Thu, 23 June 2022
"He who comes home with the most money doesn't win. He who comes home with the most experiences wins." - Steve Smith, contributor with Rick Steves in Rick Steves France 2015
The Simple Sophisticate, episode #23
One of the most exquisite pleasures in my experience has always been having time at home without a to-do list. To enjoy my sanctuary that comforts me, rejuvenates me and allows me to dream so that when I do step outside into the world I can do, seek and produce, is one of the things I most treasure about living simply luxuriously.
And so it began when I was a child, no doubt, as my mother always cultivated a warm home, but as I grew up and became responsible for establishing my own abode, it took much exploration, dead-ins from time to time and investment to create a space that allowed the everyday to be just as stimulating as new experiences brought about by travel.
And in so doing, paying attention to my home environment, I began to pay attention to how I spend my days. Was I exhausted and unfilled at the end or exhausted and feeling productive? Did I have time in my day to spend it with those I loved, converse with those who engaged in creative, uplifting and thought-provoking conversation or care for myself in such a way that respected my overall health? And depending upon my answer, I would tweak, eliminate, maximize or designate more or less time to those activities that improved the quality of living.
"He has achieved success who has lived well, laughed often and loved much."
As the quote reminds us, living well is truly about prioritizing how we spend our days. Did we make time to enjoy the day, spend it with those we hold dear, take time to respect what our minds and bodies need or did we cram everything into our waking hours in order to fit a mold that we weren't asked for input regarding its creation? Everyone's path to living well will be different, but the key is to know what you want - more loosely rather than specifically. Because as we know, our lives intermingle with the rest of the world, but if we bring our best selves, have good intentions and are willing to be true selves, success is possible when it comes to living well.
Recently, I was watching the travel guru Rick Steves discuss on PBS his explorations through the countryside of France. While staying at Chateau de Pray and dining on their outdoor terrace, his dining companion shared the quote listed at the beginning of today's post. And I couldn't agree more especially when it comes to travel, but why not bring a similar way of living into our everyday? Why not . . . live well each and every day? Why not use the nice china in the middle of the week? Why not treat ourselves regularly to dinner or lunch with a dear friend at a restaurant that piques our interest or tantalizes our taste buds? Why not sleep on silk pillowcases each night?
Many may quickly scoff at such ideas as being too indulgent, thus deflating the exhilaration that is felt when they are only experiences from time to time, but what I hope to bring to your attention today is that with patience and careful planning, everyday life can indeed be lived luxuriously and can actually enhance the quality of our lives. Below are 20 ways to foster a simply luxurious way of living, but these are just a taste. If you would like the full list inspired by the French way of living, check out chapter 10 "Indulging Your Inner Francophile" in Choosing The Simply Luxurious Life: A Modern Woman's Guide.
1. Cook at home. Find simple, yet delicious recipes and discover the pleasures of cooking on your own schedule for your own dietary needs and preferences. (View TSLL recipes here.)
2. Indulge in café time. Once, twice or three times a week depending up on your schedule and enjoyment, select a favorite local café and stop in for some reading time, moseying through magazine time, or chats with friends. Indulge in one of the patisseries delicious sweet treats and lose track of time.~Les Deux Garcons cafe in Aix-en-Provence, cours Mirabeau~
3. Wear luxurious lingerie everyday. As I talk about in my book, lingerie is a necessity for the woman who wears it, not for those who might see her in it. Why? Because simply knowing we are wearing beautiful, comfortable, luxurious lingerie feels good. And everything begins with our thoughts. If we feel good, we smile more readily, we are more open to new experiences and our attitude is lifted.
4. Let go of busy. A powerful decision that will change your day-to-day living drastically for the better. Busy doesn't mean better or more productive, it simply reveals a life that perhaps could be managed better. After all, living well means living a life of quality. A life that focuses on what is necessary and lets go of the rest. And when you let go of busy, you have more time for moments of simple leisure and luxury that cultivate an everyday life to savor. (Click here to dive into this topic.)
5. Cultivate a capsule wardrobe for each season. Knowing you have in your closet clothes that will make you look and feel your best is a very powerful tool to possess as you begin your day. While this takes time and never really ends due to lives and bodies changing, it is worth our attention. (Click here to learn more about building a capsule wardrobe.)
