Intellectual living as a form of spiritual survival
When living in a city as beautiful as Sydney, it’s easy to get lazy. The city invites you, to kick back, relax, have a beer, lay on the beach, don’t worry, slow down. Which is a wonderful change when you’ve come from the frantic pace of London, or the rain-soaked streets of Manchester. But after 3 years of living here, it becomes a little soporific.
I’ve been feeling it lately. I’ve become lazy. I don’t read, I don’t seek out culture, I don’t teach myself new things. Sure, it’s partly that I’m more embedded in my adopted country. The excitement of moving to the other side of the world has to wear off at some point. But I’ve been feeling a little restless lately, a little “off”. Something is missing.
I think at least part of my restlessness is that I’m intellectually bored. I seem to have whittled down my inputs to banal social media and TV shows. I’ve even stopped reading the news, as it all got so depressing. It feels like I’m not being challenged or stimulated by anything.
So, I did what I always do when I’m feeling this malaise. I went to an art gallery.
I don’t know what it is about art galleries, but they just calm me down. I forget about myself and just get lost in the beauty around me. I feel the same way about art galleries as I do about public parks - I think they’re an essential part of life and I hope they never get taken away from us.
An empty art gallery on a rainy Tuesday morning
cures all ills
I left feeling so inspired. I had a list of topics and artists I wanted to learn about, and ideas for things I wanted to photograph. One of the things I noticed was how artists capture something that others would not notice, or similarly, how they can turn the prosaic, ugly, or unremarkable into something beautiful.
Later that day I went to throw out these dried-out dahlias but something stopped me. I looked at them and noticed, really paid attention, to their lovely, faded tissue-paper petals. I did an impromptu still-life session and I love how they turned out.
These photos remind me to seek out the beauty that is around me. They also serve as a reminder to actively challenge myself and seek out inspiration, and make it part of my life again. After all, there’s only so long you can lie on a beach.
When people ask “what did you think you’d be doing with your life by X age?”, I always find it hard to answer. I never really looked ahead and set milestone. Never did I say, “I want to be married by the time I’m thirty” or “by age fifty I want to retire”. I couldn’t understand my friends who set time-specific goals. I suppose the rare times I did try and look forward into the future, at who I would become, I could only imagine a vague picture of myself - surrounded by friends, laughing over glasses of wine, telling a funny story and with, incidentally, fantastic hair. That was the person I was going to be: witty, well-travelled, cosmopolitan, confident.
This week I turned 32, and at dinner with friends last night, I felt I was close to that picture of myself; surrounded by people that I loved, in a fantastic city, drinking wine and laughing. And yes, my hair did look pretty good.
I adore getting older. I’ve never understood people that fear ageing; it seems the most futile of all life’s concerns. I love getting older because each year that passes teaches me something. I am slowly building up a collection of life experiences, an archive that I can revisit when I am old, and look back as one would a cherished photo album, and say “this I did, and this, and this” while turning the pages.
Of course I feel angst too. Since turning thirty I have felt with each birthday a new note of urgency, a feeling of hurry up! Do something! Decide what your thing is! I am aware of the limited time I have to do or be anything significant. It has been a source of frustration in adulthood that I feel I am mediocre at a lot of things. I don’t have the drive that leads people to pursue a passion, to dedicate their life to doing something above all else. I feel this keenly around my birthday each year. Ordinarily this would lead me to fall into self-despair; but this year I want to fully realise this feeling of discontent, and use it to harness action. If I am feeling envious of other people pursuing their passions, it can only mean that my soul is telling me to follow mine. I just need to figure out what it is.
I am a parcel of vain strivings tied By a chance bond together
Henry David Thoreau
Recently I’ve felt like blogging again, maybe it’s the time of year? There’s something about autumn that makes me want to write and take photos. Maybe it’s the particular quality of the light this time of year, or maybe it’s just that I spend more time indoors than in summer and so it doesn’t seem as hard to sit at my laptop and write!
