How often do you delay taking a break, getting sleep or doing something for yourself in favour of doing something that ‘needs’ to be done first? How often is your mind thinking about the next thing you need to do, something you want or need to do in the future or ruminating about something that has already happened? How often are you really ever here, in this present moment?
There’s an expression about smelling the roses that might seem trite, but even noticing the people next to you, what they are wearing, the colours in the room, the smells as you take a walk outside, just noticing, just being, can help you in so many ways if you’ll just slow down – or, at least, feel that you’re slowing down.
Just look at the amazing photo taken by Dmitry Sytnik I used for this article. If you look at the city, how does your body respond, how do you feel? If you look at the sky, how do you respond in contrast? Wouldn’t it be better to bottle the second feeling and carry that with you?
I know it seems hard, impossible even at times. This week I watched my brother-in-law contending with a family emergency, he runs a small business and had nearly 600 orders to get out. With my sister-in-law (his critical partner in this) in hospital, and 3 kids to organize, it was the kind of day that one just has to get through. He asked the older ones about pick up and drop off arrangements for their after-school activities, dealt with the younger one having a morning melt down, knew at some point my sister-in-law would need picked up, meanwhile there was the task of just getting everyone fed and out the door.
No doubt you will have some version of this story playing in your own life. Perhaps not an emergency, but everyday life can call upon you to be many people all at once. Telling you to take more time for yourself, take a break, get more sleep or smell the roses is likely to have your mind racing with all the things you need to do, all the reasons you can’t – and that’s only if you haven’t already dismissed the idea out of hand right at the outset. But if you are at a point where you’re thinking “there’s got to be more to life than this”, you are likely ready to at least listen.
“a simple moment in the midst of chaos that has changed everything”
Recently I wrote about a morning when I was trying to get my two preschool children focused enough to get out the door to their respective daytime activities, in time for me to get to an important appointment. It was a simple moment in the midst of chaos that has changed everything.
On the cusp of thinking I’d magically managed to keep the chaos contained in a fast flowing steam of activity that led to getting in the car and going, each daughter wanted something extra – unplanned – that was absolutely necessary to them (by this I mean completely unnecessary in the mind of a rational human being). It’s at this point I no longer heard the calm in my voice, instead I heard a mix of anger, pleading and frustration welling up all at once. Again, inevitably this just escalates the situation. So I felt bad, and I had a choice, do I keep sliding into those old thought patterns and just perpetuate more bad feeling, or do I nip it in the bud?
“disconnecting from any thought of time pressure, connecting with a feeling of having all the time in the world”
I chose the out-of-body surrender experience, disconnecting from any thought of time pressure, connecting with a feeling of having all the time in the world. My calm voice was back, I soothed the children trying to focus on how to help them feel good, and we soon got underway. Everything worked out; we were on time and fairly unscathed.
Since then I have taken that concept and found myself quite naturally applying it to almost every moment of the day. Connecting with a feeling of having all the time in the world hasn’t slowed me down; it has kicked my body out of survival mode and into a much more productive one that recognizes the present moment and all that I am doing in it. The feeling of calm that goes with it has rendered my life almost unrecognizable from the one I used to lead.
Having invested time in deliberately feeling into a space where time is not pressing upon me, through regular yoga and meditation, I can now connect with the feeling of that quite easily when I remind myself to. There are moments, like getting to a meeting, or driving to pick up the kids, where I play the voice of Louis Armstrong singing in my head “we have all the time in the world..” and it kicks me into a different mode. Nothing ever falls over, the world doesn’t end, the kids are never left stranded, quite the opposite.
Here with a mission, with not a moment to waste, I walk with determination; people always joke they can recognize my footsteps striding towards the room with a sense of purpose. That hasn’t changed, this week there were some teenage kids idling through town and one cheekily mimicked me striding along. The difference though is that I’m not sure I’d even have noticed that kid a year ago. My mind would have been locked into the next meeting; my vision and hearing elsewhere, the chemical balance of my being consumed by survival hormones.
Instead, here I was fully engaging in the moment, observing and smiling at this guy who soon tired of his antics, it was fun.
Recently I overheard my 4 year old say to her younger sister “Out of the way, I need to go somewhere”, to which I heard a little voice bounce straight back with “But you already are somewhere.” A lovely reminder of staying in the present moment.
The simple fact is this, you do have all the time in the world. Time pressure is something applied by your mind. Kicking your body into survival mode just to propel your car from a junction ahead of that red car, rather than behind it, in order to ‘save’ 6 seconds, is simply not worth it. Forsaking a trip to the loo in order to hurry to a meeting, skipping lunch or eating at the desk in order to get through some emails, constantly rushing your kids through life (hurry up and get in the car, hurry up and eat that, hurry up and get out…), none of it is helpful.
In contrast, connecting with a feeling of having time, when the voice in your head is desperately trying to kick you into flight and fight mode, will keep your brain fully functioning and your being more connected to the world around you.
You will have your own way of unwinding, whatever it is you do - or have done in the past - whether it's walking the dog, meditating, swimming or golfing. Take time to notice how your body responds when you're doing these activities. Take the time to notice other times your body naturally relaxes; drink in the feeling and call upon it regularly throughout your day.
You’ll be here, present, happier, nicer to be around and more effective in everything you do.
This article was originally published on LinkedIn.
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