It’s amazing how time can fly by or go so slowly yet it’s the same amount of time each day. Our ability to manage time effectively is what we lack. Have you ever thought how your time as limited? Most people think they can achieve everything they desire in a day, that is just not true. This is why we feel rushed, we put to much on our plate thinking we have unlimited time. Think of your time as a bathtub. You can fill it to a certain level but if you overfill it your bathroom will be flooded. When we over commit our time, we flood our life with stress, hurry and worry. People feel rushed because they do not manage their time in strategic allotments nor do they take time to refresh.

As a part of my series about “How to Slow Down to Do More” I had the pleasure to interview Laura Louise. Laura is an author, mentor and speaker committed to helping people live a joyful life as she helps guide them through forgiveness, past hurts, and supports them in a powerful healing journey. She is dedicated to helping people break through the unforgiveness barrier. Her ability to be transparent and vulnerable allows for an intimate connection as she shares her life’s experiences.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to this specific career path?

My life was full of anger, hate, rage and ultimately unforgiveness. For decades I lived in a world of indifference, isolation and hurt thinking I was created as an angry and miserable person. In my mid-thirties, I literally thought I lacked the ability to love. My life drastically changed after my mother died. I fell into a deep depression, because my mother died very suddenly at age 59, the depression lasted about 6 years. About four years after my mom’s death someone I cared about kept asking me to go to church, which I did not want to do. The church she wanted me to drive to was about an hour and twenty minutes away. This was too far for me to drive when I did not want to go. I told her when they open a church closer to me, I will go. Literally two months later a new location to the same church opened only forty minutes away from my house. What I would learn through my faith journey, began my life’s transformation to understanding the power of forgiveness and how it changes lives.

I began a journey to understanding more about forgiveness and how it saves lives. To be honest, I did not understand at the time what I was necessarily setting out to learn. I knew there was more, much more to life than what I was experiencing. I went back to school to earn my Master’s Degree and began attending and hosting bible studies. I wanted to help myself and others to be free from the hurt we put on ourselves. I needed to figure out the how. The how took me about three years to get the clarity before I knew how to move forward. During which time I continued on my own forgiveness journey. Let me be fully transparent, I made a few costly mistakes trying to figure out what I wanted to build. I also made several what I like to call pivots through my journey. I knew the road I wanted to be on was helping people through their hurt but the how to do it and how to make it something people wanted to do was the challenge. Today I share my experiences of hurt, disappointment and life to connect with people and share my personal journey. I desire to allow my hurt and experiences to be the trigger that gets people to think about their own unforgiveness that lies deep within them. The only way to have real and honest happiness is to have forgiveness in our hearts.

According to a 2006 Pew Research Report report, 26% of women and 21% of men feel that they are “always rushed”. Has it always been this way? Can you give a few reasons regarding what you think causes this prevalent feeling of being rushed?

It’s amazing how time can fly by or go so slowly yet it’s the same amount of time each day. Our ability to manage time effectively is what we lack. Have you ever thought how your time as limited? Most people think they can achieve everything they desire in a day, that is just not true. This is why we feel rushed, we put to much on our plate thinking we have unlimited time. Think of your time as a bathtub. You can fill it to a certain level but if you overfill it your bathroom will be flooded. When we over commit our time, we flood our life with stress, hurry and worry. People feel rushed because they do not manage their time in strategic allotments nor do they take time to refresh.

I remember feeling like no matter what I did nothing seemed to ever get done. Have you ever heard the term there is always work to be done on a farm? The work will never be done you just need to know when to quit for the day. I remember when I was an operations manager of a 24-hour print shop where the work literally was never done. How can a person feel efficient if the work never stops?

The secret is managing your time not just the work. When I was working in an environment where the work was never done, I realized I would never feel satisfied if I allowed workflow to me my measurement of success. I felt rushed to do more because more work came in to be done. When I began my day with a strategy, I felt more accomplished when my goals were achieved. I would set aside the jobs, tasks, and conversations I wanted to get done and measured out the time it would take to accomplish those specific tasks. Having more structure is key to your success because you are in control of your time and energy.

