Twenty-four nonstop availability to news is disruptive to rest cycles. It is at night when body recuperates, the mind absorbs and discards information, and the soul travels. We don’t reset. We don’t rest. We don’t revive. We are tired and that is not what life should be about. Those who are cognitively still developing are overwhelmed. Traumatic sense replayed over and over for ratings can cause PTSD.

As part of the series “Slow Down to Do More,” I had the pleasure of interviewing April Kirkwood. April is a licensed therapist, author, and speaker. Her memoir, Working My Way Back To Me, is an inspirational tale that sheds light on universal struggles involving love, sexuality, addiction, and mental health. She is an advocate for women and early childhood trauma that affects adult romance. Her philosophy and treatment are a refreshing blend identifying the mind, soul, and body connection through practices of awareness and awakening and play therapy. 

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

I grew in a blue collar family in the Midwest living on a small farm with my mom and her extended family. My childhood was filled with wonderfully strong and crazy women who loved me but modeled some really sad messages about men and women and love. I didn’t realize those messages until I found myself looking back realizing that no matter how I looked, what degrees I had, or social status I arrived to, I never could never get it right in the area of her romantic life. I finally hit a dead wall in West Palm where it looked like I had everything any woman would want. Standing gazing into the pool at my “perfect” life I wondered how I got this miserable. Through many tears and soul searching, I finally found the courage to dig deep in the darkest places of my mind and soul and find how and what went wrong. I traveled back to my story and looked at the events from an adult’s vantage point. Each step, I forced myself into those parts of our lives and family we never really discuss. There were abortions, affairs, church, parties, divorces, and addictions. I found the multi-generational messages that were innocently imprinted in my being. I spent four years shifting through the rubble of my life and worked my way back until I could do the healing work I needed.

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?

Mama I miss the good old days!

Life has not always been like a trip at Disney with a headache. Society at one time assisted it’s citizens promoting rest and quiet moments. Not so long ago, Sundays were dedicated to church attendance and family gatherings. People actually thought it was truly fun listening to stories from grandpa. Stores were closed. There was no twenty-four hour banking. Television stations stopped transmitting by midnight. On a date, it was expected that ladies would be dropped off before midnight and someone was waiting up just to make sure she was safe. A wonderful Saturday night consisted of sitting on the porch holding the hand of someone you loved. Dinner came from the garden and going to restaurants were reserved for special occasions.

Today we are at war with conditions, thoughts, feelings, and time. Here are a few of the reasons we feel ‘always rushed.”

We are in a race to be humanly inhuman.

We are at odds with technological advances that were initially created with the intention of simplifying our lives. These thinking machines are outsourcing jobs. We worry, “Will a robot one day do my job?” Seniors are at s loss trying to navigate directives trying to apply for online part time positions. Government paperless forms made to create a seamless flow of communication are impossible for elderly to complete. In short, there is no communication for many because of technology. And on some level it’s true, we are facing some major competition with technology. There are programs that think faster than us and remember more than us. Humans trying to compete with the inhuman causes an internal war manifesting stress, anxiety, and insecurity. The highly educated have an edge over those who haven’t had the opportunities to learn this new way of life. Discrimination widens and opportunities for many are limited.

Counselor’s Tip: Work and interaction are central components to a long and happy life. Without these mental health is in jeopardy.

Americans have become addicts demanding instant gratification lacking patience and kindness to themselves and others.

Professionally and personally we expect and are expected to have it all in a split second. It’s driving us mad. Job performance is down as studies show that multi-tasking is unrealistic and counterproductive. Individuals are expected to be on call 24/7. It’s exhausting. Disgruntled employees are less committed to the companies they work for and turnover in employees cost corporate world millions in retraining.

Personal relationships suffer as well. There is little time for individuals to take it slow and think clearly before they dive into bed. We have fallen prey to the ideas of falling in and out of love as though it was renting an apartment. Couples barely get acquainted before it’s over. The race for love leaves most finding themselves in emotional crisis and confusion.

Impulsive reactions to others on social media result in negative decision evoking both short and long term regrets. Bullying is a major problem for most online sites.

The qualities of sticking to both professional and personal commitments nurtures morality that has been the foundation of our nation. Both are lacking in character traits today.

Counselor’s Tip: Sitting quietly and working on individual projects one at a time give that beautiful space of lightening quick insights for new ideas and greater creativity which improves the profits of companies and satisfaction of employees. Personally, character traits of a soft gentle nature do more to improve peaceful relationships then off the wall erratic remarks and actions.

