or coffee), sitting outdoors so I can really become attune to my surroundings (smells, sounds, sights, sensations), of course, ideally when the weather is a tad warmer. Word search books, yes, crazy, but they help. Yoga. Calming music in the background, and intentionally setting my phone down. I have to almost intentionally remind myself that I already know what needs to get done and I can return to my list when I am ready. The more we take these moments, the easier it will become to listen to our present needs. They will no longer take the back seat and get piled up on (kind of like the closet I tend to neglect in my house, and by the time I get to it- it's too overwhelming to sort out).

Take a moment, be in the present, clear the mind from the hustle and bustle, you can return when you are ready. Listen with calmness and curiosity.


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