My superpower this week: entries and exits!

This week has been different. In a few awesome and delightful ways:

Productive.

Not avoidant.

Presence. And presents, everywhere! (I’ll explain that later.)

Not fearing my office. Walking in with a smile on my face.

What changed? On the surface, not much.

If you spied on me during my work day, you might see me scribbling in my notebooks a little bit more than usual, perhaps.

And if you could spy on me in my car, on my commute to and from work, you might see me talking out loud like a crazy person telling my invisible secretary very important things using my expensive and invisible speaker phone.

Internally, though?

Big shifts. Reconfiguring my internal landscape, on a continental scale.

I’d like to thank mini-Rally last week with Simone for planting the seed. And taking a voyage through Havi’s amazing Art of Embarking course helped me deepen some of the work I was already doing.

But mainly what changed is this: I started practicing entry and exit rituals. And (just like Havi says!) it’s changed my life.

What it looks like

Mindfulness is one of those things — one of those sneaky guilty shoulds — that always confused me, because how exactly do you become more mindful? Is it more yoga classes? Therapy? Meditating? When? How? How often?

Ugh! Lots of resistance and confusion about this whole topic.

It’s also one of those things that’s easy enough to practice in tiny fits and starts: okay, this snack will be mindful. This walk. This bath. Easy enough!

But knitting it all together into a constantly-mindful-constantly-zen life?

Overwhelming. Scary. (Possibly also eye-rollingly lame! Even though I am not afraid of dorking out.)

Here’s how it actually happened for me:

At the mini-Rally last week, I was paying extra attention to how much fun I had, and how magically helpful it was to have done so much preparation. Writing the love letter and saying hello to the door. I’d prepared all my art supplies and my space in advance. Awesome, all around.

And then when I was Rallying I spent a lot of time with this thought: wow, how very unawesome my day job has been lately, in comparison. Avoiding everything, procrastinating, slumping over in my chair, endless clicking through internet distractions. No inspiration. No joy. It felt awful.

Epiphany: what if I tried to help out my workday self in the way I prepared for the mini-Rally?

Problem, meet solution. Brilliant!

So I started focusing on entry, preparing for my work week in a really big way. More than my usual hey-it’s-Sunday-let’s-do-the-laundry kind of preparation.

I dedicated part of my Very Personal Ad to it. Brainstormed.

I started the night before, doing all the things that would make Monday morning awesome: packing a delicious lunch, picking out my clothes, packing a bag.

I focused on what I could do to make it delightful, restful; building space for flow and joy instead of stuck and glum.

That was the first form of entry. And then: I started doing more entry. Turning everything into a moment of entry, and making it awesome. Consciously choosing to start the day my favorite way: a shower, a good breakfast, time to cuddle with my daughter.

And then more entry, in more playful and silly waysHello, commute. [This is me, talking in my car!] You are all about safety, ease, quickness, and transition. Goodbye house and neighborhood, hello work neighborhood and workplace.

More entry. Talking out loud in the car about how I want the day to go, and what tasks I needed to accomplish, and about obstacles and solutions. Using my brain instead of zoning out, unless I was zoning out on purpose, in a restful, non-zombie way.

More entry. Hello, office. I would not turn on my computer until I wrote out a tentative morning schedule (making sure to include: snacks! stretches! time to process!). I would not open my email program without a specific task or an intention: I am looking for any emergencies or things that can be deleted or perhaps I am going to respond to X’s email and that is all. Single-tasking, more generally.

Even more entry. Talking to my snacks (not even remotely the most wacky thing I do!).

And I just kept on going, and never stopped. Rather than figure out what the hell this confusing “constant mindfulness” might look like, I just started saying hello to everything.

But I also started saying goodbyes.

The goodbyes and the exiting turned out to be even more important, in some ways, than the hello. For me, starting something is not usually a big deal — it’s something of a blank slate. I’ll walk into a room, or start a task or a conversation, no big deal.

But once it’s over? I need to process all the stuff that was in it, before it can be done. Otherwise I carry it around with me, in subtle ways, and can trip me up. (Is this an introvert thing? It might be an introvert thing.)

Walking back to my office from a meeting? Say silent goodbyes to what was in it: connection, information, ideas about XYZ. Was I weirded out by B’s behavior? Why was whatisname talking so stridently about that one thing and ohhhh, a pattern, I didn’t like that because it reminded me of that past thing. (That past thing! Remember it? Wow, weird. Goodbye, past thing that came with me into that meeting without me noticing it until now!)

