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: