"The little things? The little moments? They aren't little." -- Jon Kabat-Zinn
Recently I went to the Thrive conference. This two-day event featured conversations with influencers and luminaries on topics related to the four pillars of Arianna Huffington's Third Metric: well-being, wisdom, wonder and giving.
It was unlike any conference I had ever attended. It was more like hanging out with friends than being at a professional event. Mika Brzezinski and Arianna Huffington, the hosts, laughed and giggled most of the time. They had a bed on stage and hung out on it, they sat on the sofa with their legs up and half the time, Mika walked around the stage with no shoes on.
There was music, awesome music (Miri Ben-Ari is a goddess), yoga and meditation. The speakers were incredibly inspirational and honest. Speakers like Adam Grant, Dani Shapiro, Ellen Goodman (with whom I shared a lovely lunch) Brad Mettzer, Julianne Moore, Jon Kabot-Zinn, Katie Couric, Kenneth Cole, Alanis Morissette, Tory Burch, Andy Puddicombe and Ali Wentworth (who was amazing, and I hope she will have a one-woman show). People spoke with authenticity about their struggles to thrive and how they found their successes.
I have been trying to live a life based on the Third Metric pillars for many years, but I am not sure I had ever realized my exact wake-up call. In the swag bag, I found a piece of paper that asked, "What was your wake-up call?" Arianna shared her wake-up call -- passing out from exhaustion. Mika's happened when she felt disconnected from her life. I started to wonder about my own wake-up call, and then I remembered it happened a few years ago.
It was a hot summer day in New York City. If you have been to NYC, you know summer is sticky business here. With eight million people, the heat and humidity can make anyone grumpy. I used to rush then -- all the time. I'd rush to meetings and rush to appointments. I don't like being late, but I did not give myself enough time between appointments, especially those that were across town. My city days were stressful; I work and live in New Jersey, but most of my clients are in the city.
Don't get me wrong, New York is my favorite city. I've had a love affair with this city from the first night I landed in America. I was 12 years old when I saw the skyline for the first time, and I was instantly hooked. Nevertheless, NYC can be a stressful city. There is an energy here... a frenetic pace. There is no time or room for slowing down or reflecting. Every time I got off the train, I began rushing.
One hot summer day, after a long day of rushing, I was at Penn Station to catch my train to New Jersey. When I got to the station, I had exactly six minutes to make the train. "Six minutes is plenty of time," I told myself. I began to run, zig-zagging through rush-hour crowds to find my way to the train. I got down to the platform, and the train was still there. I had a minute before they pulled out, so I began to run, and just then, I tripped and fell (full-on fell) face down on the platform -- the dirty Penn Station platform. I scraped my hands and knees, and the conductor saw me and came to help. He got me up and on the train, and people were very kind; I got a seat, but I was embarrassed as people looked at me with sympathy.
I looked at my sorry self and wondered why I was in such a rush. The next train was just 20 minutes away. This was not the last train out of a war zone. I am not even sure why I had to be on this train. I was just in the zone. The rushing-for-no-reason zone.
It was a long, reflective train ride. I made some promises to myself and made some permanent changes in my life on that train ride:
1. I would never rush for a train again. I would simply get to the station and wait for the next train. Period. I've kept this promise.
2. I would give myself one hour between appointments. I know that sounds crazy, but by giving myself tons of time, I made fewer appointments and didn't have to rush to get to each of them. I have kept this promise, too. Often, I have time to grab a chai latte and relax before the next meeting.
3. Don't wear a watch. I started setting alarms on my phone to remind myself of my next appointment. Because my phone reminded me, I didn't have to look at my watch or the phone every five minutes. During Thrive, Jon Kabot-Zinn said he hangs a sign on the clock during his retreats that says: NOW. Hearing that validated my decision to not wear a watch.
Since then, I also have learned about the difference between Kairos and Chronos time. From Wikipedia: "Kairos (καιρός) is an ancient Greek word meaning the right or opportune moment (the supreme moment). The ancient Greeks had two words for time, chronos and kairos. While the former refers to chronological or sequential time, the latter signifies a time lapse, a moment of indeterminate time in which everything happens."
I decided to live in Kairos time as much as possible. When we are mindful, when we are engaged with our passions, when we are meditating, when we are alert, when we are present for each other, we are in Kairos time. The watch keeps us in Chronos time.
I am grateful for my wake-up call. Now when I am at Penn Station and I see people running and whizzing by me, I wish I could stop them and tell them about my discovery -- life is so much sweeter lived slowly. But I know we all must come to that conclusion in our own time. The commitment to not just succeed but thrive is a personal choice, and the time often comes after a wake-up call.
What was your wake-up call?
Fauzia Burke is the Founder and President of FSB Associates, a digital publicity and marketing firm specializing in creating awareness for books and authors. For online publicity, book publishing and social media news, follow Fauzia on Twitter: @FauziaBurke. To talk with FSB and ask your book publicity questions, please join us on Facebook.