Do you have a tendency to rush? Do you feel like you're always on the run and find it hard to relax (until you dive into a bottle of wine)?
If smashing your to-do list, constantly planning, always looking to the next thing are your default setting, give yourself permission to take a step back and sigh. There is another way.
A state of unrest
Being efficient and productive in our go-go world can come at a cost – an exhausted overworked nervous system that has clicked into overdrive – leaving you in a state of unrest.
Constantly thinking and doing – without room for feeling and being – is a recipe for burnout. And is likely to shape a way of life that you long to escape.
For there's so much more to you than your to-do lists.
While machines wash our clothes and robots clean our floors (love them!) rather than creating more time and space in our day, we tend to just do more. With all our modern conveniences, we've become adept at optimising the use of our time, but has it come at the cost of a more easeful, natural pace of life?
Remembering the art of being
Our life experience is illuminated in the light of our attention. But when our attention is consumed by all the things we have to do, we can miss the magic of life because we're too busy to notice it.
Our doing shouldn't come at the cost of our being. For the richness of our lives lies in feeling and being – experiencing life through our senses – our doorways to pleasure.
Weaving pockets of calm into the fabric of our lives – in the spaces in between our doings is key. Try this – take a moment to notice the sky on your skin, now appreciate how its flowing through your body as your breath.
Simple sacred pauses like this can shift you from 'thinking and doing' to 'feeling and being' in a moment. And when you start to notice and appreciate how entwined you are with nature – our only home – you forge a more magical lens for experiencing your life.
Finding space to be comes with adopting a more natural pace of life where doing and being co-exist. Having presence of mind is how we feel most alive. By making a habit of simply taking pause to step down from the mind and be in the body, is key to fully inhabiting our sacred lives – lives that will never be repeated.
Slowing down enough to notice how life visits you is at the heart of mindfulness. The world needs mindful leaders who embody a truer and lusher way of being – for we're human beings not human doings after all.
So I plucked up the courage to leave my high-end job (which I'd spent many years striving to achieve) and find another way of being and vehicle through life. There had to be another way to make a living (and a life) that I didn't need to escape from.
So here I am, 2 months into my new world, and I'm finally starting to settle into my new skin. It's taken a while to adjust to having space and not filling it with lots of things to do – to break the habit of being busy. I've had to learn to sit with the discomfort of feeling lost and make friends with 'being still' so I could hear its message and let it pass rather than it driving me to do crazy things like clean all the cupboards (not a bad side affect however).
My decision making requirements have changed dramatically – my executive decisions are now about whether we should have broccoli or pumpkin soup for dinner (I have awesome recipes for both btw - DM me!) I've had to adjust to my current working title as a stay-at-home labrador aged care provider (which I'm loving by the way).
While my new areas of expertise became resting, soup making, nature gazing and labrador snuggling, they were all vitally soothing as I allowed the old skin to melt away so a truer skin could emerge. Week by week I've felt lighter and have felt my energy levels lift.
I've had the privilege of investing my energy in things that make my heart sing. I've created and started my nature yoga program (with the support of my amazing guinea pig friends) and have opened the doors to being a freelance creative consultant too. I am now navigating the excitement/terror of putting myself out there.
Having the space to allow the gunk and discomfort and giving myself permission to rest and restore in nature and listen to my self (rather than ignoring her) has been key to finding my new vehicle through life I feel. For having the headspace to be honest with ourselves, making space to listen to our hearts and give them what they need, surely that is the compass point for true balance in life.
We are elemental by nature. So it's no surprise that the calming effects of being in Nature are scientifically proven to enhance well being. Many cultures celebrate this.
In Japan, they have a word for the magic and benefits of being in Nature - shirin-yoku . In fact their lifestyle is delightfully punctuated by acts of Nature reverence – the changing colour of the leaves in autumn and cherry blossoms in spring are widely celebrated, there are temples at waterfalls in honour of the deities, and you can't beat their tradition bathing in onsens (hot springs) in the mountains – a general Sunday pastime (which is Joy with a capital J).
In Balinese Hinduism, they believe that Nature is "power" and each element is subject to influence from spirits. In Norway and Iceland they marvel at the otherworldly northern lights. In Australia we go to the beach and worship the sun (under our slip slop slap) and toast the sunset.
Wherever you are, it's a given that being in Nature makes you feel good. And the good news is it's free and you can do it in your own backyard. It's why gardening is so popular!
