Mind like water: Stress-free productivity

Don’t get set into one form: adapt it and build your own, and let it grow. Be like water. Empty your mind. Be formless, shapeless—like water. Now you put water in a cup, it becomes the cup; you put water into a bottle it becomes the bottle; you put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.

—Bruce Lee as found in Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen

Over the past year, during my work at the library or as a writer, I’ve heard comments like this:

  • I’m trying to read now that I have more time, but I can’t concentrate!
  • My mind doesn’t want to focus on anything “heavy.” My productivity has plummeted.
  • I’m supposed to be working/writing, but it’s so difficult to stick with it.

The stresses of COVID are messing with our minds, and our productivity.

Today I wanted to lie on my couch and do nothing. That sounded like the BEST plan.

I opened my phone. I clicked on an old link. I found Bruce Lee’s phrase, and I got up off the couch.

“Imagine throwing a pebble into a still pond. How does the water respond? The answer is, totally appropriately to the force and mass of the input, then it returns to calm. It doesn’t overreact or underreact.”

David Allen in Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity

If I throw a rock into a pond, the water has to react. It can’t NOT react.

COVID threw a rock into us. It was a BIG rock. We responded. We couldn’t NOT react. And we reacted appropriately to the force and mass.

Now, like water, we can return to calm. Out of that, productivity flows.

Ripples on water

Nameless: The downside of privacy

A few weeks ago I posted this photo of a mailbox. I speculated about groundhogs snoozing abed under the snow.

A country mailbox with no name written on it.
The mailbox with no name.

But I really took this picture about a year ago, not thinking about groundhogs at all. I took it while on a drive with my mother on the country roads around my hometown. As we drove, I was struck by something: the mailboxes had no names written on them.

In my youth, every mailbox at the end of every country drive bore the name of the homeowner. The letters might be scrawled crookedly, or the stick-on kind you find at the hardware store, or beautiful script, but they were there. During country drives you would pass by and say, “Oh, there’s the Miller place,” or “The McLaughlins live there.”

No more.

The namelessness feels like a dent in community. Something that used to be open now closed.

Protecting our privacy is good, they say. Still, the need for it makes me sad. Nameless, if you will.

Chill cat, fast cat

In honour of World Cat Day tomorrow . . . some tidbits.

According to the cat calendar I received at Christmas, owning a cat reduces the risk of stroke or heart attack by a third. Chillin’ with a creature that’s chill is medicine for body and soul, or catspirin as the calendar calls it.

Who couldn’t use a little blood pressure relief right about now?

Also from my cat calendar: Olympic sprinter, Usain Bolt, can run 27 mph (43.5 km/hr), but cats can run 30 mph (48.3 km/hr).

If they want to. 🙂

I know. These cat facts have made your day better already. A little cat medicine for you.

Don’t let this cat’s repose fool you. He could outrun in no time flat.

Groundhog Day: Start from where you are

When we run a race, do we start at the finish line?

Of course not. We begin at the starting line, run every step (maybe walk a few), and cover all the ground in between.

Why do we want to start at the finish line in other areas of our lives? And why do we expect other people to be standing at the finish line before they have run the race?

Parents do this all the time. Children pass through difficult phase after difficult phase, with parents wishing each phase away:

  • “When will this baby ever (take a bottle . . . sleep through the night . . . wean from the breast . . .)?”
  • “When will my toddler ever (potty train . . . stop throwing temper tantrums . . . give up the soother . . .)?”
  • “When will my child ever (stop crying every day at school . . . learn to read . . . stop sucking her thumb . . .)?”
  • “When will my teenager ever (do his homework on time . . . clean up that pigsty of a room . . . stop doing drugs . . .)?”

We want our children to be perfect, fully formed people without letting them run the race.

We adults have unrealistic expectations of ourselves too. We want to be in some other better place instead of where we are.

Whether it’s losing ten pounds, playing “Moonlight Sonata” on the piano, finishing a jigsaw puzzle, or writing a book, we can’t start at the finish line. We have to run the race, go through the process.

I’m thinking about this on Groundhog Day.

This is a picture of a groundhog in summer – not in winter in Ottawa, Canada, where I live.

No respectable groundhog is showing his face around here any time soon.

I LOVE the movie (it might be my favourite of all time), but the day? What a ridiculous idea. We can’t skip over winter to get to spring. WE ARE GOING TO HAVE SIX MORE WEEKS OF WINTER NO MATTER WHAT! This is Canada, for goodness sake. Nature has to run the race.

We can’t start at finish line. That’s the theme of the movie. Settle in. Take steps over and over. You’ll get there.

All the groundhogs in this field are snoozing under the snow.

Up, down and all around

During the pandemic, I have been participating in Zoom Around the World events. Since we can’t travel, we are sharing photos of trips we have made in the past.

Next week, I’ll be the presenter, talking about my Habitat for Humanity trip to Bolivia, so I’ve been preparing. The process of sifting through old photos reminded me of a conversation I had about El Cristo de la Concordia, the huge statue of Jesus built on a mountaintop overlooking the city of Cochabamba.

GUIDE: El Cristo de le Concordia is the second tallest statue of Christ in the world. It’s even bigger than the one in Rio de Janeiro, although that one is on a higher mountain. If it’s on a high mountain, it’s closer to God.

ME: That’s only if you believe that God is up there. (I point to the sky) I think that God is a-a-all around, and here (I place a hand on my heart), and in you (I point to his heart), and everywhere (I spread my arms wide).

GUIDE: (looking concerned and a greatly alarmed) No! No! He is up there. (He points to the sky.)

I immediately let the topic drop. The guide was not ready to let go of the “old man in the sky” version of God, and I wasn’t about to push it. He found comfort in believing that there is a great power watching over us. It was what was he needed.

I’m more comforted to feel that the Great Power is not separate and apart from me, and that it lies within us all. I find that to be a more tenable position in hard times, because then there’s no questioning or pointing fingers at a force outside of ourselves.

Also, up, down and all around includes everyone, no matter where they are on the crazy journey with spirit.

That’s an idea that can Zoom around the World.

“The kingdom of God is within you.” —Luke 17:21.

Natural beauty: Ottawa

I live in Ottawa, Canada, and even I found this image stunning.

Winter is here, but it has been too “warm” (a relative term) to produce ice thick enough to support people on the Rideau Canal Skateway—the world’s largest skating rink. The conditions did produce this natural beauty though.

I’ll take it, even as I count the days until I can tie up my skates to glide on that ice.