6. Follow your own schedule. Perhaps it's Friday or even Saturday night, everyone must be out doing something, staying up late, right? Wrong. Your daily schedule is one that works for you and those you spend your time with. Perhaps you prefer Wednesday evenings out because Thursdays are lighter days at work and you enjoy spending your weekends waking up early and getting things done. Whatever schedule works for your goals, intentions, health, family, etc - adhere to it and don't apologize. After all, our lives, needs and desires change, listen to what is nudging you, calling your name and that is where you will find the unexpected beauty.
7. Discover a personal scent. Similar to knowing you are wearing luxurious lingerie is the choice of scent you layer upon your skin before stepping out the door for work or for play. A luxurious decision and investment, but one that will reveal your attention to detail.
8. Subscribe to daily/weekly/monthly periodicals. Running throughout the philosophy of living simply luxuriously is being well-read. Depending upon your lifestyle, curiosities, locale and interests, you will select reading material that interests you. Most importantly, gather knowledge, choose to learn something new each day, read a review of a new play or restaurant and be encouraged to give it a try. Become in the know of current events in order to strike up a conversation with anyone. Reading in truth, is a way of tickling your brain and refusing to live each day the same even if the events may be routine.
9. Save time and don't wash your hair everyday. Purchase a dry shampoo and have on hand for the days you don't lather up. Shampoo less often, thereby saving yourself more time in the morning, and believe it or not, improve the condition of your tresses. (Klorane Gentle Dry Shampoo with Oat Milk)
10. Invest in quality skincare products. In episode #13 of the podcast, specifics are shared on how to create glowing skin, and by investing in quality skincare products, your most beautiful skin will shine. The power of prevention is real, and while it takes time and a bit of investment, the pay-offs are tremendous.
11. Design a workout regimen to look forward to. Whether you enjoy exercising outdoors in Mother Nature or attending classes lead by instructors that inspire you and classmates that boost your mood, explore your interests and community to see what is available and what captures your needs and proclivities. Most people after having exercise will tell you that they feel better, energized and less stress, and if you can bring that into your everyday life, everything will be affected in a very positive way. (Revolver Yoga Studio, Walla Walla)
12. Find time to treasure hunt. Even if you are not necessarily going to buy, poke around in local consignment shops, yard sales, second-hand shops, antique boutiques and even boutiques that catch your eye. If nothing else, you will walk away with ideas on how to design, style and mix and match what you already have.
13. Be sincere, yet kind. While everyone has days that you are simply grumpy for any list of reasons, taking it out on others is something you will most likely regret. And even if you have to deliver news that isn't favorable, there is always a way to do so with kindness. Being conscious of how we treat people and our delivery will almost always be appreciated, and even if it is taken for granted, at least we can go home at night and feel good about the energy we put out into the world.
14. Shop at local vendors and boutiques. Perhaps you live in a town that you hand-selected for the community it offers, but what if you didn't? Either way, supporting local vendors when it comes to food or local boutiques when it comes to shopping for gifts, necessities and products not only builds good-will, but strengthens the economy of the local community. And additionally, when it comes to buying food locally, you benefit your overall health as most foods are free from pesticides and hold more nutritional value that your body craves.
15. Eat real food. Full of flavor that will satiate, real food is a choice your body will thank you for. Processed food may be more convenient and help you reduce the shopping trips to the grocery store, but in the long term, it is a bad investment. Returning home after a long day knowing the food you will be incorporating into your meal will be satisfying and nutritious will remove guilt and properly fuel your body for whatever it may be asked to do next.
16. Elevate the conversation. Easier said than done when we are exhausted, stressed and frustrated, but when you do your best to refrain from complaining and gossiping, you are less likely to go home in the evening regretting or feeling guilty about partaking. In fact, when conversations are full of curious information - books, local events, news, etc - you can walk away inspired, motivated and eager to do something new. Why not bring such a conversation to those in your world?
17. Create an evening routine to look forward to. At the end of the day, your body and mind may be entirely taxed which is why making time (even 15 minutes) for unwinding with a favorite pastime is crucial. Being able to look forward to this simple routine can be the silver lining no matter what your day has unearthed.
