Feeling overwhelmed? Simple advice from Thich Nhat Hanh

I’ve been extremely busy lately and over the past couple days I have been feeling a combination of overwhelm and complete exhaustion. You see I have a long list of goals that I want to achieve this week, this month, this year, but I also have some projects (for which I am extremely grateful for) in my present.

I am currently understudying all five female roles in Boys’ Life with The Seeing Place Theater. Aside from the time I’m spending in company meetings and dramaturgy rehearsals, additional time is required to study the text on my own to uncover each characters’ obstacles and objectives for each scene and the play as a whole, discover my own point of view on each, and to learn lines too.

Being present for this work requires a great deal of energy (more than I expected or remembered from past projects) and I have found myself being incredibly critical of myself for all the other things outside of this work that I have not been accomplishing.

For example, two weeks ago, I finally decided to purchase a Portabooth, a portable booth for voiceover recording, which would enable me to cut down on some of the sounds in my apartment, and submit higher quality auditions to ACX audiobooks projects and also Voice123 projects. However, until 2 days ago, I had not been able to carve out the time to actually use it. It was still sitting in the box!

Friday afternoon, as I finally unpacked it, I pulled a book from my shelf that I hadn’t looked at in quite some time “The Miracle of Mindfulness” by Thich Nhat Hanh to read from as I tested out the new setup.

I’m a huge believer in signs and me picking this book off the shelf was no different.

Reading books out loud has a way of making me so much more present to what I am reading. When I record books there is an audience who I must reach and in order to reach them, I must really slow down. If I’m reading on my own, I have the bad habit of skimming the text, rushing through it in a way, because I want to get the benefit of reading it, but I feel like time is fleeting, like it is not my own.

Ironically, as I started reading Chapter One, aloud, this feeling of ‘not enough time’ was precisely what the book was addressing. Thich told a story about his friend Allen. Thich was asking his friend about whether he felt is was easier to have a family than to be a bachelor. Allen’s answer was profound. He explained how he used to divide his time into the time for each of his children, the time for housework, and finally time for himself. But he illuminated how dramatically different his life became when he realized that all of that time could in fact be his own, if he simply stayed present.  “The remarkable thing is that now I have unlimited time for myself!”

-The remarkable thing is now I have

This story and several other stories that Thich shares in the first chapter further illuminated for me how my overwhelm and exhaustion was coming less from all the stuff I had to do and more from not being present with what I was doing in each moment of my day.

If you are going to wash the dishes, wash the dishes. If you are drinking tea, how can you be aware of the cup that is in your hand while you are drinking it? And if you are eating a tangerine, are you eating the wedge that is in your mouth or are you busy prepping that next wedge or is your mind somewhere else entirely?

Multitasking is a common trap for me and I was so grateful for the reminder to be present in each moment of my day.

Do you struggle with staying present in your life and art? I’d love to hear what helps or hinders you in staying present in your life. Post a comment below and let me know!




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