The alarm rings. That sound sets off your day and the mad rush of the day envelopes you. From that moment on when you rub the sleep off your eyes (waking up) to the time when you’re trying to rub the sleep off your eyes (trying to keep awake), Life is in a hurry. It’s become fashionable to be busy. So much so that people actually fake it. Wow!
Soon the juggernaut of life rolls on. While we ‘want to’, ‘think of’, ‘dream of’, ‘wish to’, ‘sigh’, and various other expressions in between, we are just waiting to exhale. I’ve lived a life of breathless anticipation – God alone knows of what. All the tension, excitement, ticking off the ‘to do’ list in your head before heading to work, going over dreaded incumbent telephone conversations, replaying confrontational scenarios with colleagues, feeling nervous and anxious at the presentation, with the sweat making your palms slide off the steering wheel, yes, been there and done that. I gave it all up. I knew I couldn’t live like this (or that, from where I am now at) anymore.
Today, living a more sedate but more fulfilled life is important to me. I remember being fascinated by a TED Talk by Carl Honore, author of In Praise of Slowness. Of course in the world where I come from, it did seem to me far fetched or an indulgence, but I was left wondering what it would be like to savour life slowly. So I’ve tried in my own way to build a life which is not a blur and I share that with you.
Wake up early and pause: everyday when I wake up, I consciously put in an effort to just sit on my bed, and go over and think about how I’d like my day to be for at least 5 mins. Earlier I used to use this practice as an excuse to go over my day in my head and would end up feeling agitated. Now I just close my eyes and pause before I get into the day headlong. 5 mins is all it takes. It helps me ease into the day rather than rush into it. I feel calmer, more relaxed and somehow more grounded and ready to take on whatever the day throws at me.
Meditate, meditate, mediate: Wherever you are, whatever you do, make this as normal and life-giving as breathing. Sit cross-legged or even with legs extended, close your eyes or keep your eyes slightly open, listen to meditative music or not, focus on your breathing. And feel the rush of thoughts. Don’t panic. It’s okay to have a million thoughts colliding like neutrons in a Hadron Collider. It’s called being human. And then slowly as your breathing gets into a rhythm, your thoughts get feebler, there’s a possibility you go into deep wakefulness. Yes, it’s sleep, but you’re acutely aware of ambient sounds, birds chirping, the sounds from the kitchen, the honk of a car, your body slouching, your neck hurting (maybe), but you’re resting. It’s peaceful somehow. I do this everyday, though there are Sundays or some Saturdays where I miss it. But meditating has helped me feel so centred, so calm that I am reveling in this new found spirit of ‘can do’. I suddenly feel so empowered and feel, unafraid. As if all my fears (well not all), have been dissolved. And when you experience that, you suddenly feel unconstrained and the ability to explore, do, be is simply phenomenal.
Mid-day breaks: I am self-employed and so when there’s work, there’s a flood of it and I work to meet my deadlines through the day. But earlier I used to go at it non-stop with lunch breaks. Now I deliberately go slow, I pause wherever I am at in the course of my work day and browse the internet, go to the living room, watch some TV, go watch the world pass me by as I stand in my balcony, basically, take a break. I don’t feel guilty. I don’t feel pressured to see the advancing hands of the clock, I don’t feel a sense of dread or panic. I have committed to deadlines and have by and large met them. But while I’m big on commitment, I realise not meeting a deadline isn’t going to kill me. All clients are by nature suspicious, angry, and somehow think it’s their birthright to be extra cautious about money (clients and their misplaced caution about budgets merits another post), feel an insatiable need to somehow have the last word, always rub it in that you’ve made a mistake, and feel really proud of their really sad ideas. Yes, they pay you money to get their job done, but in the bargain make you feel like they’ve done you a favour. So I’ve stopped questioning their motives, and am not fazed by all this anymore. If they can’t wait, well, here’s your money, thank you, but no, thank you.
Life is here and now. It’s true that all we have is this moment. So don’t rush through it. Take a moment, take a break, because as far as I know, YOLO. Pause~