Non stop news delivers information too quickly to process.

Twenty-four nonstop availability to news is disruptive to rest cycles. It is at night when body recuperates, the mind absorbs and discards information, and the soul travels. We don’t reset. We don’t rest. We don’t revive. We are tired and that is not what life should be about. Those who are cognitively still developing are overwhelmed. Traumatic sense replayed over and over for ratings can cause PTSD.

Children unable to process data are bombarded with information that is unsuitable throwing them into scenarios that are counterproductive to their maturation.

Counselor’s Tip: The mind is constantly recording what occurs in front of it. Be careful what and how much you take in per day. Shut down computers and software an hour before bed. Close the blinds. Sleep in a cool environment. Find a routine. Try to get up and go to bed around the same time each day.

Materialism is an insatiable beast devouring individuals, families, and countries.

Materialism is a huge factor pushing people to ‘keep up with the Jones’ kind of delirium. Research tells us the most unhappy groups of people are the very richest and the very poorest. Still, we see stars with lavish yachts and homes all over the world and believe we are less them because of it. The drug overdoses and unnatural fatalities of those we idolize don’t seem to change our views. The gold has blinded us from the messages blasted on the evening news, in the magazines, on Instagram, and Twitter.

Counselor’s Tip: By receiving personal worth outwards individuals will never be content and no amount of money will ever guarantee feelings of self-worth.

Fear is the driving force of our lives.

We are afraid of what we would find if we slowed down. We are afraid to stop because we might never get the momentum going again. We are afraid someone will do better, get the edge, perform at greater speed and accuracy.

Perhaps the question shouldn’t be “Mirror mirror on the wall who’s the fairest of them all?” But should be “Mirror mirror on the wall, show me that I am loved from the source who sees all.”

Counselor’s Tip: There are only two emotions that drive humans. One is fear, the other love. Any behavior that creates insecurity, low self-worth, mental illness, physical illness, and hating starting a new day is of fear. The best method of getting rid of egocentric living is to receive truth, guidance, and self-worth from within ignoring the lies of the world has fed us.

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

Have you ever taken a shower in a hurry and got out sweating? I have. Its insanity. This is the extreme example of going to fast to do too much. Thoughts are things and things affect our bodies which affect our daily lives.

I love the laid back manner of California folks. They have an unspoken fifteen minute window for all meetings in the entertainment field So if the meeting is set to begin at 1:00 pm, participants have until 1:15 to get there without feeling guilty. High blood pressure, eating fast food, heart attacks, migraines, and other life threatening illness are effects of ‘rushing.’

Research shows that in America more people die on Monday mornings more than any other day or time of the week other then Christmas Eve at 10 p.m. This indicates an interesting hypothesis. People would rather die than face another week running amuck like rats on a wheel.

We are missing moments and life is made up of just moments. We have lost the ability of awareness so we can enjoy the ride. Sometimes it’s relaxing to gaze at the sun rays filtering through the clouds flying on a plane. At other times, it’s just as magnificent to follow the billows of white designs of a jet from a recliner in quiet wonder.

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?

Focus On One Task At A Time

When we are concentrated on one solitary task, it’s as though time vanishes and creativity runs wild. In those moments, like quick flashes of inspiration, we relax, caught up in an experience that supersedes time. Little do we know that we are accomplishing more and yes, times flies.

A great focus exercise can be done while driving a car. As you drive, feel the grip around the steering wheel. Is it smooth? Cold? Hot? Is it easy to turn corners? Get lost there for a moment. Listening to sounds, following directions, watching your surroundings. Before you realize it, you will have arrived at your destination and once again, time has passed without one bit of anxiety, stress, or hostility towards other drivers.

Extend this exercise when washing dishes, loading the clothes into the dryer, making the bed. It’s as though you master time getting more things done in a state of concentration at the task at hand.

The gifts are three fold: Stress decreases while productivity increases. Research states that it takes approximately thirty-three repetitions to formulate a new habit. With enough practice you can expand this to many areas of your day without ever having to consciously dedicate the mind to do so. This is what I call, living in the now. The past no longer haunts you and the future no longer frightens you.

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?

Make a list before you go to bed. This allows worries to fade away because you know they are safely written right beside you. This small task also gives you a plan for the new day.

Have your supplies, clothes, briefcase, etc., ready before retiring.

Rise early to rest before you get going. Getting up late only causes undue stress and when under stress, we all know nothing else seems to go smoothly.

