What Matters Most

“Are we REALLY supposed to clear our minds when we do this?” asked a mouthy teenage black belt. At the beginning and end of class we bow to the flags, sit with our eyes closed and hands folded in prayer, and meditate.

“Yes, and it works,” I thought silently. I’ve mentioned before that taekwondo class is when I am most clear-headed and present-focused. Our meditation is really more ritualistic than functional, but it does the trick. It’s a quick way to leave the outside world at the dojang door and more deeply commit to learning our martial art. Just closing my eyes reminds me that the other aspects of my day have paused for this moment. I can let go and embrace my practice.

I don’t meditate outside of TKD unless you count yoga and swimming as moving meditation. Sometimes I even forget to breathe, which results in my workmates hearing a lot of sighing coming from my cubicle. Sometimes I don’t know when to stop running.
slow-down
In my last entry I talked about being stuck, and prior to that I expressed a desire to slow down the whirlwind of my life. I have the tools. Now it’s time to use them.

“THIS is the most important thing you’re doing today,” I’ll tell myself in yoga class, when what I really want to do is put a pizza in the oven and zone out to TV. I may have put in 8 hours at the office, but the care and feeding of me happens in less tangible moments…or at least not in the ones society expects me to revere.

Lately I’ve been drawn to blogs that promote a minimalist lifestyle. Some are a bit too extreme for me, but I appreciate the sentiment behind it. Less consumption = more time to devote to what really matters: learning, love, living. I started small and cleaned out my paper and digital files at work. I typically keep a fairly neat workspace, but there were plenty of things I was hanging onto “just in case.” I was so inspired that I rushed home after work yesterday, cleaned out my closet and dining room, and ended up with around 8 bags and boxes of stuff for donation and consignment. I have done major clean-out several times, and it never ceases to amaze me that I actually PAID to have people haul all this perhaps once treasured but unused stuff from my apartment to my new home.

Today I found a list of “goals” in my day planner and realized they were all big purchases:
-Hot water heater (to be fair mine is over 20 years old and a ticking time bomb)
-New lights and paint for the kitchen
-New faucets for the guest bathroom
-New chair for the library
-New coffee table (got it!)
-More modern TV stand
-Bigger TV

Other than the hot water heater, they’re all nice-to-haves. I bought my home almost three years ago, and over time it’s slowly looked less like an oversized dorm room and something that a grown-up might actually occupy. I’ve taken pride in painting, decorating, and replacing old items. But there’s only so much room in that space before it becomes a boxed-in tomb of trinkets.

I looked at the list again and wrote down what I’d REALLY like this year:
-Practice Spanish
-Practice taekwondo forms at home more often
-Quality time with my boyfriend
-More time to read
-More time for yoga
-Write on my blog and in my journal more often

I’ve caged myself into the endless yuppie cycle of acquiring, cleaning, and reorganizing–a perfect facade of a perfect life. I spend all my time managing my things and they end up managing me.

So what mattered today? It wasn’t the cute outfit I wore (although it was super cute), the money I made, or even the mini-goals I checked off my to-do list. The highlights of my day were feeling my back muscles work like strong pulleys during my early morning swim, listening to Spanish language CDs in the car, the smiles and “thank yous” from two young women who attended my morning workshop, the tango of shadows and sunlight made by the big trees along my street, taekwondo class, and a home-cooked meal.

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