18. Schedule regular spa appointments for beauty and health maintenance. Much like exercise, caring for our bodies is a means to caring for our health, overall beauty and mind. So be sure to schedule your facial, massage, hair cut/color, waxing and any other must-dos before you walk out the door from your last appointment. They can often be the respite in a busy week and will no doubt leave you feeling rejuvenated.
19. Stock a bar cart for spur-of-the-moment entertaining. Whether you drink alcoholic beverages or not, stock a bar cart that has drinks and nibbles at the ready for last-minute guests. Even for one or two guests, having a bar with wine, beer or if it's morning - croissants and hot tea keeps the food with the conversation in the living room or sitting room. Luxurious and ready for any everyday occasion. (A glimpse of my
20. Fill your home with inspired music. For techies or retro audiophiles, have your turntable or playlists ready for any occasion. From leisurely jazz tunes when you return from work and wish to read the daily news to beautiful Bach in the morning as you get ready for work, set up your music station, turn off the television and forget about time, even if for a moment.
Whatever inspires you in your travels or remains memorable to you from your past, why not bring it into your everyday life if at all possible? Cultivate an everyday life that perhaps no one would believe is possible, but rest assured it is. After all, as Annie Dillard reminds us, how we spend our days is how we spend our lives. Why not spend your life living well each and everyday?
~SIMILAR POSTS FROM THE ARCHIVES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
~10 Ways to Unearth Your Inner Francophile (episode #4)
~French-Inspired Living: Books to Enjoy
Befriend a local wine shop to ensure great wines no matter what the occasion.
~Liner & Elsen "One of America's six great main street wine shops." -Bon Appetit
2222 NW Quimby St. (off 22nd Ave.)
~Chateau Du Grand Bos (2005) Bordeaux, France (wine enjoyed in the photo to the right).
~Images: (1) a cafe in Paris in Montmartre captured by TSLL
Sun, 19 June 2022
"Your soul needs time for solitude and self-reflection. In order to love, lead, heal, and create, you must nourish yourself first." —Louise Hay
Whether you have ten minutes or an entire afternoon or day to give to quiet contemplation, otherwise known as reflection, when you choose to do so, you ground yourself, ensuring the next "step" in your life journey will be far more constructive and in alignment with a life of contentment.
I happened upon an observation made by Paul Child, the husband of Julia Child, while reading Warming Up Julia Child: The remarkable figures who shaped a legend, while traveling the west coast during the first book tour for his wife, sharing in a letter with Avis DeVoto about the bustle in Southern California whose population was skyrocketing at the time,"'So busy w/material consumption & social whirling,' that they neglected reading and reflection." It was his concluding clause of what he felt was lacking that immediately drew my attention: His prioritizing and valuing of reflection as a regular pastime for a deeper appreciation of art and science, and well, living well, in his opinion.
Unconsciously, it has been my nature since I was a young girl, to reflect often. Likely associated with being introverted, but because it was unconscious, overthinking could occur which was unproductive. However, because I knew and had many examples from my life journey that resulted from being reflective, thinking deeply about a project, life choice, or temporary dilemma, I knew there was great power in being reflective. The skill I needed to learn was how to harness it for constructive purposes and to recognize when it became destructive (when my mind would regress to its Lizard Mind tendency and spend time in the land of worrying and catatrophizing).
“Most true happiness comes from one's inner life, from the disposition of the mind and soul. Admittedly, a good inner life is difficult to achieve, especially in these trying times. It takes reflection and contemplation and self-discipline.” – William L. Shirer
William Shirer, an American journalist and war correspondent, and notably, the first reporter hired by Edward R. Murrow, acknowledges the need to attain the skill of self-discipline, and the understanding that a strong and healthy inner life is a conscious effort that is not easy, but powerfully rewarding when achieved. In 2010, I shared a list of benefits when we acquire the skill of self-discipline, and over the years I have found to be true that it is when I have clarity about my priorities, about myself and how best to nurture myself so that I am deeply content and at peace that self-discipline becomes easier and isn't a battle with bad habits I wish to eliminate.
It may at first seem antithetical to slow down and be still to gain a better life, but as was discussed in last Monday's Motivational post, it is through subtraction that we increase the quality of our life.