Today we are pulled in many directions because we have more things taking up our time. We spend more time on social media, we binge watch shows, spend more time on our commute, and just have less quiet time to relax and replenish. Some of my rituals include meditating throughout the day to release stress and connect with myself. I sometimes need an energizing boost so I may put on some music and dance for five minutes. In order to not feel rushed, we need to not be rushed. Take more time to replenish your mind, body and spirit. Only when you feel clear can you make sound decisions and live a happier life.

Based on your experience or research can you explain why being rushed can harm our productivity, health, and happiness?

When we rush through our day like a frantic freight train it’s hard to stop that train. Have you ever seen a stressed-out man or woman and thought, “wow they look healthy and successful”? Chances are no, we do not look at overworked, stressed out, burnout people and see attractiveness. We see a person who is like a freight train they are moving full speed but it’s out of control. If you’re anything like me, I get completely stressed out if I am going to be late, it deeply affects me because I understand the value of time. On the very rare occasion I have been late, I remember the feeling of stress. I recall the feeling in my throat, the knots in my stomach, the feeling of anxiety that overtook my entire being. Once I got to my destination, I was still very stressed and as a result almost never enjoyed myself because of the emotions I experienced. That one experience of being late affected my health, productivity and happiness for the rest of the day.

Imagine you’re feeling that same feeling every day. It will not take long before productivity, health and happiness are affected. When we feel rushed, we may disengage from work and home life. This disengagement will put a burden on us and everyone around us.

Did you know there is such a thing as hurry sickness? Cardiologists Meyer Friedman and Ray Rosenman began noticing patients suffered from a sense of time urgency. It is basically a person’s driving need to accomplish more with less time. These types of people feel if they shut down, they will miss out so they constantly stay connected. The consequences of this can be severe, the person loses the ability to stop and think which in turn makes them less efficient. The person will also begin to feel stress which has long term health problems. Stress has been linked to heart disease, diabetes, obesity, depression and accelerated aging. I am fascinated by new discoveries around how people who keep piling on more and more work but have less and less time and how it affects their health. Why? Because we are in an age of the highest modern convenience which should be making our lives easier but somehow it’s not.

When rushing through our day it’s pretty challenging to be happy. Happiness is a state of mind and a conscious effort to enjoy life and situations. When we don’t have time for self-love, coffee with friends, or play time with our kids we lack the enjoyments of life. Afterall, why are we doing anything if we are not enjoying our time with the people we love or value. Happiness can increase our outlook on life, bring us emotional stability and even bring us better heart health.

On the flip side, can you give examples of how we can do more, and how our lives would improve if we could slow down?

One of my recent tools was developed while working from home. If any of you tried working at home you may understand the call of chores. I began to measure time allotments due to the appliance cycles of laundry and dishes. I began measuring 45-minute cycles to accomplish work tasks. I would set my agenda for what I wanted to accomplish in the 45-minutes the laundry was running. I would send emails, make calls, work on tasks then when the buzzer rang, I would take 15 minutes to fold clothes, put dishes away, drink water, listen to music or whatever took my mind off of work tasks. What I noticed was more clarity and actually getting more done because I was strategizing what was important. Taking the breaks helped me from getting lost in work hours. You know, when you sit down at 7:00 AM only to look up and see six hours went by and you didn’t get anything done. When I used my 45-minute time frame, I could see what I had accomplished, take breaks to replenish, and focused on what else needed to be done. If you make this adjustment six to eight times a day you begin to see real achievements in tasks.

There is a morning and evening ritual I do to maximize my day. In the morning I meditate and pray on how I would like my day to look. I take time to thank God for what I have because gratitude opens our heart to receive more abundance. Meditation helps me to slow down and focus. In the evening, I write down the five things I want to accomplish the next day. This helps me to subconsciously prepare for the tasks I want to accomplish. An example for me may be, make 10 calls to follow up on podcast opportunities, send out five emails to book speaking engagements or work on speaker sheet. This helps me to have an agenda before I even begin my day.

We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed. Can you share with our readers 6 strategies that you use to “slow down to do more”? Can you please give a story or example for each?

