May 27, 2015

Making Space

Yesterday I looked at my daily planner--crammed with tasks in small font--and felt my anxiety rise. We just returned from a weekend of travel and heavy socialization. I was in busyness mindset--a view that limits my choices. I thought I should push through my exhaustion. But instead of pushing, I decided to pause. Once I slow my pace, I see more clearly: What really needs to be done and what can wait? What is most important? How can I honor my own needs while getting things done?

I love these wise words from Jon Kabat-Zinn: "Simplifying our lives in even little ways can make a big difference. If you fill up all your time, you won't have any. And you probably won't even be aware of why you don't. Simplifying may mean prioritizing the things that you have to and want to do and, at the same time, consciously choosing to give certain things up."

Such an obvious yet profound statement: if you fill up all your time, you won't have any. We convince ourselves we don't have choices; that our time is actually not our own. We lament that we have no freedom--I'm crazy busy right now--yet we continue to over-schedule ourselves (or we lose our free time in mindless activity). There's seldom space for life to organically unfold, because we don't allow for it. We're part of this process.

I remember my first glimpse of freedom at work. I was asked to do something that wasn't an integral part of my job. With kindness and firmness, I said "no." It was an experiment. I feared the worst--loss of admiration and respect--yet my fear wasn't valid.  Everything was okay. So I said "no" in a different situation and noticed what happened. Again, it was all okay. At the time, my plate was too full. I had to consciously give up certain things. In this process, I made space--space for what I value most.

Not every request must be met with "yes." Not every family event must be attended. Not every errand must be run. Not every post, comment, video, or news story must be viewed. We have choice in our lives and that's a wonderful thing. 

The first step is to notice--notice what's happening in your life. The next step is to prioritize: what do I most value? What is most important? This is where we can make intentional choices (do my actions align with what I most value?). From Kabat-Zinn: "It may mean learning to say no sometimes, even to things you want to do or to people you care about and want to help so that you are protecting and preserving some space for silence, for non-doing." There's great freedom when we consciously make space. This freedom comes from knowing and trusting ourselves. Busyness is a band-aid. The real medicine comes when we pause and look inward; when we make space and live intentionally; when we genuinely connect with ourselves and each other.


May 21, 2015

My Facebook Dilemma

Years ago, I made choices that improved my quality of life: no TV reception; no newspapers; minimal Internet news; no Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram; no smart phone; daily meditation; weekly connection with friends; increased time outdoors; morning and bedtime routines. These purposeful choices mirror what I value most: awareness, connection, curiosity, integrity, and kindness.

Still, I feel the tug of social media. I post my photography on Flickr. When I'm intentional, my use of Flickr fills and inspires me; when I'm mindless, my use depletes me. I've stayed away from Facebook because I know myself well: I could get lost in externals. I hold many identities, some of them too tightly. One of these identities is thoughtful-and-caring-friend. In person, this flows naturally. In the stories of my mind or in the online world, this takes a different path: Joy, you must attend to everyone and comment on all posts; if you don't respond, people will think you're unkind;  you should check regularly if people still love ("like") you.

These thoughts feel real, but they're not true. Anytime I search externally for validation, the search never ends. This search is a band-aid that covers my uneasiness. The real medicine is looking inward--giving myself the attention and love I seek.

Social media is interesting and fun. Yet it can separate me from what I most value. And there's a fuzzy line in between. For me, there are two rabbit holes: confusing likes, shares, comments, and favorites with my own self-worth; and feeling a strong pull to keep up-to-date, to not miss out. The latter leaves me anxious. The former leaves me hollow. 

When wise friends told me I needed a Facebook page for my business, I cringed. But I listened and eventually agreed. Because I always have choices. I come to Facebook in my own way, with my heart and eyes wide open. I needn't publish a personal page. I come to Facebook not as Joy Jordan "this is my daily life, let's catch up" but as Joy Jordan, both a student and teacher of mindfulness; a person trying to be mindful on social media; a person who needs to hear and share this message:

You have permission to just be; to be and breathe.
You have permission to attend to yourself; look inward.
You have permission to disconnect from the online world
You are so much more than your popularity on social media.
You are unique and beautiful; be you.
You are worthy, as is.

May 11, 2015


The verdict is in: humans cannot multitask--we task switch--and if we task switch, we're less productive, more anxious, and more mistake-prone. Switching tasks drains our brains. But we're not always self-aware--people who claim they're good at multitasking actually perform the worst. 

Many of us understand multitasking is not ideal. When we attempt simultaneous projects, we feel stressed and distracted; we feel our work is sub-par. Yet in the face of scientific research and our own experience, we still try to multitask. We think if we do many things at once, life might be easier.

But this constant state of distraction doesn't make life easier. Distraction leaves us empty--unhappy at work, unfulfilled in relationships, and disconnected from ourselves. The good news is we have a choice. We can change habits; we can choose mindfulness--choose one thing at a time.

Before I began this blog post--an important task for today--I shut down my email, closed other tabs in my browser, and set a timer. For 45 minutes, my attention is on this article. When I feel the tug of distraction, I stay here. When I struggle for the right words, I stay here. When the timer sounds, I'll take a break. Breaks are important; breaks help overall focus. Yet until then, I stay. 

Shut down email, phone, chat, and social media? I know this sounds radical. There are endless "yes, buts": What if my boss needs to reach me? Or my child? What if my colleagues judge me? What if I miss out on something online? What if someone "unfriends" me?

These reactions are natural, especially in our current culture. Yet consider two additional "yes, buts": What if you spend the rest of your life addicted to distraction? What if you never fully experience your life?

I think single-tasking is worth a try. Shut off the distractions--physically shut them down. See what happens. Notice your reactions. Ease into the space. Focus on one project and bring your whole self to the work. Over time, you might feel more fulfilled, less anxious, and reconnected with life. And if you bring this focus to people--if you actively listen, pay attention, and notice small changes--your relationships might deepen. 

With any mindfulness practice the trick is this: remember to remember. It's so easy to forget. The more we practice, though, the more we remember. Because the habits we strengthen are the habits we practice. I try to ask myself each day: Do I want to strengthen distraction or awareness? Judgment or kindness? Rigidness or curiosity? What choices lie in front of me? When I forget and then remember, I try to smile and kindly bring myself back to awareness.