Silence and the act of Reflecting go hand in hand, as we need to provide the space to recall, remember, examine and consider. As artist from the 16th and 17th century Francis Bacon states, “Silence is the sleep that nourishes wisdom.” In order to understand, we must slow down. In order to find peace with our direction, we must find the time to be still and ponder all that we have experienced during the day, the week, etc..
Confucius as well prioritized the importance and value of reflection when he said, "By three methods we may learn wisdom. First, by reflection, which is noblest. Second, by imitation, which is easiest and third by experience which is bitterest." To reflect enables us to avoid unwanted outcomes, events, loss, pain and hardship. Similar to a pickup that has found its way into a sinking water-logged mud puddle. To continue to spin one's wheels literally, only digs the pickup further into the ground, making it more and more difficult to be pulled free. It is through pausing, reflecting on the situation, ascertaining a plan that is not identical to the one that brought you to the mud puddle that will enable a desired outcome.
As my own daily life has become far more quiet, I have found myself experiencing moments that remind me of my childhood when I would while away entire afternoons or mornings, completely enthralled with an excursion with my horse or other animals, writing or reading, or simply toodling about letting my curiosity lead the way. Absolute bliss. And such moments were made possible because I gave myself time the year and two years prior to reflect on what was and what was not working in my life, what made me feel fulfilled, grounded and at peace, no matter what others said I should be doing to attain such desired outcomes. In this turning point in my life, reflecting was a vital tool that gifted me with the trust in my decision I had for so long been too scared to make.
As I know there are many fellow introverts as well as HSPs in TSLL community, reflecting, as I mentioned above, is likely already part of your everydays. The struggle I consciously have identified to be a barrier I need to work through (or around) in order to get on the other side of is acknowledging and finding peace with the truth that I thrive in an environment and approach to living my everydays that many people I had surrounded myself with or been surrounded by (due to teaching) don't find to be comforting or nourishing. For so long I expended energy, with my family, with colleagues or friends trying to explain, defend and becoming frustrated sometimes to the point of exasperation as though I was banging my head against a wall, that how I enjoy living my days is the real deal. It genuinely brings me deep satisfaction, elation and it is my place of true contentment. Some of these people I would try to convince extended pity, some assumed their way of living was superior because it wasn't their way and so I must be unhappy even though I claimed otherwise. And so what I am in the process of doing is finding peace with the reality that they may never understand, finding courage to speak my truth in a loving yet strong way, being at peace with the reality that my truth may cause some of these people to feel discomfort in the moment when I share, but I avoid feeling resentful later which is a destructive and unhelpful feeling as I move forward building and nurturing relationships with people who accept a truth they may never understand, and lovingly acknowledge there are many ways to find contentment and thus many moments of happiness.
I share the above journey first because all of my ahas discovered came about through regular reflection. The ahas didn't come instantly, but they did come. Often assisted by reading, as Paul Child paired with regular reflection, because none of us has all the answers to the questions we will come across while we reflect, and so in areas where I didn't understand, I looked to those who knew far more than I did. And the second reason I shared the above journey is because I wish I had heard someone say this to me, to tell me how you live your life, what brings you peace, calm, exuberance need not be validated by others. In the introduction of the November chapter (chapter 11) in The Road to Le Papillon: Daily Meditations on True Contentment I speak about an aha I had about savoring my joy and not asking permission or validation from others to acknowledge that my joy was okay. Once I became conscious that I was actually unconsciously seeking others approval to feel joy, I then gave myself the approval from within and stopped seeking it outside of myself regarding how I enjoy and find peace in my everydays. So if I can give any amount of peace of mind to encourage you to continue to enjoy your days as you do regardless of whether others in your life currently understand, I hope I can do that today and here on TSLL blog.
What exactly does 'reflecting' look like in our daily lives?
Well, let's first take a look at what it is not. It is not meditating. Meditating is a valuable skill and practice, something I wrote a detailed post about sharing six benefits and how to meditate daily, but reflecting requires you to use the mind, to contemplate, to examine, and meditation asks you to observe your mind, to step back and strengthen your ability or simple awareness so that you engage with each day with more mindfulness, being able to hold yourself fully in the present moment.