The 45-minute timer came about when I was working from home. If you are anything like me the call of chores could not be ignored. I would be doing laundry or running the dishwasher and would begin to structure my mornings around the 45-minutes it took for the appliance cycles. I would strategize the 45-minutes, to make calls, send emails, or follow up on leads. Then I would take 15-minutes to fold laundry, put dishes away or grab a bite to eat. This broke up my day into measurable parts. I noticed I had more clarity and energy when I did this. I didn’t even notice it at first because I was doing chores. When I did not need to use my appliances, I would set a timer for 45-minutes and take the 15-minute break. I would get more done because I did not fall into the endless stream of tasks that chained me to the desk with no awareness of time. My breaks allowed me to meditate, eat, hydrate, dance and just take a break from the work-related tasks. I found the breaks provided me with more clarity, creativity and energy within my day.

The need for self-love. I began to understand the need for loving myself through working with my own mentor, being a mentor myself I understand the power of mentorship. I never thought about loving myself but the more I began to put my needs first and care for myself the more I understood the why. Have you ever thought about why the airline tells you to first put the oxygen mask on yourself first then apply it to your kids or neighbor should they need assistance? The simple answer is you need to help yourself so you’re not stressed and panicked so you can easily help the other person. Life is full of stressors, distractions and chaos that pull at us everyday. We need to make time for our own love care ritual. Some of the ways I love myself are through talking to myself in the mirror. I tell the beautiful woman looking back at me that I love her and that we are amazing. I have some power statements I like to say that get me energized and motivated to make my day count. I say things like I am courageous, I am bold, I am gladiator, and I say these things with force and love. I like to sit and have my morning coffee and just think about what the possibilities of the day could bring. Please note, I did not say what I was going to do. This quiet time is for dreaming about what I want to happen not what is happening. You can do anything that brings encouragement, possibility, joy and love.

Meditation is something I thought was not for me. I learned meditation is what you make of it. You do not have to sit on a floor, listen to music or chant. It took me a few years before I even thought about meditating because I thought it was weird. However, once I gave in and began to meditate, I noticed I pretty big change in my ability to pull back from my current life. I would sit in a chair and focus on an image of tranquility and image every element from the temperature to my emotions. I would come out of meditation feeling calm, peaceful, and rested. Meditation helped me to become more clear, rested, and peaceful as I continued my day. It was through slowing down and taking time to meditate that I learned rushing through a day is no way to be successful. We need to stop and gain clarity and calmness in order to have the ability to be proactive and not reactive.

Embrace a growth mindset, take time to learn. We know we need to learn our industry to excel at our careers like knowing the latest trends and dealing with challenges. We also need to learn new aspects of life outside of work. We need to learn new things in order to grow. This aspect of learning includes learning what you do not know. A person may decide they want to learn to ride a horse or fly an airplane. Taking the time to learn something new not only brings enjoyment and excitement it also brings new knowledge and skill. I decided to learn how to keep a brackish water fish aquarium. It’s not quite salt water and it’s not fresh water either, it is somewhere in between. I bought everything I needed for the aquarium the filters, chemicals, rocks, and fish. I read and talked to everyone to get the knowledge needed to be successful. It did not take long to see why maintaining a fish aquarium can be challenging. Who knew water could be so difficult to maintain? I experienced so many challenges like the toxins in the water, the temperature of the water and how to add a new fish. By reading everything about aquariums, I thought I had the understanding of how to manage my aquarium successfully. It was through my doing what I read, where the real education began. I began to see how chemicals worked to change the environment and learned why sunlight and temperature were important aspects of the aquarium. Learning new and exciting thing helps to expand our horizons and helps keep our minds cognitive ability active.

Setting intentions for the day is the most overlook resource. I was a victim of my day for many years. My day began with reading emails, returning messages, then allowing everyone to pull me into any direction the wind blew. Often times, I would think to myself at the end of the day, “what did I do today”. Looking back, it’s crazy to realize how much time and energy was wasted on tasks that did not take me in the direction of intention. Today my intentions are set by the power of five. There are four main areas of focus to balance out life which include self, family, business and projects. Within each main area there are five tasks to do each day. The example for self-love would be doing five things that nurture self like meditate, pray, take a bubble bath, walk on the beach or journal. Family is where a person connects with a family or friend. They may call their mom and talk with her for 10 minutes. Another example would be, set a coffee meeting with a friend. This is where people do not let the excuse of” life is to busy” to get in the way of spending some time with loved ones. The next category is business, this is where one focuses on business related tasks. Maybe a person needs to send out 20 emails to book speaking engagements, or maybe they are working on a project and want to accomplish three strategic aspects. Remember not more than five strategic tasks. The last category is projects this is where things like traveling, hobbies or school plays get a piece of your day. When we set five intentions, or less, per category the brain remembers what the main objectives are for the next day and our subconscious mind begins working on them while we sleep.