I believe being in nature invites us to expand our experience beyond the blinkers of our monkey minds (that tend to run the show). When we allow ourselves to really experience nature through our senses (to feel the wind on our skin, to see the beauty of the sun's light, to smell the rain) we are reminded that we are so much more than our planning, our pressures, our worries and those silly things that can keep us up at night. When we stop and notice, nature is truly awe inspiring – she is the supreme artist and creator after all. She reminds us of our multidimensionality – that we are in this body, on this one precious earth, for this one precious life – and that it is sacred.
However, it's hard to get this vibe while you're slashing through the jungle of pressure in your inbox or tackling the scanner at the supermarket (I've gone online - it's life changing!). It can be challenging to be our natural selves in our artificial world but luckily remembering how to, can be as simple as stepping outside at night to look at the stars or taking a moment to enjoy the changing colours of twilight skies (no two sunsets are the same - it's amazing!).
That's why when nature calls, I answer. And I'm not only talking about going to the loo. I'm talking about when I feel flat and zapped and starved for life, Nature is the tonic that undoubtedly replenishes me.
I've always loved nature but have now integrated it more and more into my day to day with a few simple habits. I now walk the dog every morning in the park barefoot (earthing is a thing - check it out) and listen to the birds every morning first thing. I get away from my desk and look at the sky (even if it's just for 5 minutes) and admire the clouds when I'm stuck in traffic. Best of all I love to spend as much time outdoors as possible on the weekends. It's my happy place.
In fact it's inspired my new inessence nature yoga program. So if you're interested in a nature fix with me, I'd love to hold space for you.
But here's the thing, in denying our inner rhythms, our yearnings, the changes that call us, we can become shells of ourselves – barely awake to the different seasons of our lives that long to be lived. We can become asleep to the beauty of our lives unfolding because we're too busy making ends meet.
As young adults there can be a sense of invincibility that buoys you along from one adventure to the next, living in the moment, following your heart, without a second 'I better not because what if...' thought. And things have a way of working themselves out when you're that adaptable and free.
As we get older it's common to become resistant to change – we find comfort in the known – the every day pleasures like sitting on the same seat on the train, ordering the same coffee from the same cafe each morning and loving one's slippers and the couch at the end of the day. Nothing wrong with this at all (I love my slippers!) but as creatures of comfort/habit are we less inclined to take the less travelled road? Why does our need for security become the dominating driver rather than following our instincts and doing feels right?
My theory is if we're not careful our capacity for being agile can diminish with age. With overrun nervous systems, information overload and fear-fuelling bad news, it's not surprising that our trust in following our hearts becomes overshadowed by the mind's sensible ways. Layer on mortgage and family responsibilities, the opportunities, space and energy to attune to and truly answer one's calling can be limited. So where does that leave us?
Stuck and half baked.
Stuck between a good dependable life of comfort and the promise of new possibilities on the horizon. Staying with the known, while it feels safe, can mean you don't embark on new paths. It means you're not willing to take the leap and embrace the new as the risk of losing the comfort of the known is too great. It means you dream of the leap but go nowhere and this stunts your growth. It is like being a plant that is pot bound – it doesn't have space to evolve and sprout it's new growth for the world to see (it can survive but it doesn't thrive).
If we are each born with unique soul seeds of potential, surely it's important that we water them. Surely it's important we give them the right conditions to thrive. And though it may seem scary to step into the unknown, surely trusting the life that has brought you this far is warranted. And surely it's better than feeling smothered staying in an (albeit trusty) old pot that you've outgrown and wondering if this is it.
I'm excited (and a bit scared) to be taking the leap into a new pot (or potentially garden) by undertaking Body Poetry Yoga Teacher Training next month.
I wish you all the courage and trust to take the leap to new possibilities that are calling you. Don't die wondering.
Expression of your feelings is not welcome so it's no wonder that being emotional becomes such a private and uncommon affair. Bottom line is, people don't like feelings that don't feel good. Funny that.
We're very adept at keeping our feelings hidden, so much so that when we do feel something unpleasant, we don't know what do – we run to the hills! We keep ourselves busy to 'keep our minds off things' because we fear what facing our feelings may do to us. We are expert at distracting ourselves from feeling shit.
But what if allowing ourselves to feel our shit, like really allowing it, is key to it being able to move on? The word emotion, derives from Latin 'emotere', meaning energy in motion. So when viewed from this perspective it makes sense for our feelings to be honoured and allowed so they can move, rather than pushed to the side of 'I'm in control here' and swept under the carpet of 'I can't deal with this'.
I remember when my son was little, he could be full of delight one minute, then in tears the next, so moved by his experience from moment to moment. The tears would pass as quickly as they came – after being allowed to have a good cry – he'd simply move on to the next experience. So open and pure and fully alive.
In suppressing and ignoring our unpleasant feelings are we denying our true natures? What if our sensitivity, our feelings, our 'being emotional' are key to living authentic soulful lives?
