‘Keep things simple’ is one clear message that keeps coming to mind these days. Life has a habit of getting quite busy and overcomplicated very quickly. It has been a very tough year for us all, so it is important that we get to know our own limits and return to our version of ‘normal’ at a pace that suits us. This might involve pausing and noticing when we have become overly busy again and making a conscious decision to pare things back and prioritise. Less can most definitely be more, especially nowadays, when we really need some time to rest and reflect over the past few months.
I don’t think any of us can be blamed for wanting to have a good time after months of lockdown and everything else associated with Covid-19. Yet ‘packing it all in’ on our time off does not necessarily equate to having a good time. I have noticed a recurring habit in myself these last few weeks, as we have been enjoying some wonderful day trips around West Cork. Often on returning home, even after having a gorgeous day, I have seen an old habit of mine returning, a habit of wanting more, something else to make it even better, a feeling of wanting to pack in more treats. As if the day hasn’t already provided enough.
Is it true of us as humans, that we never know when we have enough? Instead of being present and relishing an everyday experience or savouring a moment alone or with friends, for example, eating a meal, having a drink or appreciating a view, does anybody else sometimes notice that habit of moving ahead in our minds to the future, instead of enjoying what’s already here, and imagining what we think would make this better, what would round the day off nicely?
One way to make sense of this tendency of wanting more is recognising that we all want to hang on to pleasant experiences and not let them pass, so wanting to stretch as much joy from a single day as possible is totally understandable. Yet if we can ‘catch’ ourselves doing this and bring ourselves back to the experience at hand and learn to savour it, then enough can be plenty.
In general, we prefer pleasant experiences to last while we attempt to skim over unpleasant ones. But we may feel less in need of grasping on to pleasant experiences when we pay attention to them ‘as we are living them’ and really allow them to soak in, rather than flit over them. It is not about denying or minimising negative or challenging experiences in any way, but more about fostering and cultivating good ones.
Psychologist and author Dr Rick Hanson shares a practice called simply ‘taking in the good’ whereby he recommends pausing to notice the simple things in everyday life that make us feel good. Then bringing a mindful awareness to this ordinary detail of daily life, for example, a friendly encounter, eating an ice cream, spending time with friends, and so on. Deliberately stay with how this positive experience makes you feel, savour the feeling for up to 30 seconds, so you are internalising how the experience ‘is making you feel’ rather than clinging to the actual experience. Allow the positive feeling to really sink in as your body relaxes and absorbs the associated thoughts, emotions and physical sensations.
‘Taking in the good’ in this way means we can return to our stored memory and ‘felt sense’ of our experience at any time because, not only have we have been present for it, but intentionally allowed it to sink in. The ability to stay in the present moment and to take in the pleasure of an experience as it is happening is a true gift. If we fill our days to capacity or overbook our time, our days simply become ‘to do’ lists and we have less time to pause and soak in the goodness of the simple pleasures in life. For the remainder of Summer see if you can actively ‘take in the good’ and, for example, notice the sensations and the scent of the sea on your skin after a day swimming, feel the sand or the grass on your skin if you are outside, pay attention to the temperature of your body, notice the breeze on your face or hands, listen to raindrops falling, listen to who’s speaking.
Pay attention to where you are, who you’re with, what you’re doing and most of all how it makes you feel! Pause to notice the simple stuff and take it in.
Online sessions via zoom will continue through August on Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings at 8pm. These 45-minute drop-in sessions are a great way to cultivate our ability to pay attention to the present moment, keep up a steady mindfulness practice and provide a way of connecting in with others in a friendly and supportive environment.
Nature and forest bathing experiences provide a unique outdoor opportunity to slow down and connect with ourselves though nature. Tuesday and Sunday evenings, 7-9pm, Glebe Gardens, Baltimore. €30 per person. Advance booking is essential as group numbers are limited.
Look out for an extra special retreat day in Baltimore late August. I will be joining with others and offering a day of rest and nourishment at the lovely Glebe Gardens, including mindfulness, yoga, essential oils, nature and forest bathing, nutritious food and drinks.
Please get in touch directly for more information.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or Tel: 087 2700572