For my first article in January, I like to write about goals, resolutions, or whatever you call the list you make of intentions for the coming year. It’s well known that few well-meant intentions get realized. Often we become enmeshed in a pattern of pushing forward when action feels inappropriate. Then, discouraged, we begin to put off action. Simply described, procrastination is the act of putting off doing things we don’t want to do.
Students are famous for putting off papers or studying. Avoiding the completion of certain dreaded household tasks is also a popular activity. Many of us put off making phone calls we absolutely don’t want to make.
Even though procrastination can seem to be the avoidance of action, it’s an activity that consumes a great deal of energy. We don’t simply avoid the unwanted action and then forget about it.
The thought that we should do it keeps on returning, like a mosquito hungry for blood. We use energy to resist the thought. Then we blame ourselves for laziness, fear, or whatever inspires the delay. We may end up feeling worse and more exhausted than if we’d actually done the thing we didn’t want to do.
It may seem like the appropriate solution is to simply do it and get it over with. However, that can cause additional problems.
Act in Haste, Repent at Leisure
Say you know you need to paint the bathroom, and you haven’t bought the paint yet. You say to yourself, “That’s it; I’m going out right now.”
You go to buy the paint and realize you haven’t decided on a color yet. You’re not going to let procrastination stop you any more, though, so you pick out a color, hardly looking at it, come home, and realize the color is awful–maybe before, maybe after you paint.
You have a report to write for an organization. You’ve been dreading putting the words together, but the deadline is closing, noose-like, around your neck. You get on the computer and zip through the writing. Only when it’s time to give it do you discover you wrote on the wrong subject.
You’ve been putting off a possibly painful conversation with someone. The longer you wait, the more angry and upset you get, until you begin to feel like a soon-to-erupt volcano. You decide you have to say it, no matter how it comes out. Unfortunately, it doesn’t come out very well, and the other person stops speaking to you.
The Nightmare Journey
Sometimes both the resistance and the action that overcomes it are more subtle. You may not deliberately resist doing something, but you feel mental/emotional reluctance, which in turn creates energetic resistance. It’s as if you’re driving with the emergency brake on.
For example, you’re going to visit a family member out of a sense of duty, but no real joy. You half-wish something would happen so that you didn’t have to make the trip.
When you call to make the airplane reservations, the line is busy. You try making your reservations online, and the server is busy. You call again. After listening to the “Please listen carefully, as our menu options have changed” message, you push the wrong button. Then you try again, get the right one, and get put on hold. Finally, you hear a human voice and manage to work out a flight plan that doesn’t have you flying from New York to Nevada in order to get to Florida.
Later you print out your online tickets and see they’re incorrect. At last, you get the arrangements done to your satisfaction, but when you get to the airport, you find there’s no record of your reservations. Fortunately, you have your tickets, but it takes a lot of effort to get things worked out, and you barely make your plane.
Resistance can also hold back the fulfillment of what you think you really do want. You may want a better job, but don’t feel capable of fulfilling its requirements. You’d like to go to Europe, if only you could get there without having to travel. You’d like to have a show of your art, but then everyone would see it.
The Virtue of Struggle
I have come to realize that my not wanting to do something isn’t necessarily a measure of my laziness. It may, instead, be like the light on the dashboard that tells me my emergency brake is on. Procrastination lets me know that my energy is blocked from the easy fulfillment of an action.
I have also discovered that about ninety percent of the braking action stems from the belief that accomplishment should involve difficulty. A widespread belief tells many of us that we’re worthy people when we push through our resistance and do things we don’t want to do. Holding this belief can have the magical effect of multiplying—at least in the mind—the difficulty of an action.
I have heard people who love what they do telling others how difficult it is. If they are writers, they describe the agonies of sitting before a blank screen; if they are artists, they curse the paper or canvas that stubbornly remains blank. If they are teachers, their students have conspired to turn their classroom into the blackboard jungle. They believe this, because they’ve become oriented to the idea that for something to be worthwhile, it must involve struggle.
I’ve gradually let go of this perspective, but it’s a work in progress, and it can still blinker my vision. Right before I started writing this article, I was working on another. It didn’t seem to want to get written beyond a certain point, so I stopped working on it, feeling guilty that I was procrastinating, thinking how difficult it was to write.
Once I got over the misery that all that hard work would be wasted, I decided I didn’t have to write that article. Instead, I wrote this one, in about a tenth the time I spent agonizing about the other one.
There’s no virtue to suffering and struggling or in being blocked, frustrated, or self-critical about something that isn’t happening. That only blocks the smooth flow of energy needed to get things done.
The Virtue of Ease
Here’s a mantra you may find helpful: “Life is meant to be easy. Life is meant to be fun.” When you find you don’t have to mentally or physically add difficulty to a task, it can become enjoyable. For example, when I clean the house, I stop myself from looking for a badge of virtue for such drudgery. I give up the idea that I’m Cinderella scrubbing the flagstones. Instead, I listen to music or sing while I house clean. I tell myself this is good exercise. I think about how nice the house is going to look.
I’ve also noticed that some of the things I put off doing seem to get done by themselves. Try asking the universe to do some of the items on your list. The people you’re worried about calling may call you with the good news you thought you’d never hear. Instead of searching for an elusive reference, you may find a link for it in your email. The results can be miraculous.
The best result is that when I’m unburdened by guilt over procrastination, or the heavy burden of having to be a good and worthy attention, I have much more energy to give to the creative expression and fulfillment of those projects that really thrill me.
Meditation in general helps us to return to the core of being, especially when it interrupts a frantic stream of activity or an equally frantic avoidance of activity. In a state of deepened connection to our true selves, we can effectively ask the question, “What is most important to me right now?”
You might want to hold carnelian while asking that question. Known as the “be here now” crystal, it helps us to focus on what is of most immediate value to us.
Smoky quartz gives us the gift of both grounding and activating our energy. It can help to smooth out those push-pull energy spurts that say, “I’ll do it,” “I won’t.” It particularly helps in this process by disposing of psychic waste, those old beliefs and emotions that prevent us from being clear on what we want.
While it can be placed at the feet in meditation for grounding and energizing, you can also hold a clear quartz in one hand and a smoky quartz in the other. Contemplate those conditions and emotions you wish to release or change while mentally focusing on the smoky quartz; then ask for inspiration regarding accomplishing these changes.
Several crystals that, in their unpolished state have vertical striations or ridges, help energy move more smoothly. Among these are golden topaz, kunzite, danburite, and the tourmaline family.
The Essence of Timing
People are often confused about the differences between the FES essences, Cayenne, Blackberry, and Tansy. Blackberry is for those who feel stuck at the mental level. They feel unable to translate their ideas and goals into the actions that will bring them into being.
The properties of Cayenne are particularly suited to the subject of this article. It’s for those who procrastinate, and feel indecisive and stuck in inertia. This essence catalyzes one to action. You can think of it as building an energetic fire.
Tansy helps those who feel stuck in a laziness or lethargy that goes beyond procrastination. If you need Tansy you’re not thinking about doing something enough to procrastinate. The essence inspires one to take decisive action.
If procrastination itself is a pattern, it may have become a habit. Chestnut Bud (Bach) can help with unwanted repetitive behavior patterns.
All good things to think about (I think!) in this new decade 2010.
Live in Joy!