(1) Reflecting asks for you to find a quiet space. This could be in one spot or on your walk while you either listen to your favorite music, anything that doesn't ask you to think about the content you are hearing, so in order to reflect, you will want to turn off the podcast episode (counter-intuitive direction coming from a podcaster, I know :)). Maybe it is while you are taking a bath, taking a shower, sitting in your favorite cozy chair or outside on your porch or working in your garden. You can be doing something while you are reflecting, but it needs to be quiet which enables your thoughts to wander without influence or distraction.
(2) Journaling often helps us to understand what our thoughts are trying to help us understand. As I shared a couple of weeks ago, often it is when I put what I am thinking about on paper that I make more sense of what I am actually trying to work through. The process of manually telling my hand to write a certain word or idea helps me solidify what I am actually feeling, wanting, or what is causing frustration.
(3) Reading can help prompt reflection, but only if you stop to let yourself ponder and mull over what it is that was sparked in your mind while you were reading. When I was teaching, I prompted my students to annotate while they read because it helped them to actively engage with the writer. And while it did slow their reading down, it also strengthen a closer reading of the text. My description of such reading and writing on the page was that they were having a conversation with the author - questioning, sharing ahas, challenging, understanding, etc..
(4) Regularly engage in reflecting and thus it will become a practice that not only becomes easier to do as you will find great benefit as you go through your days, but you will want to return to this comforting space in your day. Reflecting becomes a space where you are conversing about the day's and life's events, making sense of them as best you can and if you cannot, presenting questions for your mind to mull over in the days and weeks to come. I find the latter to be unexpectedly powerful because our mind is there to help us if we let it. We can sometimes pose a question to our mind, sleep on it, and wake up with an amazing aha we had not thought of but because so much stored information is in our long-term memory, it took our mind time to find where it was located. :)
(5) Practice meditation. I know, I know, I just said that meditation is not reflecting, and I am sticking to what I said, but in order to have an effective and beneficial reflective practice, you must have control of your mind. You need to be able to tell it where to go and where not to go, and how you do that is by strengthening the muscle that is the mind, and you do that through meditation.
The Benefits of Regular, Frequent Reflection
Now that my days have breath, in other words, regular 'white space', something Mozart reminds is how the music is heard and thus appreciated (here is his actual quote, “The music is not in the notes, but in the silence between.”), I reflect every day and have found great strength received, grounding steadiness and a more sturdy confidence in my journey moving forward which is full of so many unknowns. Often the reflecting is in my journal, but it can also occur while I am taking my long morning walk with Norman or our short stroll in the evening. I have had to consciously remain vigilant that my mind doesn't let the reflecting wander where it doesn't need to go - worry, catatrophizing, etc. - places it would go without my knowledge previously of how to stop it or acknowledging that doing so was unnecessary and definitely not helpful, but such bad habits have been significantly reduced if not eliminated. I find this bad habit arises when I am tired, have not given myself enough time to recharge, and so I am being more mindful of my daily schedule as well.
The key to ensuring your reflection is beneficial is to always be focusing on constructive actions and progress rather than ruminating on negative events. The latter is where 'overthinking' and catatrophizing can happen, and there is never a benefit in such mental habits. This is where strengthening your mind gives you the power to direct your mind's attention. This is where meditation is a skill that contributes to reflection as meditation strengthens the muscle that is the mind. Now let's look at the benefits of regular, frequent reflection.
"Honest self-reflection opens your mind to reprogramming, change, success, and freedom."- Vikas Runwal
As well, in order for any of the below benefits to be experienced, you must be brave enough to be honest with yourself. You may not like what your mind discovers upon reflection during certain instances as you realize you behaved or acted or spoke in a way that was not in alignment with who you want to be. You may discover you need to apologize and accept the consequences of your choices, but in so doing, you will learn, and because you are reflecting you are beginning to create positive change.
"Time and reflection change the sight little by little 'til we come to understand." —Paul Cezanne
1.Deeper clarity of direction
2. Decision-making becomes easier
3. Deeper clarity of your needs, dreams and their roots of origin - are they yours innately or placed upon you by society
4. Better selections of which relationships to become a part of, to invest in
5. Improved relationships - you discover areas you would like to improve, better understand about yourself, and you also find your voice to communicate your needs, desires and interests.
