A friend of mine called me last week asking if we could get together. He knew I was struggling with some issues in my life and wanted to talk to see how he could help. We planned to meet at seven o’clock on Friday. When he arrived, we shared beers and talked for 30 minutes. Then, an interesting thing occurred in the middle of an issue we were discussing. He became anxious, began talking about his busy schedule, and his need to meet his girlfriend to attend a party later that evening. I sensed he wasn’t interested in my struggles anymore and was more focused on his own concerns. He became increasingly uneasy; his eyes darted around and finally he said he had to go.

All of us have busy lives. Our time is stretched between work, spending time with friends and family, raising children, doing personal activities, etc. Some of that busyness is self-imposed. We see others doing things and feel we’ll be left behind if we don’t also do those things. We wonder if we should climb more or less, if we should get married or not, if we should have a family or not. We fear we’ll miss out on life experiences so we look to the external world for evidence of how to live our lives. As a result, we create busy schedules and rush from one activity to the next.

This fear of missing out points toward a feeling of not belonging. We have a natural need to belong to something larger than ourselves. Busyness makes it more difficult to achieve this need. We rush ourselves, thinking that doing many activities will make us feel like we belong. This causes us to lose our connection to what we’re currently doing. This is what happened with my friend. He was present for 30 minutes, but then became anxious because he was afraid of missing out on attending the party. His darting eyes told me he wasn’t paying attention to my struggles anymore.

To get the belonging we need requires us to shift our attention to our internal world. We notice the mind’s busyness and slow it down by paying attention to what we’re currently doing and who we’re currently with. We develop a love of being present by relaxing into the moment. We notice the mind’s busyness and shift our attention to the body by feeling our muscles relax, breathing deeply, and maintaining eye contact. Doing this puts us in a receptive state and allows us to stay connected and feel like we belong.

This happens in our climbing also. We create busyness by making a list of many routes we want to do. We fear we won’t get to climb them all so we rush ourselves while we’re engaged in the current climb. For example, we think about our project route while climbing an easier warm up route. Then, we feel anxious about not finishing our project route quickly, fearing we’ll miss out on to the next route we want to climb. Rushing from one climb to the next this way causes us to have darting eyes, loose eye contact with holds, and feel anxious.

We get evidence for belonging by shifting our attention from what we see others doing in the external world to our own internal state. Doing this shifts our focus from what we fear we’ll miss to a love of being present. By paying attention to the mind’s busyness, we’re able to slow it down. One of the main things we can do is simply to relax, breathe, and maintain eye contact with whatever we’re currently doing. This connects our attention with the activity we’re doing, which gives us evidence that we belong to something larger than ourselves. We get what we fear we’ll miss by creating a love of being present.

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