Setting boundaries can be a very challenging task especially if you are a people pleaser. Let me just start by saying, I have never been a people pleaser. In fact, I have never had a problem with telling someone I could not accommodate what they required of me. I realize boundaries are not just telling other people I could not do something it included telling myself. Boundaries are not just for “other people” they are for our own benefit. We must understand there are only so many things a person can do in a day. Set your agenda for the day and unless there is truly something urgent, note: extremely important, stick to your daily agenda. If this new thing that came up requires your action add it to the end of your day or the next day’s agenda. The goal is to not get pulled into the vortex of reactive behavior. Setting boundaries around your day, agenda, and time will allow you to remain focused and get more accomplished.

How do you define “mindfulness”? Can you give an example or story?

Being mindful was something I lacked for many years. I came from a place of deep hurt which lead me to emotional isolation. In that isolation, I shut off all feeling and awareness of my surroundings. I often say, I moved through life but never actually felt it. I remember in my mid-thirties thinking, “I do not know how to love another person”. I thought I was emotionally broken, which I was, and my ability to love was somehow skipped over when God was passing out love and kindness. When people described me the words I often heard were abrupt, cold, and harsh. Wow, those are some pretty ugly words when these are the first three that come to a person’s mind in a description of another. Unfortunately, I did not care how others described me. I did not care if I was liked, valued or accepted. I was shut down emotionally.

My entire world changed after my mother passed away. My mother was 59 and just retired after working for the same company for 20 plus years. It was her time to relax spend time with her parents and do the hobbies she enjoyed. One day we thought she was having a stroke so we rushed her to the hospital only to eventually find out she had cancer. Not just one type of cancer but many and all of it was stage four. My world came crashing down and everything in my life changed in that moment. The door of every emotion a person could feel hit me all at once. I felt pain, grief, fear, anger, disappointment, sorrow and more much more. All of a sudden, the world where emotion ruled by anger and hurt was king now was being ruled by reality. The reality that my mother was going to die and we were trying to make her as comfortable as possible. I remember standing in the hospital listening to the doctor speak and all I could think about is how did we get here. How did this vibrant, young, active mother of mine end up where we are?

My mother passed away three weeks from when we first brought her into the hospital. The mother I knew who was a no nonsense, creative, constantly moving force was gone. Everything in my world stopped! I had nothing but silence. I did not know how to go on. This experience of losing my mother sent me deeper into darkness where I stayed for about six years.

My life changed when I began my spiritual journey. I would journal and pray often. The more I closed my eyes and listened, I would begin to see things differently. In the beginning it was simple changes like looking at someone when I talked to them, which I never used to do. I looked at my life and realized I had much work to do around forgiveness. I became mindful that all of my destruction and isolation needed to be resolved through the process of forgiveness. I began a four-year journey that continues today to work through all of my hurt, anger and unforgiveness. In unpacking my own baggage, I am able to see much more clearly the hurt and disappointment in others. Through my own journey of deep painful work, I understand the hurt, sorrow and disappointment of mistakes we make and the hurt others have done to us. Please hear me when I say nothing you have done or that has been done to you cannot be turned around for good. The change comes when a person hits their bottom. For me it was losing my mother then falling into a deeper darker place. I feel like I have climbed over rocks, baked in the hot sun, been hit by cactus and walked through fire. One day I would come to realized all of this was happening so I could rise up.

Today I feel emotions like I never have before. I feel love, gratitude, joy and happiness. I feel the emotion from others as well. I can feel and experience a person’s grief and joy through conversations. I once was an isolated island not feeling anything but darkness. Today I feel the abundance of emotions, able to experience people and situations in ways I never thought possible. I do not feel isolated any longer. My belief has changed that I was skipped over by God in the love and kindness area of emotions. I understand I was given a gift, the gift of knowing lack and then the gift of abundance. I know how it feels to be isolated, depressed and hurt but I also know how it feels to be loved, seen and valued. May you become mindful of yourself and the people around you in deep and profound ways.