6. Reduction of stress and anxiety as you become comfortable with your own company, strengthening your sense of agency as you trust your decisions and competence to navigate whatever the future presents.
7. Deeper and more restful sleep
8. Improved Emotional Intelligence (EQ)
In order to welcome a regular and frequent practice of reflection, you may have to rearrange your daily routine, but I assure you, the benefits, what you gain, will be more than worth it as you will begin to live a life you deeply love. Changes will certainly be a part of your journey when you begin to reflect in this way, but the changes will be made by you, and will be constructive.
So today, embrace your own company, befriend yourself, as Jane Austen describes the leading character in Mansfield Park Fanny Price, "Her own thoughts and reflections were habitually her best companions." Once you begin to confront behaviors and choices that do not contribute to the life you want to live, you will greatly enjoy the company that is your constant companion, you.
"The capacity to reflect is at the heart of what it is to be an effective learner."- Bill Lucas
SIMILAR POSTS/EPISODES YOU MIGHT ENJOY
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #332
Sun, 5 June 2022
"Our life experience will equal what we have paid attention to, whether by choice or default." —William James
To hold our attention on a singular point of focus exhibits a strength of being able to thwart the tugs of distraction. And to be able to thwart distraction takes conscious intention to notice, to choose to hold ourselves in the present and to be an observer.
An observer, contrary to what many may at first liken it to being, is not a wallflower or someone who is shy or passive in how they engage in life. No, an observer demonstrates awareness of the world beyond their inner world, beyond their own thoughts, worries, past experiences and biases. An observer acknowledges that the moment in which they find themselves is far more awesome when we step away from the past and choose not to look past today into the future and instead hold ourselves and our attention in the present without expectation of what we 'must' see or find.
There are many reasons for noticing of any sort - looking for the good, looking for the threat or simply observing - to become a honed, yet unconscious skill in our lives, and I will be addressing by the latter on this list of three can actually bring more awesomeness into your life.
Depending upon our childhood or our relationship with any caretaker during our youth, or in a culture where and if we were perceived as inferior or the minority, if the day's events unfolded based on how we engaged, what we said or didn't say, did or didn't do, we may have become very skilled at noticing others' moods, behaviors and tone of voice. Such 'noticing' was for survival, for a 'better', less contentious environment. However, it wasn't a noticing of what all that surrounded us, but rather a noticing in order to avoid threats, pain or belittling most specifically and solely.
If we were so fortunate to be raised and then as an adult live in an environment where joy was a regular and consistent feeling, good moments and peace-filled and happy feelings, even if different from those around us, were celebrated without judgment, then noticing the good is a muscle we have been toning and maybe didn't realize what a gift we were given.
I recently read The Art of Noticing by Rob Walker, and his introduction shares that the environment in which many of us find ourselves, if we aren't exercising our 'noticing' muscles, can detract our attention and thus prevent us from living well or fulfilled. Walker includes a quote from philosopher Georg Simmel who in 1903 wrote, "The stimulation of modern life . . . wears down the senses, leaving us dull, indifferent, and unable to focus on what really matters." That was in 1903 which while I know many may say, well, it has only gotten worse, I would counter an understandable remark by saying, its a perennial issue, an issue of whether or not to choose to notice the awesomeness, to notice when we need to turn off the noise (if we perceive it to be noise) and live more presently rather than just let what comes and what happens happen.
There is a reason stimulation of constant bombardment of noises - pings, quickly displayed images in movies, programming, advertisements and overlaying of music with films/shows/etc. - occur: to give you no space to think, and instead to tell you how to think. The only way such stimulation can work is if its creator knows where its audience is at the present moment. The advertiser, the media, the speaker has to meet the audience where it is, then they pull the audience (whose attention they now have) where they want them to go (or to think). If where they begin their messaging is too far removed from where we (the audience) are, their message or idea will not land and thus not be effective, so to this point, whether it is 1903 or 2023, the world around us will forever be trying to overstimulate us in order to wear us down to refrain from thinking and nudge us to just go along, letting us believe it was our idea. Our job is to be thinkers, critical thinkers, and choose to strengthen the skill of 'noticing' or as what is often described on TSLL blog, be fully present and thus mindful.