Not being emotional is part of being grown up but I think it actually doesn't help us grow at all. I'm not suggesting we return to our childlike ways and have tantrums in public when we don't get what we want. But I do think there's a lot to be said for being open to allowing your feelings, for not beating yourself up for having them – for treating them as an essential part of you.
I'm starting to notice and honour my non-feel-good feelings more and more (rather than ignore them and hope they'll go away) and I'm finding a greater sense of ease by doing so.
If you'd like to try it, next time you find yourself 'triggered' and snapping at the dog or significant other for something insignificant, take a moment to check in with yourself and see what's really going on – to enquire and acknowledge how you feel beneath your surface irritations. In giving yourself space to be honest with yourself and feel your feelings – to meet your own emotional needs – you'll feel more true. You may also not feel the need to bite anyone's head off and that's a bonus.
Give it try – I promise you'll be fine.
What is also amazing (in the not so good way) is our ability to lose sight of the magic of our unique existence when we're wrapped up in the day-to-day. Rushing from one thing to the next, on autopilot, we can become lost in our mind's noisy yet hollow busy-ness.
It's funny how when someone breaks away from a stock-standard rat-race life and chooses to follow their bliss that people may think they've lost their mind. The answer is yes s/he probably has, but is that a bad thing?
As with all living things, we crack when we're under too much pressure – when we have more on than we can bear – dealing with the daily grind, constantly pushing yourself, hustling, streamlining, it's so hugely cerebral. So it's not surprising that too much of this day after day, year on year can make you lose your mind.
However, we're still surprised when people hit the eject button and do something radical like quit their high flying job or bark at their family like a banshee for no apparent reason or sell up and leave the country. 'S/he's lost her mind' they say.
There's a liberation in unshackling oneself from an autopilot existence. Daring to step beyond the universe of our self-perpetuating minds with reckless abandon to embrace a more fulfilling reality is expansive and exciting. Images of driving towards a wide horizon and sailing into the sunset come to mind.
As to what this looks like, it's different for different people. Whether it's plucking up the courage to try something new where no-one knows you, finally booking that bucket-list trip, embarking on a career sea change or buying your dream car or sailing off into the sunset, they all represent choosing a new vehicle through life. A vehicle in which the heart is in the driver's seat, with the sergeant major mind tossed in the boot under those annoying 'should haves'.
So go ahead and lose your mind, pursue those dreams that make your heart sing and don't die wondering. I've finally signed up for that yoga teacher training course I've been fantasising about.
Don't mind if I do.
It's amazing how much we can fit into our work days with efficiency, multiple priorities and deadlines (I think there's a reason why the word 'dead' is in deadline) driving us to pack in as much in as possible. It's normal to skip lunch breaks and stay back after hours to get things done. Moving from the work to-do list to find another to-do list waiting for us when we arrive home, to care for our homes and families – for us multi-taskers this state of unrest becomes our norm. And without us realising, it can become our default setting, so much so that we can forget how to really rest and can't sit still. Sound familiar?
While being productive and responsible is a good thing, the downside is our essential natures (we too are living creatures) weren't designed to live on full throttle for the majority of our waking hours. The chronic stress and anxiety epidemic is testament to this fact. So our furry friends have inspired me to rediscover the art of rest.
I'm all for a good plan (Virgo trait!) and schedules are great for getting the most out of your days, but there's something to be said for having no plans – for having space to have sunbaths like my darling dog. I've grown to love having a weekend with no plans. I get excited at the space ahead to do all the things I love to do or to do nothing at all.
Regardless if I have plans or not, rather than filling up my days off with things to do, I first make space for rest and relaxation – to do whatever I feel like – whether that be having a long bath in the middle of the afternoon (best accompanied with a glass of good French Champagne and a good book), yoga, pottering in the garden (trying to convince my plants to live – sadly I did not inherit my mother's green thumb!) or napping on the daybed in the sunshine. Admittedly these are much easier to achieve without little people around (my son has flown the nest) but they're not impossible and essential all the same, plus your children learn the art of rest from you.
Our personal time is precious and it's up to us to determine how to spend it. So I minimise doing things I don't like doing (I refuse to iron!), I say no to things that drain me or don't inspire me (wherever possible) and put the fun/luscious/yummy/uplifting things to do on my must-do-priorities list. Everything else slots in around that, rather than the other way around. And with this shift, I feel far freer, less constricted and can breathe more deeply. And the best part is when I'm in this state of rest I'm more in tune with my intuition and my essential nature.
I rest my case.
I wonder if we are more open to experiencing the world around us when we travel because it's new or because we're relaxed and free on holiday? Probably a bit of both. but either way I believe the state of travelling — fully noticing and experiencing the world around you — is one of the most expansive and alive things you can do.
