Practice Series: Embrace the Art of Occasionally Saying No

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The theme for this month’s practice series is LETTING GO.

We live in a culture that prizes busyness, and it can become such a habitual loop. Sometimes we stay busy by necessity, or by choice, by ego or enjoyment, but sometimes it just becomes a habit where we have a hard time slowing down and choosing something different—to the point where when we do finally crash into bed, it can be hard to slow our minds enough to fall asleep. (Sound familiar to anyone?)
 
We’re moving into a particularly busy time of year, and yet it’s also a time when our bodies naturally want to slow down and turn inward. So this week’s practice is a simple and practical invitation: Is there something you can let go of to create a little more spaciousness in your life?  
 
Practice:

  1. Look at your calendar or to-do list for the week. Instead of going right into mental gymnastics, draw awareness down into your belly and chest and take three slow, deep breaths.
  2. Then ask: Is there one thing you could let go of this week? You might feel clarity around certain commitments that are necessary, welcome, or aligned. But is there something that feels like a should, guilt-driven, unnecessary, or not in integrity with what’s important to you? 
  3. Allow yourself to let go of that item and claim a little more space for yourself and what’s important to you. (If resistance to saying no to something comes up, let it be part of the practice to let go of that as well.) You could even stake out that time for downtime or “free time” on your calendar. 
  4. If all your commitments must be kept, see if you can find an inner shift instead, embracing this week’s obligations from a place of true contribution. Practice letting go of—or at least cultivating awareness around—the ingrained stress response that we often hook into as we rush from one thing to the next.

One personal trick: When I catch myself rushing, and thereby creating stress for myself, I sing Simon & Garfunkel in my head: “Slow down, you move too fast …” It instantly helps me slow down, be present, and laugh a little at myself.

 

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