Some photos from a spectacular sunset we had a week ago. I was walking home from the train station and saw a group of people stood on a wall taking photos. Everybody that walked past the park had to stop and take pictures! So of course I joined in with them. Later on Niall came to meet me and we watched the last of the light fading away with a glass of wine on the grass.
I’ve also got back into taking pictures on my film camera, which I’ve neglected all summer. I promise to do better this winter!
A few weeks ago we went camping with friends at Bents Basin, just outside Penrith. When we arrived on Saturday afternoon it was hot and humid. After we put up our tent we drank beers in the shade and played silly games. In the evening it rained heavily and we huddled under the parasol while lightning lit up the fields before us. The moon was huge and, once the rain had stopped, we walked over the brow of a hill to get a better view of it. The morning was cool, grey, and filled with smoke from the campfires around us. It felt like the first day of Autumn.
trip to tassie
we must go out and re-ally ourselves with nature every day
Henry David Thoreau
An off-the-cuff decision to walk down to the beach. It was threatening rain and sure enough, before I got to the bottom of the hill it was pouring. I sought shelter at the Icebergs swimming club, concerned my camera would get sodden.
A place usually crammed with hot, tanned bodies was deserted, the hollowed-out pool was waterless, the only sound the ocean crashing against the rocks. Two surfers ran into the water and started paddling. It began to thunder.
living is a form of not being sure, not knowing what next or how. The moment you know how, you begin to die a little. The artist never entirely knows. We guess. We may be wrong, but we take leap after leap in the dark.
Agnes de Mille
I’ve been thinking about success recently, and what a strange concept it is. In a way it’s like happiness: difficult to define and most often the by-product of something else. I listened to a podcast recently where the host was talking about the gap between what we’ve been taught sucess is, and our own personal version of success. She encouraged her listeners to write down all the things they were taught were the hallmarks of success, and then compare it with what their own version of success looks like.
Mine looks something like this:
It was a useful exercise in seeing just how different my own version of success is compared to what I’ve been brought up to believe are indicators of success. It shows that material possessions aren’t markers of success to me; the majority of things I think of as being successful are a lot more abstract. In a way, that makes it more difficult to judge whether you are successful or not. You could say that owning your own car or getting promoted to CEO or earning X amount of money means you’ve made it; but how do you know that you have independence or strong relationships? How do you quantify that? I feel like those are the kinds of things you only know when you’re at the end of your life, looking back. Deathbed judgements.
So maybe I can’t yet judge whether I’m successful or not. But what this exercise has been useful for is to clarify what my values are. What are the things that I think are more important than anything else? Well, the page above shows that I value:
health (mental and physical)
What is interesting in looking at this list, is that I don’t feel that my actions currently reflect the fact that I value these things above all else. For example, I supposedly value good health, and yet I make decisions everyday that take me away from this. I value travel, and yet I choose to spend money on material things rather than saving up for trips. I value relationships; yet I barely speak to some close family members back home.
This shows to me that I need to start thinking more about my everyday actions and consider how I can adjust them to bring me more into line with my values. That’s going to take a long time and I’m sure will be the subject of many more waffly blog posts; but in the meantime, I’d encourage everyone to try this exercise out. You might be surprised at how different your own version of success is to what you think it is.
get out there
Summer has arrived with a bang here in Sydney. It was 30 degrees yesterday, and boy was I unprepared for the heat!
After spending the winter bundled up in jumpers, tights, boots and coats meant it feels really odd to be rocking the demin shorts-and-singlet combo once again. I’d forgotten all the prep that goes into summer dressing - the shaving of legs, the exfoliating and moisturising, the suncream application, the hair-de-frizz precautions, the sudden concern that one’s bikini line needs some attention….but aside from that, there is something so wonderfully freeing about summer dressing. It’s minimum fuss and Australians do it so well. I’m constantly trying to emulate the Bondi surfer chick style (golden skin, bare feet, hair artfully tangled post-swim), but as a pasty northerner who’s terrified of surfing it’s probably best left as a fantasy.
I switched around my wardrobe yesterday. I packed away all of my jumpers and warm clothes and got my summer clothes out of storage. Had a bit of a try-on session and that’s when I realised that 6 months of sitting on my arse means my body is not prepared for summer dressing either. All of my clothes are tight and uncomfortable. My body feels lumpen and sluggish. Which isn’t a surprise, as I’ve been neglecting it for months on end. In fact I’ve been treating it like a piece of shit. Filling it with junk, poisoning it with too much alcohol and not moving it nearly often enough. I feel like I’ve been living in my head all winter, and it’s only now, with the heat of summer here, I’m aware of my body.
Don’t worry, this isn’t going to turn into a post where I winge about how much weight I’ve put on. I’ve hated my body for so many years, it’s almost getting to the point where I’m over it. I’m frankly bored of the same internal monologue about how I’m a worthless piece of shit because I don’t have a flat stomach, bored of trying to cover myself up in case I offend someone with my wobbly arms, bored of always trying to look as small as possible. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, maybe it’s because I’m finally learning how to be good to myself, but I’m slowly moving away from that bullying voice and instead viewing health, food and exercise as just another form of self-care. So in the spirit of positivity, I want to use this as a call to action.
I want to take full advantage of the summer in Sydney. I want to feel like I didn’t waste a second of it. Which, for me, means long exploratory walks. It means swimming in the ocean at every opportunity. It means getting up early to take in a beautiful sunrise down at the rocks. It means walking home from work, taking the long route through the park, and savouring my surroundings. It means being active in a way that feels joyful rather than punishing.
I want to get out there. I want to go to new places and try new activities. I want to be less caught up in my head and more in tune with my senses and my body. I’m not going to beat myself up for being so lazy through the winter; instead I’m going to celebrate summer and being in this beautiful city by getting out there and savouring it as much as I can.
And with that, I’m off for a run. Have a wonderful weekend x
In winter I plot and plan. In spring, I move.
I feel better
In my last post I shared a little about the fact that I have anxiety. When I wrote that post I was deep a low period, and felt so hopeless. That's the worst thing about anxiety - it makes the bad feelings eternal and all-encompassing. It was truly a shitty time (By the way, thank you to anyone who has reached out since reading that; it's amazing that a) there are people who actually read this blog and b) you were concerned enough to contact me. It means everything).
I've actually been feeling better than I have in a long time since writing that. Last week I was in the middle of making myself breakfast and suddenly realised that I felt happy. There was no one overarching reason for my improvement in mood, but I've found that over the past couple of weeks I've done small things that have all, in their way, contributed to putting my anxiety back into its box, if only temporarily.
I want to share them in case it helps anyone else who might be going through something similar and also, so that I can refer back to this post when I next find myself getting anxious. A message from past Sarah to future Sarah!
1. Talk it out
Speaking to a professional counsellor has made such a difference to how I view my negative thought patterns. I never even know that's what it was until I started seeing a professional - I thought that was just how my brain worked, and there was no way to change it. I now realise that actually, I can train my mind to think differently. It's not quick or easy to do, but it is possible.
Speaking to friends and family has helped hugely too. I'm very lucky in having a partner who understands anxiety and encourages me to talk to him when I start spiralling. I'm getting more comfortable in talking to my friends and family about it too, which helps to dissipate the stigma around it. Wonderfully, it's also brought me closer to people here in Sydney that I might not have forged bonds with, if I had been the Sarah from a couple of years ago and pretended everything was fine all of the time. I'm finding that being frank about the challenges we face opens us up to so much possibility for greater connection with people.
A couple of weeks ago I had a particularly stressful day at work and was feeling overwhelmed with how much work there was to get through. There seems to be a direct link from feelings of overwhelm to critical self-talk in my brain, and we all know where that train eventually leads...Anxiety Town, population: me!
Normally, when I''m feeling this stressed out, I try to distract myself; my particular crutches are social media, Netflix and Youtube. Not a great combination. I can sit for hours while Youtube autoplays videos. It's as though I need something constantly making sounds and pictures in front of me so that I don't have to listen to my anxious thoughts racing in my head. However, in this particular instance, instead of going home and spending the night on the sofa avoiding my thoughts, I put my trainers on and walked the 5.5k home from work. By the time I got home I felt so much better, it was literally as if I'd walked out the stress of the day. This isn't groundbreaking stuff of course; everybody knows that exercise is a great stress reliever. But what makes this a giant leap forward for me is that I recognised I was beginning to feel anxious, and I decided to use exercise as a circuit-breaker. And it bloody well worked!
3. Write it down
Writing acts a crucial bit of breathing space between me and the negative thought. As soon as I've written something down, it takes it out of my head and puts it on a piece of paper instead, which helps to recognise the sheer irrationality of what I'm often thinking.
A while ago, when I felt particularly anxious, I wrote down a list of my worries. There were about 12 things on the list, from huge worries to tiny concerns that were nonetheless niggling away at my brain. When I came back to the list a week later I was shocked to see that so many of those worries had just evaporated. Almost all of them had become irrelevant, or I'd forgotten about them. That was a massive learning experience, it helped me to see that 90% of the time, the thing that I'm worrying about in this moment will likely be forgotten the next week.
4. Acknowledge the accomplishments
This is an important one, but something I'm not very good at doing. So much of my anxiety stems from negative self-talk and beliefs, so I find it really, really hard to congratulate myself on a job well done. I've never felt 'proud' of myself for anything I've done. And I don't say that as a way to fish for compliments or have a 'poor me' moment. It's more that the thought of me saying I'm proud of myself makes me cringe, when my life is so comfortable and I am in such a privileged position. I just don't, at my core, believe that anything I've done is worth feeling proud of, because I haven't overcome any huge obstacles to get to where I am.
I don't know if that makes much sense. It's hard to explain. But I am starting to realise that this maybe isn't the healthiest way of thinking about my life, and actually, I can acknowledge my accomplishments, however small they are. I can feel grateful for the amazing opportunities I have and still congratulate myself for getting to where I am. And I can pat myself on the back for finally admitting that I have a problem with my mental state, seeking help, and putting measures into place to try and get better.
Bleurgh. Still cringe writing that.
5. Be still
I've found this to be the biggest game-chnager in breaking the cycle of anxiety. As I mentioned above, my immeditate reaction when I start to feel anxious is to distract myself with my phone or laptop, and the irony is that the method of distraction only make me more anxious. There's nothing like spending half an hour on instagram to make you feel utterly disatisfied with your life.
So, I've been trying to instead turn off the distractions and do something more constructive that forces my brain to stop racing. Whether thats journalling, walking or meditating, I'm just trying to stop rushing around and instead sit with the feeling and let it pass. I don't try and 'get rid' of the anxiety, I just acknowledge that it's there. I feel calmer as a result and I don't have the added layer of guilt for having spent every evening on my laptop.
These are all small things but doing some combination of them every week has really helped to keep my anxiety at bay. I hope that this is helpful to anyone else going through a low period. And if nothing else works, know that time passes, things change, and you will be a different person tomorrow from who you are today.
I'm so fucking tired.
I'm exhausted from feeling anxious for 3 weeks straight. I'm exhausted from existing on adrenaline & coffee during the day and lying awake at night worrying about work. I don’t have the energy to challenge negative thoughts. I don't have the mental willpower. At the moment, it's a struggle just to get through the day.
Fucking anxiety. I hate that it takes over your body as well as your mind. Your mind creates a state of panic and your body blindly reacts. I feel like my body is flooded with adrenaline during the day, so much so that by the time I get home, I'm exhausted and can barely stay awake to eat dinner. But as soon as I'm in bed, my minds spins and spins like a merry-go-round and conjures up all kinds of bullshit to worry about.
