When we get a little distance from our life, whether it be for a week, a day, or an hour, we are able to gain a clearer perspective on our entangled moments and our priorities. Sometimes we need to travel away from home in order to really feel as though we can get some space, but taking breaks during the week or the day can play an effective and important role in sustaining your balance on a regular basis.
I recently took the opportunity to press my own reset button and I set off on a 5 day retreat. Ordinarily I look after my wellbeing by setting up a routine that becomes almost automatic and this way I don’t need to think or deliberate too much, nor reinvent the wheel each day/week. The problem with this is that I never discover anything new. These well practiced routines can become tired and lacklustre. In the same way that when we drive to work the same way every day it feels as though the car is driving itself, so too does performing the same rituals every day, even if they are in the name of self-care.
Whilst there is certainly a place for an established routine it pays to keep it fresh in order to keep the senses stimulated, the mind alert and we feel more engaged with life when things are new and less familiar.
The first couple of days of being in a new environment with all of my needs taken care felt strangely and unexpectedly unnerving. None of the ordinary tasks that fill my day were there to fill this space. (Who would have thought I would miss having emails to send, phone calls to make and dishes to wash? Not me!) It felt uncomfortable and made it difficult to relax. I was experiencing inertia, and with nothing to grasp onto in this free-fall I had to go inward and look a little deeper at what I needed and wanted to do with my abundance of free time. There was no ‘getting busy’ to fall back on.
Over the following few days I began to relax into and appreciate the simple pleasures on offer. I rediscovered the world of less stimulation and the incredible effect that it had on my psyche. I could listen more closely to my own needs and they were more nuanced than I had ever noticed before. The simplest of activities were greatly contributing to my sense of calm and centeredness, and the best part is they can all be undertaken at home. No special set up, or devices, or conditions, but you do need to try them for a few days to really experience what can shift in your mind and life. The bigger challenge at home is that it is easy to be tempted by the over-stimulating alternatives we have at our fingertips, and we miss out on the full potential of these simple gifts.
Here is my humble list of the 4 activities that helped me feel calm, centred and awake to the moment.
1. Cut down on the time you spend interacting with people online.
It is a much more holistic experience when we interact face to face. When we communicate through writing, as one does on social media, it becomes a more cognitive interaction. Speaking and gesturing as part of communicating engages more of our senses and this keeps us more present to the moment. We are also forced to be more spontaneous and less measured in our conversations.
2. Move in nature.
Having more space around us unconsciously helps us feel expansive. With the sky above and the horizon line in the distance we are able to keep a broader perspective of the world and our existence within it. When we exercise in confined, thermostat controlled environments the world seems small and controlled and we get the impression that we are at the centre of it. Get outside, breathe the fresh air, realise that the world is big, and that the small spaces we operate in are a tightly edited version of the ‘real’ world and can warp our sense of reality.
3. Read a hard copy novel.
When we read short articles online it keeps our mind active and fast moving whereas curling up with a novel immediately signals a commitment to slowing down, taking time and engaging in a longer term relationship with a text. Whilst I was away I rediscovered the delight of curling up with a novel and allowing my imagination to transport me to another time and place. Exercising the imagination is also just good practice for keeping our creative muscles strong, even if we are just using them for lateral problem solving.
4. End your day without any electrical or technological stimulation.
No bright lights, screens, noise or movement. The end of the day is our sacred winding down period where we are trying to make a smooth transition from day time activity to the quiet offerings of the night. A candle-lit bath, meditation, breath work and conscious relaxation are all great pre-sleep activities. We need to get the mind on board first, and the body will follow. Send clear messages to your mind that you are shifting gear and slowing down for the night. The body will respond with a slower breath and heart rate, muscles will relax and release, and you will find with repetition that you have created mental triggers that in time the body will respond to more automatically.
After being home for a few weeks now I have had the chance to implement my newly inspired daily practice and life feels fresh and full of possibility. May you too find some inspiration here to freshen up your daily practice.
Let me know what works for you.