Continuing on from the last blog about Bali, here is the second lesson I learnt while I was on my honeymoon.
Bali is a very hot and humid country (or it was when I was there). Just walking around was enough to break out into a sweat and I’m not very keen on sweating. Obviously I cut right back on any exercise that didn’t take place in a swimming pool. But you can’t see an island from within a hotel, so inevitably we had to walk.
Here in the UK, I’ve always prided myself on being a fast walker. I walk with purpose and stride out to reach my destination as fast as possible. My theory was that by getting there faster, I’d be fitter and more efficient.
This has its merits but also its drawbacks. Walking fast does generate heat and burns calories but there are only so many calories you can burn from a car park to a shop and it’s irritating when you have to disrobe your outer layers as soon as you enter a building because you immediately start to overheat.
However probably the biggest drawback is that it takes you out of the present and into the future. This is what mindfulness aims to address.
Most of us don’t spend much time in the present moment. The term “being in the present” is used a lot these days but many people don’t fully comprehend what it means?
If you’re rushing around town with a list of errands to do before you go home, where is your mind? It’s might be thinking about all the things you have to do so you don’t forget any. Or it might be ahead, at your house, sitting on the sofa with a cup of tea, when the jobs are done. You might even be thinking of a future work project that needs to be completed. So everything that happens up to the point where you finish your chores is done in either an autopilot or a slightly stressed state waiting for the chance to relax at the end.
Many people drive in this state and report that they can’t remember driving down a particular road, although they know they have.
When you’ve reached home and are chilling out with a cup of tea, you might start thinking about the chores you have to do now you’re home. You need to start dinner; you need to do some housework; you need to make some phone calls. If you do this, then your tea break probably isn’t as refreshing as you’d hoped.
And so it goes on, never really getting a chance to sit and chill. Interestingly, one of the questions I ask clients at the first session is, what do you do for relaxation? Some people are completely stumped by it.
We seem to be a nation of do-ers.
Before I went away, I was rarely in the present. I felt my life was one big To-Do list that I never got to the bottom of. Even things that are supposed to be fun became a chore and that’s the best way of sapping the life out of an activity. I felt I never had any time off, even though the reality is that I usually have plenty of down time in my days. The problem wasn’t my schedule, it was my attitude to it.
Mindfulness aims to give us more peace and tranquility in our lives. When we slow down, we truly live in the moment. We experience every emotion and can choose to sit with those that are uncomfortable until they move on.
There are times to be in the past and future. We need time to plan and reflect or we would just be floating around in a big fish pond and never realise our goals. Our quality of life goes down when we do it too much.
Slowing down is one way of applying mindfulness to our lives. Taking time to really experience each activity without panicking about the next one puts us very firmly in the present moment. And when we’re in the present moment, we can see what’s going on around us. And we can take the time to enjoy it.
The amount of energy we use up panicking and worrying about situations we’ve charged into without thinking is huge. The magnitude of the energy drain caused by carrying around a massive to-do list is something many people don’t realise. Being in the present moment is a chance to recharge our batteries.
So, I decided to try to keep this slower energy now I’m back home and hopefully the serenity than comes with it.
So far, I’ve had a reasonable amount of success. When I’m applying this to my life, I’ve become more productive rather than less. My energy is better because I don’t feel I’m spending all my time rushing. Therefore, I am able to complete more tasks.
Also I do more fun things too. I’m more likely to feel I deserve to take time for fun if I’ve been productive and slowing down gives me the perspective to take time off if I feel I need it.
At the times, I’ve reverted back to my former state, I become stressed again and my energy levels drop. It’s a clear demonstration of the effect of slowing down and staying in the present.
I invite you to try it too.
Tags: emotional health, mindfulness, my journey