Musings from the Mat

Diagnosis: Rushing

I’ve decided: I don’t have Alzheimers; I have Rushing.

You won’t find this diagnosis in a medical search engine. Nor will you find it in a dictionary. Nonetheless, there’s no doubt about it: I have the Disease of Rushing.

Here’s how I came to this conclusion. I forget conversations I’ve had with people who truly do matter to me. I forget about emails. I misplace things: Keys. My food diary. My camera. Some important papers. I do find most of these items eventually. But until I do, you don’t want to be around me; I’m cranky, impatient, short with others who are unfortunate enough to cross my path … well, you get the picture. So I wondered — a bit worried — am I showing the first dreaded signs of pre-senile dementia? Or, worse: Alzheimers?

I’ve examined the circumstances when these events occur, and I’ve concluded that they are not happening because I’m a year older, or menopausal, or feeling blue, or feeling angry, or have one of these diagnoses. They’re happening because I’m rushing: to work, to the store, to the bakery, to the post office, to my next gig, to go home and walk the dog, to the airport, the library, a meeting, lunch with a friend.

And, when I’m rushing, and three or four or fourty tasks compete for my attention, things fall through the cracks of my awareness. I don’t know where they go, but I’ve noticed that my mind selects what it will process, and what it will discard. And it is apparently discarding major snippets of my day-to-day life, leaving me to fill in the blanks later, if I can.

It’s happening because I’m rushing. Pressed for time, as we all are, I’m zooming through my life, trying to get it all done, fooling myself into thinking that I’m succeeding.

But I’m not succeeding. I’m failing, floundering, flailing about for a handhold, a foothold, something, anything to hold on to as moments are lost to me, skimming along life’s slippery surface.

But this doesn’t happen to yoga teachers, you might argue. Sorry to disappoint you, but you’re wrong. Yes, I am a yoga teacher, and I try to practice yoga on and off the mat. I do try, mightily, to bring mindfulness to each moment. And yet, daily life, with its push-and-pull pace, draws me off course sometimes, and I forget things, and lose things, as I race from Point A to Point B to Point C.

Oh, I know I’m not alone; this happens to lots of people. But that doesn’t console me, as I wrack my brain and try to reconstruct just where I was, and where I went, when that key went mysteriously missing, while I was racing through my day.

So, I meditate. And I create the intention to do less, rush less, move more mindfully, pay more attention to each moment.

Right now, it’s still a struggle. I watch my hand reaching for my cellphone and placing it, mindfully, in its case. I observe my mind making a mental note of where I placed my keys: safely clipped to my handbag now. I create mental post-its that I place front-and-center in my mind, reminders of who, what, where.

I feel the strain of this new effort at mindfulness. Is this mindfulness or watchfulness? I’m no longer sure; a new hyper-vigilance has become a new unwelcome companion.

Yoga helps. Teaching yoga helps even more; it is magical, how all falls away when I settle onto my yoga mat and slow my breathing, my thoughts, my world. Focus. Teach. Breathe in. Breathe out.

So, I’m aware now of this new Disease of Rushing, that has silently and imperceptibly tiptoed its way into my life. I vow to pick up one phone call less; let voice mail get it. One chore less; everything will still get done. Or it won’t. I need to care less.

I vow to pay more attention, though it still feels like a strain, an extra effort.

Anyway, if you catch me rushing by — a blur of activity in my wake — do stop me, if you can. Your mindful smile, your friendly greeting, your one breath, your quiet sitting there, might just be the antidote to this, my latest malaise.

Diagnosis: Rushing
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