And I'm too tired to fight it.
I hate my anxiety.
I hate that it makes me feel so weak.
I hate that it makes me afraid to do things.
I hate that I’ve always had it, and feel like I always will have it.
I hate that I can't enjoy my life.
I wrote that last night, just before I went to bed. I was feeling so shitty I could barely think straight. Today, I feel ok.
This is what I find hard about living with anxiety.
When I'm in it, the world feels terrifying. I get overwhelmed by minor things, I exhaust myself by worrying, and then I worry about the fact I'm worrying so much. When it's bad, I can't leave the house, and when it's really bad, I can't get out of bed.
Then, I'll have a good day, a good week or month. And because I'm outside of the anxiety, I tell myself nothing's really wrong with me, that it's just me being over-dramatic. That I just need to meditate, exercise more, drink less coffee, socialise more, and that will keep it at bay. But inevitably, before long, something will trigger it and I'll be back in an anxiety spiral. A new job, an uncomfortable social situation, a moment of self-doubt and BAM! Back at the bottom of the black hole and feeling like I can't climb out of it.
Anxiety is sneaky. It'll worm it's way in when you least expect it. I can be out on a cliff walk on a beautiful day, coastline stretching before me, and suddenly a voice whispers yes, but what about that thing you have to do at work next week? You should really be worrying about that. My chest gets tight, my stomach ties itself in a knot, and that's it - day ruined. Or an innocent remark from a loved one can cause me to self-analyse and criticise myself so much, it's like living with a spiteful bully in my own head.
Anxiety is smart. It knows to wait until you're at your weakest and your defences are down. It lies dormant, it waits until it senses that you're tired, or feeling vulnerable, and then it pummels you with worry and self-hatred.
Anxiety is monotonous. It doesn't really have original thoughts. It's just a constant low-level hum of you're not good enough, you're not good enough. The difficulty is challenging that thought when you've been hearing it for 30 years.
Counselling is helping, I think. It's helped to acknowledge that this isn't a healthy way to live. It's helped to realise that there are ways to challenge negative thinking. But it's hard to break a habit of a lifetime. These neural pathways are well-trodden and it's going to take a long time to carve out a new path. One where I don't hate myself.
I don't really have a point to this post. I have anxiety, and it's shit. I want to get better, but I feel like I can't.
At the moment, all I can do is write about it.
Happy first of the month, folks! I love the start of a new month, it feels so full of possibility; like when you start a new notebook and get so excited about all the stuff you can use it for. Just me? Ok then....
I wanted to write about my re-set ritual I have every 6 months, sort of a biannual review process where I check in with myself, review how the previous 6 months have gone, and set some goals for the latter half of the year. I've been doing an annual review at the start of every year for ages now, and I love it. I sit down on the first January and write answers to a whole bunch of questions designed to help me reflect on the previous 12 months, and plan what I want the next year to look like. For the past few years I've been using these questions, which go pretty in depth, but you can be flexible depending on how much you want to get out of it. As a natural navel-gazer, I enjoy going deep, but it's not going to be for everybody!
The 6-month review is not as in-depth, more of a re-set button to help me focus on what I've achieved so far, and what I need to do in order to feel I've made the most out of my year. I make sure I schedule some time to complete my 6-month review, but honestly I'm such a nerd that I can happily spend a whole weekend reflecting and setting goals.
I wanted to share some of the things that this 6-month review has taught me. A lot of these ideas were already swirling around in my head, but its helped crystallise things by writing them down.
