indexRemember Venn Diagrams? They are a concrete, visual tool teachers use to help learners see how things are related. Lately, I’ve noticed the relationships among my interests, and work get me bogged down. I become so immersed and reactive, I can’t see the connections, let alone get my head above the mud to see the horizon. That’s when I need to go back to basics to gain clarity, so I started making Venn Diagrams in my head and on paper. Cramped, detailed lists revealed some themes and helped me zoom in on what requires my focus and energy. More importantly, it’s helped me to see where the various pockets of my life intersect.    Isn’t that the purpose of a Venn diagram?

Ironically, when I slowed down and really paid attention to myself, these intersections were staring me in the face. I had been so busy wading through the muck (and sometimes making muck) that I couldn’t see the green grass.

We’re all busy, right? I don’t know one person who sits around trying to find something to do. I like to think that I move through life in a pace that allows me to be purposeful and mindful; sometimes I think I am different. When my ego takes over, I think I am one of those outliers who has “balance” or a generally heightened sense of purpose and perspective.

Believe, me, I KNOW some of those outliers, I am no outlier.

Truth is, I generally do have a comfortable level of purpose, creativity and wholeness in my life.  It’s not perfect. It’s a process and often, a messy one.  But without some clear structures in place for my time, resources and energy, I quickly drop back into the same samscaras, old habits of rushing through life.

NOTE: The word samskara comes from the Sanskrit sam (complete or joined together) and kara (action, cause, or doing). Samskaras are generalized patterns, and individual impressions, ideas, or actions; taken together, our samskaras make up our conditioning. These old habits die hard, sometimes they never die, so they bubble up when we’re not mindful.

About the time I had enough of the mucking around and surrendered to mediocre ability to stay focused, I had a quick trip planned. I was actually so befuddled that I considered not going. In the end, I dashed off to a yoga class and raced to the airport and finally exhaled as I crossed Boston Harbor in the water taxi to be greeting by this magnificent sight:

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That waving flag was symbolic of the laughter, history, and thoughtfulness that would surround me in the next 36 hours. My respite was one of those wonderful reminders that we all need to get out of our heads and routines once in a while. And that sometimes, our oldest friends know us the best.  I headed home recalibrated by some quiet time to reflect and lots of laughter and listening.

When I returned to my stack of Venn diagrams, I saw what became clear during my get away. I was reminded of my friend Debbie Reber’s tag line:  Show Up. Tune In. Be You. When I show up and tune in (i.e. be mindful and observant), I can be me (acting on my interests and priorities).  I can see more clearly where I want to go next, though I know the path(s) I take will varied and bumpy.  The challenge for me each day – whether I’m working with kids or adults, in the classroom or yoga studio or any other setting – is to keep my focus on showing up, tuning in and being me.

Staying clear on who we are and what we do allows us to see the intersections of our lives and keeps us purpose and priority-driven. And once in a while, a Venn diagram helps, too.

How do you stay focused on your priorities? Leave a comment (or a Venn diagram).

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