Other forms of goodbye and exit: turning off my computer monitors entirely if I’m not actively using them. Mindful finishing of tasks: washing the dishes directly after lunch, or deleting what I don’t need.

All this review is helpful for me especially because it’s when all the patterns pop out of the background noise, like magic. Poof! I suddenly notice much, much more.

Most importantly, exiting and review is all about the part Havi calls Exit as you wish to continue.

If I want to be calm and not rushed in the next thing I do, I have to make space for the review. Infuse it with calm and safety (it’s okay that I messed up that one thing at work), with attention and awareness. And with intent: I’m reviewing the day (or the snack or the email or the commute) with gentleness and compassion because those qualities are important for the thing I want to do next.

The unlikely, delightful effects

You might think that taking time for all this noticing would make the day choppy and disconnected. But instead, it’s made each day more smooth, because I am more grounded.

Each thing is more congruent with the next: I’m present going in, being in, and exiting. Or as present as I can manage. If I forget about the entries and exits? I focus on whatever exit or entrance I’m in, and go from there.

When this works (and of course, like anything, it’s not perfect), there are presents for me, everywhere! A kleenex in my pocket for my runny nose. Delicious lunches packed for work. Exactly enough ingredients to cook that recipe. Fewer messes around the house. Notes about things I can try or do, just when I find myself stuck.

I am constantly leaving myself presents. And I am constantly being reminded of presence, and getting better at being in it.

As Havi wrote — and yes! yes! a million times yes! it is exactly like this:

I do way less. But I do it more deeply.

And more gets done. Everything is slower, but the results are faster.

I’ve been practicing it since Sunday night, and now it’s Friday. And it has made my life infinitely, deeply, brilliantly better this week.

The mysterious next step

This thing I’m doing, this superpower of entries and exits, it’s an evolving thing. (Expecting it to remain the same: pattern! I noticed that and did some processing about its whys and wherefores on my Wednesday morning commute.) And I’m hoping that the evidence of why this is a good idea and especially why I should keep doing it is compelling enough that my monsters won’t interfere too much. I’ve felt lucky they’ve been pretty quiet this week, not talking too much about there’s no time! and what are you doing you weirdo? and you’re doing it wrong! and the whole motley company of familiar anxieties.

Here’s the mysterious next step, though: how does it work in the evenings? It’s true that after a day of this practice, when I didn’t yet know I could prepare for entering my evening in a good way, I went home and had a truly epically awful evening with my toddler. So I have some entry rituals and new patterns to make our evenings easier.

But there’s still not enough time to do the kind of processing I do during the day. Or at least — that is my perception right now.

So the next part of my practice is going to be figuring out how to make my evenings even more congruent with my days. More presents/presence, and more pattern-noticing.

Because this has been a powerful learning experience. I don’t want it to fade away. Deep down in my bones I have felt so much rightness this week, and it is not some kind of false zen-monk facade of smugness. It’s just plain good. And I want that feeling to stick around.

.

Thank you for reading as always, my friends. I wrestled with how to write about this, because the hows and the whys and the whats seemed so big and each piece is its own separate big thing to be explored and there were many false starts and oh — I just hope that, as with what I wrote about the mini-Rally, this mirroring of my process is useful or interesting to you in some way. Hope you can find all the superpowers you need for your day and your coming week, too. xo

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About jesse k.

Writer. Mama. Spy in the house of self-awareness. Occasional crafter, letterpress geek, and academic snob.
This entry was posted in Checking in, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to My superpower this week: entries and exits!

  1. hillary says:

    verrrrry interesting! I’m going to try some of these techniques this weekend. my “schedule” is super unpredictable, as are my time frames for completing (not to mention enjoying) tasks, so maybe I can be a bit more present in each little moment by feeling the closure of saying “goodbye” to each increment of time instead of holding on to it all day or fighting to get more time for it.

