In two recent posts, I’ve shared two stories that serve as interesting bookends to frame how I think about leisure. I discovered that sometimes leisure is not necessarily the absence of activity, but the freedom to select the activities to pursue. And most recently, I shared a favorite vacation to the Canadian Rockies, where during a decidedly leisurely vacation, I found beauty, solitude, and peace.
My husband Chris jokes that I’m a person who simply cannot (or does not know how to) relax. I often think (and worry) he’s right. At night after work or on a weekend, instead of simply reading or sitting on our porch, I’m frequently puttering around the house or working on some task on my computer. And during the times when I could be just being, my brain seems to have a mind of its own, in overdrive pondering something. He’ll look at me, see the wheels turning, and ask, “What’re you thinking about?”, and I can’t lie. I have no doubt these actions and thoughts negatively impact my stress level and health, and I would love to be able to bring it down a notch.
This year, inspired by My 3 Words (Present, Inspired, Joy), I’m going to try to Do 3 Things.
First, aim to Be Present. I recall some recent vacations that were not so peaceful as my Lake Louise experience: not because the company wasn’t wonderful, or the scenery wasn’t stunning, but because I was preoccupied with work, with volunteer commitments, with whatever. The same goes for relationships with people: I have had interactions where I may not been fully engaged in conversations because my attention or mind was elsewhere. Shame on me for squandering those opportunities. It’s a overused cliché, but one never knows when those experiences may happen again.
Next, strive to Be Still. I have been known to apply a laser-like focus to the task at hand. During those times - an interesting, often quantitative project at home or at work, perhaps - the world shrinks to just two things: me and the task, and I become still as I concentrate intently on my subject. What if I consistently applied a singular attention to experiences, too, not just tasks? Whether it was a trip to a new locale, a walk in nature, a visit with a friend, or a conversation with a colleague, the payoff would be huge: a still mind absorbing every part of the unique experience. I have no doubt that during next week’s yoga class my mind may start revving up, but I will aim to quiet it, be still inside, and fully enjoy the experience.
And finally, try to Be Calm. Let’s face it, not every day is a walk along Lake Louise, because sometimes stuff happens. In stressful situations, my external demeanor mirrors perfectly how I feel inside: I wear a frown like a badge of honor, brow furrowed, sitting with shoulders hunched, walking with a deliberate step. At those times, I don’t have a problem being present since I’m focused on the task at hand, but I am most certainly neither still nor calm, either internally or externally. I can only imagine how less stressed and more effective I would be if I could calm my body and mind.
Be Present - Be Still - Be Calm. Purposefully choose to fully engage in meaningful experiences. Strive to quiet the mind and relax the body. When necessary, take a deep breath and bring myself back to Lake Louise.
Thanks to the amazing Sara Speer Selber for sharing the photo used in this post.