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Sunday, November 28, 2010

If it ain't broke...

Years ago, I bought a brand new Geo Metro after I was involved in an accident that totalled my previous car. The "Little Red Wagon", as I called it, ran like a champ even though it had only 3 cylinders. For the first 2 years, I took all the necessary actions to keep it in tip top shape.....regular oil changes, frequent car washes, checked the belts, kept tire pressures correct, tune up, etc.

As the years went by, I became less and less concerned with the oil changes....I merely added oil as the oil level dropped, but never got an actual oil and filter change. It kept running, and that's all I was concerned about. It was the "if it ain't broke, why fix it?" mentality. In the following 4 years, I think I got an oil change only once each year and a tune up only twice, all the while running it long distances and hauling heavy loads. Needless to say, there came a point where the car started to show its signs of had a hard time starting, it wouldn't idle (I had to put it in neutral and keep my foot on the accelerator to keep it running), the alternator belt kept squealing, the front end alignment went get the picture. Then came the day where it just died. I towed the Little red Wagon to a mechanic, and he said "The engine is fried, and its going to cost you some money if you want drop an engine into it, probably more than the car is worth now.".

The "If it ain't broke" mentality finally caught up with the poor car. I knew then, that if I had just taken the time to do the "little things", it would still be running.

Sometimes, we are like that little car. We keep running although we're running low on sleep or food. We try to do too much on our own without asking for help because it might "look weak" or look as if "we don't know what we're doing". We put ourselves through guilt trips when we don't finish a task to our expectations. We become hard on ourselves if we don't make lofty enough goals. Have you been there? I sure have!

There comes a time, however, where all that stress, guilt, overwork, emotional and turmoil, (and sometimes even making more work for ourselves just to feel "productive") catches up with us. The results may range from getting sick to an emotional breakdown. At this point, its too late....there's no going back and saying "I should do this instead"'re already sick or had undergone a breakdown...too late!

So, how can we keep our own "Little red wagons" running? It is all about keeping mentally and physically "in the game" without feeling that you have to be the coach and player at the same time, and stress reduction is a good way to combat our "engine failure"! Some ideas......

1) Take guilt-free beaks: Even the most important projects need breaks, even if it is something as simple as stepping away from the computer for 5 minutes to do some deep breathing or walking. Don't feel guilt about take a break. In fact, the quality of your work is dependent on a clear head.

2) Practice mindfulness: Take just a few minutes several times a day, to be mindful of yourself. How does it *feel* to breathe? What do you smell, see or even taste around you? What colors draw your eye to them in your surroundings? Meditation is a good mindfullness exercise...sit quietly and pay attention to how your breathe moves and feels within you...feel how you expand and conract. Our "interal" senses are just as important as our external senses.

3) Have fun: Sounds pretty easy, but many people don't choose to find time to have fun. You don't have to go out with friends or have a big long as you do something enjoyable, it is "fun"! When I feel energetically blocked, grumpy, or stressed, I gear up and go for a ride on my motorcycle or do Tai Chi to my favorite Tai Chi music. They're activities that are done solo, but I enjoy them immensely and they do wonders for my state of mind.

4) When overwhelmed, ask for assistance: The old saying "If ya want somethin' done right, ya gotta do it yourself", it so outdated. Not only does it imply that you're the only on the Earth that can do things "right", but it implies that others are incapable. The real issue here is that you want things done "your way". That big office project's success or bake sale's profit doesn't care what your Ego thinks. Asking for assistance is not a sign of weakness. After all, "weakness" is a relative term based on your Ego's perception. Whatever action you might think is "weak" probably works well for the guy down the the street.

5) Speaking of Ego, tell it to take a hike: Our "self" has no inherent importance....we only *think* it does. It is this sense of self-importance that may cause us to make mountains out of molehills. On the other side of the coin, an underactive Ego (or more exactly, low self esteem) makes everything a failure, every word that comes out of our mouth as "wrong", and our efforts "good for nothing." Our Ego, for many of us, stands in the way of allowing us to see things as they really are and prevents us from clear thinking.

6) Eat well, exercise, and get a good night's sleep: Sounds like the usual advice...we've all heard it before...but maybe we've heard it so many times we just don't listen to it anymore. Eating well and getting exercise keeps our metabolisms humming, and getting a good night's sleep re-charges are "batteries". If you're a frequent insomniac, chances are that your mind is too preoccupied, and if your Ego is indeed in the mix, it will make mundane "molehill" thoughts into sleep depriving "mountain" subjects.

6) Take a course in activities that involve mindfulness: Yoga, Tai Chi, Qigong, martial arts, chess, etc. There are many sports and activities that bring mindfulness to the forefront. These activities involve being aware of "NOW"....not 3 hours from now, tomorrow or next week, but NOW. These respites from our mental chatter are a great buffer in keeping stress related ailments at bay.

I bought a sports car after selling my poor Little Red Wagon. It doesn't take all that much effort at all to do its regular maintenance. Oh sure, I've had some big ticket expenses with the car, but had to shell out that money so I kept my transportation. Without the maintenance, it doesn't matter how cool the car looks if it doesn't run! If we can commit to fixing our cars, why can't we commit to fixing ourselves? I've had the car for over 10 years now, and she's still running like the day I bought it.

Speaking of which...I should get new windshield wipers tomorrow.


Rick said...


Restita, Seattle Wushu Center said...

Yep....stupid. I was going through a weird time in my life, and it was always "manana, manana", and tomorrow never came. I put that poor car through the same stuff I was going through. Unfortunately, for a lot of people, the breakdown happens the very same way....we just keep plugging along, sometimes ignoring the little signs that we're overworked or over-stressed or putting too many expectations upon ourselves....and "blip", the engine dies. Funny, during that weird time of life, I did get sick a lot, and it wasn't the usual was the weird flus that took me down for weeks.