    • jesse k. says:

      I hope it works out for you! I also like doing it with modules of time — not necessarily what order they’ll happen in. Like on a Saturday, I know it will have: the breakfast time, possible errands, possible or known naps, relaxation time, lunch time, etc, but the order (and how much rest in between) is always up for grabs. At least entering by thinking/saying, hello this is me starting to make lunch and get everything ready, and it’s the time for us to nourish ourselves and be together (or whatever) — this is my goal of something to try this weekend. Because it’s such a very different mindset from being at work! But also, being at home, while it needs mindfulness of course, is definitely not a cesspool of resentment in the way that work can be, on its worst days, you know? So in some ways (at least for me), my home life needs less scheduling and simply more being. In the evenings at least, this has also meant an edict of: no constant internetting on our iphones while Penny plays; no sweets; no tv.

  2. Claire P says:

    Just, wow… Wow! So glad you wrote about this… What an experience…

    Two things that stick out for me as I contemplate applying this stuff: (notes to myself)…

    Doing less but doing it deeply -YES – I know this is my next step and I’ve been struggling with it. Okay, preparing to start playing with the embarking stuff more seriously. With major change of identity and way of life due to emerge from my belly in the next 3-5 weeks it would be the perfect time, mais non?

    The importance of exit too – hmmmmm, noticing that I rarely exit consciously, but thinking that the pattern-awareness thing you noticed could well be true for me too. I don’t think the carrying-around-of-experiences is necessarily an introvert thing, maybe a pattern-finding, analytical mind thing.

    Hmmmmmmmm…… Lots to digest here! Thank you!

    • jesse k. says:

      Doing less and doing it deeply is hard — it took a lot of preparation for me to get to that point. One thing I loved is how Havi refers to the idea of needing something to mediate the experience of something else. Sometimes I feel like I *need* a website to distract me from the snack I’m eating, or vice versa. It isn’t exactly what I’d like (mindful eating) but sometimes it’s as close as I can get, being aware that I need an object/distraction to mediate the experience of being in something else.

      Glad this could be helpful, in general! xo

  3. Sharon says:

    Dear Jesse,
    It has been a while since I visited your delicious journey and found myself wrapped in warmth just sitting here and reading this post. Love that Havi and love the journey that you are sharing that you are sharing with us, your dear readers. And, I love the concept of the entries and exits. We are never too old to learn something of value and today your writing proved just that. I will take your message with me as I navigate my ‘what could have been a snarly day’ and will turn it into a wonderful adventure.

    Sharon

    • jesse k. says:

      Sharon,
      Thank you so much for this lovely comment. I feel warm and happy just thinking about you feeling “wrapped in warmth” by reading this!
      xo,
      Jesse

  4. Rhiannon says:

    Definitely interesting; definitely useful.

    Goodbyes! Yes! I’ve been trying to explain to overzealous extroverts in my life *forever* that it’s not doing something that’s hard, it’s dealing with the aftermath of it in my mind.

    I am so not ready to do entry and exit for everything in my life, but I did it for a class I taught last week and it was amazing. People said some seriously non-sovereign things to me after the class, and I was a little phased, but not nearly nearly as bad as I would have been. And then I had an hour to exit afterwards anyway, which was pretty much essential.

    Anyways, it’s lovely to get to peek into your head and your process of making this a more constant thing. I hope to make that transition myself someday. In the meantime, saying hello and goodbye where I can. 🙂

    • jesse k. says:

      Glad to hear some validation on the introvert/processing thing. Because there is SO MUCH GOING ON in my head when I’m immersed in any experience, and I think part of my introversion is that it’s super duper hard to be aware of any of that interior stuff while I’m busy taking in the stimulus of the experience. Afterward though — look out! Processing time needed!

      I’m so glad entry/exit helped with the unsovereign shoes after your class — I saw your mention of it in the Chicken and was seriously disturbed on your behalf. Sending lots of safety your way.

      Very glad these interior peeks are helpful 🙂
      xo

  5. Melissa says:

    Hi! I found your site through Havi’s blog, and I just want to say that this was absolutely the most perfect thing I could have read tonight. In fact, I came to the interwebs specifically because I am puzzled about how to approach a certain thing I want to do (I know where I want to go, but couldn’t figure out the first step to getting there), and here is your delightful, helpful explanation of how you are using entry/exit rituals in such playful and present ways. I love it! I am claiming this for my superpower this week – thank you!

    • jesse k. says:

      I am so very, very glad this was helpful! Approaches are hard to figure out. I know that until I actually did it, very little of what I’d read was actually helpful. Or it was kind of hovering on the surface. And then once I tried it, wow, entry and exit really sunk in and became real to me. Hope you can feel that rightness, too. Good luck with it!
      xo

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