Create a morning ritual that you love. Play your favorite music. Have your coffee ready? Spend time with those you live with and put some interpersonal communications to keep you grounded remembering what is truly important –

L. O. V. E. via relationships.

Throughout the day check in with your body. Is it sweating? Do you feel a cold coming on? Do you feel yucky inside? Your body is the house of your soul. Befriend it and let it guide you.

Check in with your mind. Are your thoughts filled with doom and gloom or up and zoom? Your attitude determines how you experience the world. You have the power to switch from negative to positive changing your energy and those you draw to you. Let you attitude act like a filter. When you have an optimistic outlook, it filters out the negative and denser experiences. No matter what the outside looks like, you can remain at peace

Check in with your soul. Are you following your passion? How are you giving love to a world who needs your kindness? Are you making a commitment to be the watcher learning more about yourself in every interaction and experience. As an aware being are you enjoying the many splendors of life? The quirky personalities of friends? The unconditional positive regard of your furry friend? A simple smile from a passing by?

Counselor’s Tip: Your attitude is the words you use when you talk to yourself.

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

Mindfulness is the capacity to be awake and aware even in tense circumstances. The moment when you become the observer rather then the participant a number of positive changes occur within. The tendency to react, harshly judge others, and become overly emotional lessens. A sense of interest in the process rather than combative moves of self defense is greatly reduced.

It’s as though a movie is taking place and you are in the audience as well as on the screen. You get involved by watching a fight scene but see it from both sides looking with more understanding and insight to why and how it happened so you can better turn it into mediation and peace instead of conflict.

The effect: Balance and Stability

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

The Universe Is On Your Side

The awareness that the world is on your team is like a B12 boost to walk confidently and press through even the toughest of times. The fact that love surrounds you gives courage to face hesitant moments knowing that it’s OK to take risks.

The effect: Self-confidence

There Is More To Me Then I Know

The deep knowledge of having a soul makes all earthly experience somehow less tragic. Life is about a soul having a temporary experience to learn lessons before returning home. It gives me faith to do my best and when it goes wrong, as it sometimes does, I have a clear conscience and almost grateful that I learned an important life lesson.

The effect: Release from Guilt

Think Before Acting

Checking in with your higher self, allows yourself enough time to do the job well, to speak with elegance, and to give good solid guidance. It’s always better to avoid impulsive decisions. Being in continuous motions often leads to taking actions that lead to crisis and problems.

The effect: Wisdom

Befriending Silence and Pain

By changing your perspective you can eliminate the endless thoughts that rush through your mind affecting your body and spirit. To take a few moments to sit quietly and experience yourself and your thoughts from a calmer level of awareness stops the chaos so you can look at your day, your life, in a different context.

The Effect: Growing more Intuitive

Check Your Attitude

Attitude determines experiences and your view of the world. Filtering everything with a sense of childlike wonder encourages positive and optimistic outlook. The negativity filters out and your entire essence lightens.

The effect: Joy

Walk A Mystical Path

I have practice unlearning all that is seen and lean almost completely on spirit. I accept I know little about the truth of what is truly occurring and the emptiness fills me with passion for my purpose in life. I erase the mental blackboard so I can see what is really happening.

The effect: Purposeful living.

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

I love the book, A Woman’s Worth by Marianne Williamson. Her creative method of explaining the Course In Miracles with various real life issues resonates to so many. When we only had cassette recorders, I listened to her so many times I totally start to repeat some of her phrases. I also appreciate the writing, Women Who Run With The Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés. Her use of archetypes to teach lessons about women and love is profoundly executed. I, like millions of others, adore the writings and teachings of Deepak Chopra. His short but powerful writing about Universal Laws is my go to when I need to remember the way the world works. It’s a great reminder that keeps me on track. As I am always getting ready for my next life, I read Journey of Souls and Destiny of Souls by Michael Newton over and over. His research feels right to me. It’s as though I remember being home with my tribe.

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

You came from love, you return to love so all you need to do is focus on love right now.

— April Kirkwood, LPC

I have gone through many traumatic experiences as a child and somehow I always felt love for those who were making some major mistakes. It took me many years for me to find that love for myself and do my work. I now see that this love I have for others is also available to me.

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. 🙂

I wish others to see themselves as spiritual beings working and looking within for their happiness rather than outwards. The world has lulled us to sleep and we are missing this wonderful adventure called life.. I want to start a WAKE UP movement joining with others as they find their value, their power, and their bliss. I would like to personally invite others to live alert and aware. The view is fabulous.

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.