Do you use Google Calendar? If you do not currently use it, be careful—for better or for worse, it will change your life. A free time-management app for smartphones, Google Calendar allows users to create and edit events with the tap of a finger. Have an important appointment you can’t forget? Google Calendar will send you a push notification. Forget the time of your club meeting on Saturday? Use Google Calendar to view an itinerary of your entire week. The app can add virtually any planned event into your schedule—meals, television, even sleep.
At first, I loved the convenience of the app—I still do. It makes remembering lunch and coffee dates so much easier. It allows me to quickly check my work schedule. It is freeing to not have to memorize the logistical details of every event in my day. I’ll admit, during busier weeks of the semester, I rely on Google Calendar to ensure I will make it to all my commitments.
The culture of scheduling has made our society more organized and efficient. However, at the same time, I also believe it has made me more impatient. I often find myself thinking ahead to the next event in my schedule, anticipating what is to come and all that I still have to do. Often, I approach my day as a series of tasks waiting to be crossed off my to-do list, rather than as an opportunity to have another 24 hours of life. The events of my day are like monkey bars; once I get to one, I am focused on reaching the next.
“Wake up. Snooze my alarm a couple times. Go to work. Go to class. Laugh in the Chocolate Bar with a friend. Read. Run. Trek back to Upper. Read again. Sleep. Send that email. Apply for that job. Write this column. Reach 10,000 steps. Finish that season of How I Met Your Mother on Netflix. Rinse. Dry. Repeat.”
I do not believe that busyness itself is the problem. Between classes, friends, and work, practically speaking, college students have always been and will always be busy. The real problem is not being content in the present moment. From my own experience, impatience with the present only fuels anxiety about the future.
The practice of mindfulness teaches me how to be present in the moment— to appreciate the ordinary moments of my life instead of rushing through them. Mindfulness is a way of being. Paying attention to my breathing, emotions, senses, and experiences focuses and calms me. By paying attention in a particular way to the present moment—intentionally, non-judgmentally, and patiently—I can focus my energy on where I am and whom I am with.
For me, faith also plays a large role in how I practice mindfulness. Particularly, this prayer, titled Patient Trust, by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J., reminds me to be patient in moments of uncertainty and anxiety, when the present seems incomplete.
“Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability—
and that it may take a very long time.
And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.”
When my plans fail and I feel like I am passing through a “stage of instability,” I remind myself that I do not know the larger “schedule” of my life. God doesn’t use Google Calendar—I cannot pull up an app on my phone to show me my life’s plan. However, there is a certain comfort in knowing that this is one schedule I do not need to worry about being on time for—I just have to trust that everything is unfolding at God’s pace.