So without further ado, here are the three lessons the past 6 months has taught me:
Reflecting on the past 12 months made me feel incredibly grateful; for the people I have around me, for my freedom, for the comfortable life that I have. But, more importantly, I've come to realise what a vital part of my life gratitude itself is. I've learnt that I need to have some kind of daily gratitude practise, where I check in and remind myself how bloody lucky I am. Usually, that's not an issue for me - I feel like I spend my life banging on about how amazing Sydney is and how lucky I am - but it helps to record these thoughts as they occur to me. One of my favourite things that I use my bullet journal for is a monthly 'highlights' page, which is really just a double-page gratitude list. I jot down anything that comes to mind, big or small, meaninful or trite, and I've found it such a valuable exercise. It keeps me mindful, and also gives the added benefit of making me feel good when I read back over previous months - a double dose of gratitude!
In the past I've not had a particularly healthy approach to health (pun intended). Health to me always meant losing weight, nothing more. As I'm getting older I'm learning that it's so much more than this, and certainly in the past 6 months I feel I've learnt more about mental health, and how important that is to look after my mind as well as my body. I started this year suffering really quite badly from anxiety, and have had spells of depressive phases on and off for years. I'm loathe to label myself a depressive, as I don't thing I am; it's (thank god) never lasted long enough or felt serious enough to call it depression - but there have certainly been periods where I've felt unable to get out of bed and lost all joy for the things I usually love to do. Things came to a head at the beginning of this year, and I sought help through work's EAP provider who signed me up with a CBT counsellor. Counselling has been amazing; and even though it's only been a few months, I feel so much better simply for taking action. I want to write more about this in a future blog post, but needless to say, taking a holistic view of health, and working on my mental health as well as physical health, has been life-changing and something I know I'll look back on at the end of this year and be able to pat myself on that back for.
I had this realisation about an hour ago, and felt it was too important not to write down! Confidence isn't something that is attained. It isn't something that I'll get bestowed upon me; it won't be gifted to me; it isn't something I'm going to get if I just wish hard enough or work hard enough for it. It isn't something new that is going to come into my life. Confidence isn't an addition; it's a subtraction. It's a taking away - of expectations, of 'shoulds', of mental chatter, of my inner critic, of judgement. It's a stripping away of all these things that will result in me having a place of quiet confidence in my mind. This realisation comforts me. It takes away the grasping nature of trying to reach some fictitious state of utter confidence. Instead, I just need to remind myself that as long as I regularly practise sitting, breathing, and focusing my mind, I will find my place of quiet confidence that was within me all along.
So those are my reflections over the first half of this year (side note: how is it July already?!?) I've set some goals for the next 6 months, and I'm excited to crack on! Does anyone else have a process similar to this? I'd love to hear from you if so!
Back in March, when I first had the idea to create this blog, I knew that I wanted to call it Flourishing. It seemed like the name just popped into my head from nowhere. In fact, I even wrote it down in my journal just so: "I want to start a blog, and I want to call it Flourishing".
I thought that this word just appeared in my brain out of the ether. But actually, once I started tracking backwards and remembering what I was reading and listening to around that time, it becomes obvious why I chose that name. In that special cosmic kismet that sometimes happens, within the space of a few days I'd encountered the phrase 'human flourishing', and the philosophical idea behind it, from several different sources.
I first heard Steven Pinker discuss it on the Design Matters podcast; he spoke about 'flourishing' as an Enlightenment value, as it applies to human understanding and societal progress through the pursuit of knowledge. Later that week, a video popped up in my Youtube feed that explained the Aristotelian concept of eudaimonia, or human flourishing.
I then read an article by Oliver Burkeman in which he talks about pursuing eudaimonia, as opposed to happiness. In his words, its "meaning is no simpler to define than happiness. Yet most of us seem to know it when we see it - and to understand that it involves stepping beyond the self, serving others, connecting to causes larger than ourselves. It's the stuff you know you'd rather be remembered for at your funeral".
In Big Magic Elizabeth Gilbert talks about eudaimonia as being "the highest degree of human happiness" and equates it with people being "nicely taken care of by some external diving creature spirit guide". She likens it to being lost in creative flow or mindfulness.