On a recent trip to France I met a lovely couple (via their Labrador) who loved my home town Fremantle. We jostled for a while declaring our love for each other's home town. Seen through our holiday eyes, the other's home town was far more interesting.
I've been wondering how I can bring the travelling way of being to my day-to-day and avoid having the daily grind squash it out of me. Because as my yoga teacher once told me, it's about creating a life that you don't need to escape.
After returning from said trip recently, my elation from my experience rapidly descended into post holiday blues with the inevitable back-to-work slap and I wondered why. While I do have a demanding job, I work with fabulous humans to get it done, in an office with a gorgeous view, that happens to be by the beach with the world's best coffee downstairs. I live in my dream house (1920s cottage surrounded by trees) with my darling old black lab and husband (he's a darling too) and our son is a budding rocket scientist (true story). I have an amazing life! So why am I obsessed with planning holidays when my day-to-day is pretty fantastic?
One triple s word. Stress.
In stress we are less
Let me stress how much stress can play a role in dampening one's life experience. We all know how it feels, by the end of a working day your shoulders can be up near your ears, your breath shallow – fight or flight response fully switched on. It contracts us, makes us smaller. So much so that by the end of the week, after 5 days of this, it's not unusual to lose your ability to form full sentences leaving you in a state where you're not making any sense at all and you find yourself nose diving into a wine bottle on a Friday afternoon. Sound familiar?
It's not our body's fault, our system is simply doing it's job – trying to survive being under pressure, to have the energy to get through a situation that feels too much. Some people say they thrive under pressure, personally I'm accustomed to working under pressure (occupational hazard) but I perform better without it – I'm able to give and be more of me without it. But like it or not it's a reality of most working lives that we have to deal with.
How to see your world anew in a high pressure storm
When we're faced with the full force of a pressure front, there's one simple thing that can help to clear the skies of your view – remembering to breathe. Luckily our bodies just breathe all by themselves without us even noticing, so if you forget you'll be ok.
When I do notice and appreciate my breath – my life force – it lifts my energy and I feel more spacious. And the best thing is I can do it without anyone realising. When I'm bored in an unproductive meeting or waiting in traffic, or about the dive into the relentless inbox of need, I take a moment to just breathe. There's no pressure, I just breathe – inhale deep into my belly and exhale through the nose. Really exhale and with this I find space, my experience expands beyond the monkey mind screeches – a momentary reprieve from the pressure mindset.
If you are after some more head space, there are plenty of breathing techniques out there you can try. My favourites are ocean breath and alternate nostril breathing (I don't recommend doing this one in public though as people may mistake you for picking your nose). They tell me these techniques are great for soothing the nervous system. I find it great for clearing the high pressure systems that cloud my view and for reawakening my travelling eyes.
May connecting with your breath be the ticket for experiencing the trip of your life.
Here are some beautiful sensory introduction to the calming affects of your breath by one of my yoga heroes:
Many of us live our lives on a 'busy' default setting, dual screening and multitasking our arses off. With all our modern conveniences and robotic floor cleaners (love mine!) we are more efficient than ever, but we don't have more time – we just do more.
It's not sustainable to keep going on like this, without pause. It can take the crippling emptiness of depression or the paralysing grip of anxiety or the emotional desert of a mid-life crisis – to realise your rudder has gone missing – to hear your soul's invitation to return home.
Living a soul full life means being true to our essential natures. But this is hard to do when you can't remember what/who it is. Perhaps you left it somewhere between your pubescent self's journal, the 106th grocery shopping run and the recent Netflix binge.
The more I slow down and step into a soul full life, I'm becoming more attuned to the magic of life that surrounds me. I notice the sunbeams' rainbows that visit me by the bathroom window in the morning, I notice how the birds make me smile with their song and I notice how the old fig trees at the park envelope me as I walk under them, it feels simply beautiful. I'm a regular Snow White! Through this lens – which magnifies life around me – living is quite magical.
However the bubble bursts when work stress gets the better of me (which happens all the time). I get lost in thought, my mind's relentless noisy carry-on steals the beauty of the moment from me, replacing it with the consequential escapism of online retail therapy, Netflix and wine (which are pleasures in their own right).
When I notice myself getting lost in thought, I now shift my attention back to my rainbows and birds (to the things that make my inner Snow White happy) albeit my monkey mind keeps screeching for my attention. It's a work in progress.
It takes time to relearn how to just be – the place where we can get in touch with our true natures – but it's worth it. Trust me, in noticing and experiencing the beauty that surrounds you, life is richer.
Try it, it's free.