Feeling stressed? Try valuing the moments ‘in between’
On the yoga mat this morning I was reminded of the value of the moments ‘in between’. For the duration of our led-practice today we focused on these precious moments — the moment between the top of my in-breath and the movement to my out-breath, the moment between completing one pose before transitioning to our next pose, the moment before my mind starting thinking about the things that were on my plate for today and the gentle nudge to focus back on my breath.
As I did this, I found my breath steadying, my heart rate lowering and my muscles releasing (well as much as they are able to for me!) I’m learning that when I consciously inhabit my body, rather than treating it as a momentary ride in an Uber, all sorts of wonderful things start to happen. Yes, there are amazing physical benefits such as the massive reduction in the chronic neck pain I had been suffering for years, the balanced strength that I’m gradually building in my upper and lower body and overall increased flexibility and range of motion. However, the parallels beyond the physical realm are even more extraordinary, and I think you know where I’m going with this.
Through the practise of yoga, I am becoming a more supple human being. If you wanted to insert a corporate buzz-word here you could say I am becoming more ‘agile’. The dictionary definition of supple is “Bending and moving easily and gracefully”. I am able, both physically, mentally and emotionally to bend and move more easily and gracefully than I used to. For me, this means the things I used to get upset about don’t trouble me so much now, I am able to let go of ideas or paths that I might have held onto too tightly before, and consequentially, I am more open to new opportunities. I’m much more able to flex and adapt to the changes in things that are out of my control. Essentially, I am becoming more resilient to stress.
Australian peak performance researcher Dr Adam Fraser talks about The Third Space and I really like his work. His message is that we can’t jam any more into our lives. What we need, to enable our own peak performance, is to focus on the transitions in between key events; the space he calls the Third Space. Specifically, he says that when in the Third Space, we can reflect, rest and reset to be ready to show up as our best selves to our next commitment. Credit is also due here to Chantelle, my yoga instructor, as this is exactly what she was talking about this morning.
Acknowledging and providing space for the transitions in life is something we have known is important for a long time, albeit traditionally this focus was directed towards the meta transitions in life. These would be things such as starting or finishing school, moving overseas, leaving or starting a job, marrying your partner, becoming a parent, losing a loved one and so on. We know it takes time to psychologically and emotionally process these transitions and we are usually compassionate toward ourselves and others to allow space to do so. This is not the case for the micro transitions, the small shifts in energy required as we move from activity to the next in our day. Their significance is getting lost in the noise of activity in our lives, whilst the cumulative stress of them sneaks up within us.
So how do we find those moments ‘in between’, in our day to day lives?
I think the answer falls in both micro behavioural changes (new habits) that we create as well as the structural changes we can put in place to scaffold and support our new behaviours. The behavioural change might be as simple as taking 5 minutes before your next meeting to sit quietly at your desk, focusing on your breathing for a minute or two, and then jotting down the 3 most important issues for your next conversation. The structural change to support that would be scheduling meetings in less than 1 hour increments. For example, if you schedule a 45 minute meeting instead of a 1 hour meeting then you have time to go to the bathroom, get a glass of water and find somewhere quiet to sit, breathe and become centred before your next conversation. Simple as this may sound, I am astounded by the number of people I meet who say they go through their day without time to eat, drink or go to the bathroom when they need to! It’s hardly a recipe for peak performance, and more importantly, it contributes to the sneaky build up of background stress running through our bodies each day.
I believe if we can honour the space we find in the moments ‘in between’ we will increase our effectiveness at work, the joy in our lives and our ability to bend and move easily, with grace.
How do you find the moments ‘in between’ in your day?