I guess after reading and hearing about it from so many different places, it wasn't surprising that when it came to choosing a word to describe what I wanted this blog to be, 'flourishing' was the obvious choice. I knew I wanted the blog to have a philosophical angle; and I knew I wanted it to be personal to me and my experiences. I knew that I definitely didn't want it to be just another trite form of social media content - a pretty picture with a cute caption - and that I wanted there to be some depth to it.
It was also a deliberate decision to call the blog 'flourishing' as opposed to just 'flourish'. That -ing on the end, that's important. That's the part where things get interesting. It's the growth and the blossoming. The journey, not the destination. It's the messiness and the hard parts of life, the questioning and the why. Eudaimonia is a state that encompasses both positive and negative emotions; you can be going through a hard time, you can be angry or sad or anxious, but still pursue a meaningful life by looking beyond yourself - by asking yourself not, 'will this make me happy?' but rather, 'will this path, this choice, make me larger or smaller?' (James Hollis).
Happiness is transient, but eudaimonia, or flourishing, is a lifelong pursuit for meaning and connection. A grand claim perhaps, but that's the ideal I'm striving towards.
Plus, the word just sounds pleasing to me. Flourishing.
A bracing clifftop walk, rainy days and dark evenings, golden winter light. Slow mornings with coffee. Warming winter food - porridge, with almonds and maple syrup, and spicy-sweet laksa. Dramatic skies over Sydney landmarks, the City at night, and a freezing Saturday in Canberra riding bikes along the lake.
A few weeks ago I was feeling pretty flat, in way I couldn't articulate. Just kind of....blah. It felt like the day to day of living was a bit of a slog. The 'daily grind' felt just like that - a grind. It felt like all I was doing with my days was going to work, coming home, eating dinner, and going to bed. My life felt routine, and the routine felt stale.
I talked to Niall about this, and he agreed that we had fallen into a pattern of doing the same thing most weeks and weekends. We don't really have the funds to be able to book a holiday on the fly, so we decided to do a repeat of something we did last year that we loved and that didn't cost any money. We decided to get up at dawn the next day and watch the sun come up over the rocks at North Bondi.
The next day, in the half-twilight we walked down to the beach and picked our way around the rocks. We scrambled and slipped and clambered until we found the perfect east-facing spot to watch the sun come up.
I put my camera down, put my phone away, and I allowed myself to drink it all in. To be present in the moment and to really focus on my senses. To watch the sky changing from inky blue to golden pink. To listen to the waves crash against the rocks. To feel the salt spray on my face and the sun warming my body. To smell the ocean, and feel the heavy presence of the rocks beneath me.
It was a truly beautiful dawn, and as I watched the sun appearing over the horizon I felt so damn lucky to live where I do, and to be right there, in that moment, appreciating the hell out if it. I couldn't believe I had felt so dissatisfied with my lot in the previous weeks. It was a real perspective-shifting, mood-enhancing, gratitude-giving experience.
And I love that this small adventure of ours has now become a ritual. It feels exciting, and it feels meaningful to us. The ritualistic aspect of this activity shook me out of the heaviness I was feeling with the routine of the day-to-day.
As it says in the quote at the start of this post, a ritual adds weight and significance to a task or activity. It marks time in a personal, meaningful way. It can lift you out of the routine and change your perspective.
I’m trying to look at my time differently, and look for ways to introduce a ritualistic aspect into things that I do. For example. I want to build a habit of daily meditation. And i think the way I’m going to stick at it is to make it a ritual - to do it at the same time each day, in the same spot, and, importantly, to really focus on why I want to do it. To think about the value its going to bring to my day, and the benefits it will bring to my body and mind over time.
The next time I feel stuck in a rut, I might try thinking about the things I'm doing with my days, and try to introduce a sense of ritual to things. I really feel like this helps to escape the feeling of the days all blurring into one. I guess, essentially, I'm talking about mindfulness. About being present in the moment and savouring it. I know on a rational level that I feel more content when I frame my thoughts this way. It's just about sticking to the practice of it! Another reason to start my meditation 'ritual'....
rituals are routines that carry meaning.