Can you give examples of how people can integrate mindfulness into their everyday lives?

My tools for being more mindful include meditation, prayer and making an intention for my day to work on a specific area of focus. I desire to have more self-awareness in many areas of my life. I may work on not judging for a day, this allows me to stay focused on one task of personal growth. The more I stay connected to my thoughts and emotions the more I can change them if I am out of alignment with my personal values.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to use mindfulness tools or practices?

Some of my favorite books are, I am number 8 by John Gray III, Living Beyond your Feelings by Joyce Meyer, The Supernatural Ways of Royalty by Kris Vallotton & Bill Johnson, Battlefield of the Mind by Joyce Meyer.

I often rely on biblical scripture for inspiration.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I often say, if I could tell my younger self one piece of advice it would be to listen to my inner voice more, it’s right more than it’s wrong. We never give ourselves enough credit when it comes to the voice in our head. That voice has served me so well, when I listened to it. In hindsight, I can see how things in my life went differently than expected usually because I did not listen. It’s not always a voice sometimes it’s just a feeling one gets. A feeling that something is not right. We don’t always understand why but we know we should not move forward. We ignore that voice or feeling then wonder why something did not work. If you want to have less heartache and more joy, listen to your inner self it’s telling you something.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

My movement is the forgiveness journey. I want to take people on a journey into their past so they can heal from what they hold in their spiritual basement. Where people have tried to hide their hurt, disappointment, shame and guilt. I want to break down every barrier that separates individuals from their self, families and friends. There is a hiking trail called El Camino de Santiago in Spain which takes you through 4 regions of Spain and 500 miles. The trail is named for Santo Iago (Saint James) the rumored brother of Jesus that is believed to be buried under the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. Religious pilgrims would walk this trail seeking forgiveness for their sins, thus this trail is also known as the forgiveness trail. We all need to walk our own forgiveness trail, we all need time to heal and reflect from the life we have lived. I want to take people on their journey to freedom, freedom to heal from what they put in the spiritual basement never to be seen again. A person can not ignore or hid from their past they keep carrying it and as the years go by the baggage gets heavier and heavier until one day something happens, they can no longer carry it. There will come a day when the burden is to great and time has been lost. I do not want to see another person hurt by what they keep in the spiritual basement of their soul. It’s time to release and clean out the basement, let me help you.

Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!

About the Author:

After 15 years working in Commercial Real Estate in New York City, Ashley Graber changed the coast she lived on and the direction of her life from Real Estate to the worlds of Psychology and Meditation & Mindfulness. Ashley came to these practices after getting sober and in the decade plus since, she now runs a busy mindfulness based psychotherapy practice at Yale Street Therapy in Santa Monica, CA where she see adults and children and speaks on the benefits of meditation and mindfulness practices.

Ashley is an Owner and Director of Curriculum for the next generation meditation app & mindfulness company ‘Evenflow’ and launched the company’s one to one online mindfulness mentoring program. Ashley also educates teachers and administrators in schools and presents in businesses across Santa Monica and Los Angeles.

Ashley was trained in Meditation and Mindfulness practices by prominent teachers; Elisha Goldstein, Richard Burr and Guiding teacher at Against the Stream Boston, Chris Crotty. Her Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) certification was done through The Center for Mindfulness at UC San Diego. Additionally, Ashley is trained by Mindful Schools to teach Meditation and Mindfulness practices to children and families. Ashley’s unique combination of psychotherapy, trauma reprocessing and meditation and mindfulness practices make her a sought after therapist and mindfulness educator and speaker. Her passion for the benefits of mindfulness practices as well as her enthusiasm for helping young kids and adults is the drive to teach these very necessary, life long skills and why she wrote and runs the Mindfulness for Families program at The Center for Mindful Living. This is where she teaches groups of families with children ages 6–12. Ashley was featured on Good Morning LaLa Land, presented on Resilience at the renowned Wisdom. 2.0 Mindfulness & Technology conference, and presented at the TED Woman conference offering an in-depth look at the profound psychological and physiological consequences of chronic stress, and how meditation and mindfulness practices can alleviate these effects.