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The Most Important Skill?

The Most Important Skill_I’ve been feeling terrible these past few weeks – antsy, unfocused, unmotivated. Almost nothing I planned to work on has been touched, let alone finished – no writing, no reading any of the books in my stack, no house organization projects. Mostly I’ve chalked it up to the busyness that came with the end of the school year — final projects, graduation ceremonies, performances – quickly followed by planning for summer camps, holidays, and vacations. And while it’s true that the family schedule has been more packed than usual, it’s not enough to explain this level of agitation I’ve been feeling.

Plus, if I’m totally honest, as I look back over the past few weeks, I’ve had plenty of time to spend on non-productive things like browsing the summer clearance sales on my favorite shopping sites and re-watching movies I only sort of enjoyed the first time, not to mention the many hours spent falling down multiple online rabbit holes. Clearly the cause of this restlessness has been more than just being too busy, and now it has also become a vicious cycle – the ignored to-do list has lead to more anxiety and agitation, which has lead to more distraction and avoidance, and so the list keeps growing…

Enough! But what to do?

This morning I made a commitment to myself that I would only spend one hour clearing out my email while I drank my coffee, and then I would get off the computer and force myself to do some house-related projects. Maybe I just need some momentum, some physical activity. Fortunately for me, however, by some miracle one of the things in my email was this article by Zat Rana, “The Most Important Skill Nobody Taught You”, which I think provided the insight I need to break out of this cycle.

What’s the skill?

It’s solitude. Or more precisely, sitting in silence, without distraction because, “That’s when you’ll hear yourself think, and that’s when you’ll learn to engage the parts of you that are masked by distraction.”

Of course.

It’s so frustrating to have to be reminded of something I used to know. I’ve had an on-and-off meditation practice for several years now, and it’s no coincidence that I’m currently in an “off” phase and have been for quite a while. Why is it so easy to get knocked off a path that we know is good for us? To lose healthy habits? I don’t know the answer, but I know for me that compulsive thinking – checking email, managing family logistics, looking for the next problem to solve – is addictive, even though I realize that giving into my monkey mind makes me feel anxious and exhausted.

So, here’s my plan. For the next six weeks I’ll be throttling back on everything I had planned to do, deferring everything but the most essential tasks until September. I’m going to spend more time reading, meditating, creating, and pondering the clouds and trees. It’s time to reconnect with the things that are most important, to sit quietly and let my mind settle. If I stumble across anything important I may write about it and share it here, but it’s also possible that it may be a few weeks before I sit down at the keyboard again. I just don’t know what the next few weeks hold… but I’m already feeling better!