Spending Time and the Preoccupation with Should

Last week I joined a webinar hosted by Mayvin, which was part of a series on “Artful Inquiry”, the guest this time was Steve (who I chatted to and wrote about here) and was called “The Art of Not Knowing”. I didn’t really know what I was joining except it was described as an interactive webinar and I should take a pen, paper and something that didn’t belong in the room I was sitting in. Even two minutes before the webinar was due to begin, I wasn’t sure if I was going to join. I felt a bit nervous because I had no idea what was going to happen.

Anyway, I did join and I am glad. I laughed quite a few times, I got to draw and I found some things so interesting or appealing that I wrote them down. 

After the call, I had some ideas whirling around in my head. When I continued my more regular work activities after the call, this massive piece of paper was next to me with the portrait I had drawn as well as the scribbled notes and I kept thinking about some of the things that had appealed to me. So I started writing this blog..

One particularly appealing idea was Steve’s mention of how he “moves towards things that inhibit him”, giving an example of the few hours he offered imperfect portraits in Trafalgar Square. He said that through doing this thing which he thought he was bad at, he had discovered that his style of drawing people was through the characters appearing not quite right, a bit childlike and slightly sinister.

I liked this idea of moving towards the things that inhibit, as I have been doing something similar over the past couple of years, in trying to move towards things that I feel anxious about or avoid, such as taking a more active role in groups, sometimes through facilitating. I think my drive to do the anxiety-provoking thing is driven by a desire to avoid regret, by ‘conquering my fears’. Sometimes when I worry about having regrets about wasting time I think that this fear-conquering will help with that. Most of the time, though, that isn’t because I really want to do that thing, but because I think I should want to do it. An example is if I was asked to facilitate a meeting. My immediate thought is ‘eugh no, that sounds scary’ but I will agree because I think I should want to do the challenging thing because I know it will help me ‘grow’. What would happen if I just said no to all of those opportunities which I am saying yes to because I feel like I should do them?

Another idea Steve introduced in the webinar was quantum flirting (an idea from Quantum Physicist Arnie Mindell) which he described as being open to something presenting itself to you. That is basically all I know about this idea, but it appealed to me. As I mentioned above, it usually feels like this ‘push’ or ‘drive’ for improving myself or being ‘better’ or my ‘personal development’. It seems that in my anxiety around developing professionally (whatever that means – earning more? Having a fancier job title? Influencing people?) The idea of quantum flirting appealed to me as it seemed like maybe a radical alternative to this pushing/driving energy for making myself better/ not wasting time/ avoiding regrets.

Again, it links to this idea of how I should be spending my time. Recently, since lockdown, I have felt less of a pressure to spend all of my time the ‘best way possible’. I usually spend most of my time working through a list, which I feel a bit sad about as I write that. I think if I watched one of those video montages of all the time I spend making lists or worrying about how I am spending my time, I’d feel even more sad (haha, but I am still worrying about how I spend my time!) Recently, I have been experimenting with not always working through a list and just spending a moment seeing how I feel and then deciding what to do. Often, I end up reading. Also, I often end up writing a list anyway…

Another idea I liked that Steve introduced to us in the webinar, was something he says to people leaving the corporate world as a suggestion of how to think about living your life or becoming a creative freelancer: 1) What are you REALLY interested in? He described it as “the thing you would run across a motorway for” 2) hang out with other people interested in this thing 3) spend as much time in this area as possible, just for nice and 4) everything else will sort itself out.

I really like the idea of step one and two. As soon as he said this part about motorways and the thing we want to do that much, I made a list without having to think too much: I enjoy writing, reading, music (listening, dancing, singing), improvisation, walking outside in places with trees, making people laugh, hanging out with animals. Step 2.. Hanging out with others interested in this. Okay, also sounds great, I have already been doing that with some of those activities. Step 3, do it as much as possible. This is where I get a bit scared..now I think it suddenly sounds like it might become a duty rather than something exciting or energy-giving.

How to engage in practice without it becoming something that you should do? How to put your time towards something without it becoming a ‘push’ to get something done or improve? 

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