Holding my breath
Sometimes when I'm working, I realize that I've been holding my breath. If you've never noticed yourself doing that, then I beg you to pay attention to it just for today.
A man wearing a hoodie runs in with a cardboard sign that reads 'Mindfulness is good for productivity. I punch that man hard enough in the face to send him flying into the sky. I take a deep breath as I watch him paraglide back to Silicon Valley using his sign.
You should pay attention to it because your body is telling you that you're doing something uncomfortable. Stopping and breathing will help you assess the situation. Should you take a break? Should you continue working but chill the hell out? Should you stop that infernal playlist screaming into your headphones?
Another man runs in holding up his wrist with an Apple Watch. He proclaims that it has an app that reminds you to breathe. I don't bother punching this guy. I wait for his wrist to distract him with a text message followed by a breathing prompt. Just before he says namaste, I punch him. Unfortunately he didn't have a sign to land safely in Silicon Valley.
Recently I've noticed that I've imposed certain intentionality and utility onto things in my life. I should x because it'll improve y. Rather than becoming motivating, this has filled my soul with dread. Meditation, something I once did for 10 days straight without uttering a single word, became a chore I needed to do every morning, or else...
Yet another ma—Yeah this gimmick is not funny anymore.
Those gimmicky men I was using as a mildly funny rhetorical device... they were some version of me coming right out of university. They were hellbent on optimizing the living daylights out of everything around them, converting it all into something productive.
To be fair they weren't wrong about wanting to be better. It was more the reasoning for and approach to improvement that became a problem. When I stop breathing during work, it doesn't mean I need a dissertation on self-improvement and mindfulness. It means my much less neurotic body is telling my incessant mind that something is wrong. Without thinking too hard, I should respond by stopping and breathing. Most of the time that solves the problem, even if I never figure out what the problem even was.