Steady Your Jar

On a recent call with an amazing and insightful woman she was talking about all of the tasks on her list and declared “Multitasking is really a lie that we tell ourselves. I mean, I am one person who can do one thing at a time.” Obviously, she wasn’t just talking about patting her head while rubbing her stomach, which is accessible to many but not all. Go ahead… try it… I’ll wait…  Well done!… Anyway, she was referring to multitasking on a grander scale. It’s a pressure that many of us feel. I call it the overwhelm. Some are managing businesses and marriage, some raising children while coping with grief, some are choosing career paths and moving away from their homes. Many have a mix of all of this. It often feels like giving attention to one area of our life leaves another to fall apart. When we’re in this place of overwhelm even the smallest task can feel so stressful and that strain affects not only our emotional health, but also our physical well-being.

You’ve likely heard the story of a professor teaching his students how to live a balanced life using a jar of rocks, pebbles, and sand. The jar is your life. Rocks are used to represent the important parts of it; those you could not live without; for example, health and human connection. The pebbles are things that matter but could be replaced or removed such as your job or house. The sand represents small things like tasks and possessions. The metaphor is often used to exemplify healthy time management and life balance. The order in which you pour the items into the jar (i.e., the order in which you prioritize your time) dictates how you will be able to manage these three themes in order of importance. Ideally, according to the metaphor, rocks first (can’t live without), pebbles next (important but replaceable), and lastly sand (nice to have and fillers) allows each item to fit comfortably. It’s kind of a little genius. It’s also kind of a little not so genius. Sorry professor!

The beauty of the metaphor is that it makes us recognize what is important to us and can be applied to all areas of our lives, not just restricted to how we spend our time. The different sized minerals can be applied to components of personal health routine, money management, and even how we balance our energy. Unfortunately, the metaphor doesn’t consider our uniqueness of self and circumstances. We have different bodies, different lives, and different priorities. And these things all change over time. We mature and experience life altering events. Our outlooks and energies shift with the fluctuation of life, which is in constant motion. Focusing on a single element at a time until completion (until our jar is full of one item) is not only challenging but perhaps not our best bet. Our priorities, routines, and energy can shift in an instant. In The Untethered Soul, Michael Singer asserts that “Consciousness has the tendency to focus on disturbance”, meaning we tend to shift immediately to an area of disruption. The example he uses is dropping a hammer on your toe; suddenly all attention is on that one spot of your body.

Bottom line, when the hammer drops, we must attend to the disruption. What we don’t want to do is focus so hard on the toe that we slam our head on the workbench when we stand. Whether it’s a tragedy, a mood swing, irritation or even moment of inspiration we want to find balance. The key to avoiding the overwhelm and healthy prioritization is finding balance with mind, body, and spirit. There is no way of telling when the phone will ring and our progress will halt, the kitchen will flood, or an emotional tornado will hit. The ebb and flow of life can not be seen in a crystal ball and cannot be controlled, no matter how hard we try. What we can regulate is our own energy, which will influence our ability to respond better when we find ourselves slipping into the overwhelm.

Regular Reiki sessions and routine meditation practice are likely the most effective ways to maintain this balance. But for those who aren’t feeling either option, there’s hope for you too! Integrate more water and natural and raw food into your diet. Avoid toxins as much as possible. Exercise daily and make sure you’re getting enough sleep. If that’s not available to you right now, make sure you stretch each morning and night, or take a walk outside. Try singing in the shower every day, journaling, or practice weekly acts of random kindness. Mostly be patient when filling your jar. Maybe put a couple of layers of rocks, then pebbles to fill just under those, then sand to reach the pebbles. Give everything a little time to settle before adding more rocks. Find what works best for you, but mostly make some space to feel your own flow so you can recognize your wave of overwhelm before it hits. And remember to make your unique spirit, your energetic care, one of your biggest rocks. It’s the surest way to stay on track and steady your jar!

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