Road to Joy

Musings from a t̶̶h̶̶i̶̶r̶̶t̶̶y̶̶s̶̶o̶̶m̶̶e̶̶t̶̶h̶̶i̶̶n̶̶g̶ fortysomething navigating life and love while keeping a smile on my face and in my heart.
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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.

Stillness, part 1: redefining leisure.

Stillness, part 2: peace at Lake Louise.

My 3 Words for 2012.

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