So how exactly do we become better at noticing all that is around us and thus witness, observe and savor the awesomeness in our life and the world? How do we see all that is around us clearly without the veneer of societal biases and norms? I'd like to share with you a list ideas for doing just that - seeing clearly, seeing the awesomeness and thus discovering how quite sweet everyday life is exactly where you live, call home and make your life.
I can already see some readers/listeners' response to this first item on the list. The reasons for their inability to slow down are on the tip of their tongue. 😌 I don't disagree that the life you are currently living will not slow its pace to match yours when you choose to shift to a speed that enables you to notice the world and yourself as you live in it. However, my first question is, Whose needs are not being fulfilled when you slow down? Likely, it is others' needs, not yours because if you are acknowledging you would like to slow down but cannot, you are already expressing a need to take your foot off the pedal.
We cannot change anyone else's behavior but our own if we wish to engage in healthy relationships, so we cannot know why others feel they must go at the pace they travel, but if the pace you are traveling leaves you unable to feel fulfilled, leaves you regularly trying to catch your breath, hitting the snooze button, drinking one more cup of caffeine, etc. then slowing down is the first and best way to be able to notice anything that will be beneficial and incorporate it regularly into your life to see significant change.
When our regular everyday pace slows down, much like a train that has halted at the train station, we can situate ourselves, read the signs clearly, take in the scenery without it whizzing by and really observe the detail in our lives. When we observe, because we have slowed our pace, we are able to take note of what is working, what provides comfort, genuine support, real love, and what does not. Then, with this clear information, we begin to make better decisions. Not being rushed, we choose with confidence what and whom to engage with or to refrain from and know in our minds why we are doing so, and that it is our true self that is making the decision, not an outside influence.
2. Celebrate this truth about being human - "more than any other creature, humans can outmaneuver our own base instincts"
Base instincts in humans deal with surviving. Not thriving, but surviving, so in other words, we are programmed to instinctively look for the threat, not for what will make us smile, not for what will make us feel at ease or happy or loved. Instincts are not intuition, so let's not conflate these too. Instincts are pre-programmed based on experiences we have never had, but as human beings living in a civil, modern world, our instincts are leading us astray and causing us more harm and dulling a life that could be so much more fulfilling and peace-filled. Intuition is honed; it is a skill that takes time to understand because each of our intuitions, while residing within us, is waiting for our true selves to emerge and for us to consciously understand who that is. Once we come to understand our own language, translating what our intuition is telling us becomes second nature.
So back to the outmaneuvering our base instincts as shared by Rob Walker in the above quote.
For survival purposes as a child or as an adult who has to be constantly looking out for threats due to variables beyond their control, noticing takes on a negative, but necessary connotation. Even when the threat is no longer - we have removed ourselves from that environment, that person, etc. - our instinct is to stay vigilant and only keep an eye out for threats. This is where we must outmaneuver what we have done in the past, and instead begin to observe all that surrounds us.
Walker astutely points out that it is no coincidence that a civil and modern society that feels overwhelmed by stimulation is simultaneously seeing a rise in meditation and mindfulness practices, teachings and routines. This is a beautiful and constructive example of 'outmaneuvering'. Humans can bring about that necessary change for a more enriching life when we acknowledge how we are currently living is not fulfilling.
3. Embrace solitude
Discover the gift and nourishment sharing time in your own company can be.
A TSLL reader recently and bravely shared that it wasn't until they felt truly lonely, that they found their true selves. Why? Because by looking the feeling of lonely in the face, they came to understand what made them feel lonely, and as this reader journeyed through the feeling (she didn't avoid it or turn away from it once she met it), she found ways of living her days that included time in her own company partaking fully having intentionally chosen for no one else to be there but herself and finding deep enjoyment. why? Because it wasn't her being alone that made her feel lonely. What she discovered was her true self, and this self-knowledge was aided by letting herself run into feeling that was lonely which then led her to understanding what her true needs were to feel fulfilled and nourished.
Loneliness often is misdefined. Loneliness is not being without other people. Loneliness is not knowing what fulfills you and thus not feeling connected to the world in which you find yourself.
It is when you embrace solitude, a necessity, not a luxury, that you give yourself the ability to be the student of yourself. You are forced to be honest with yourself if you choose to be courageous enough to stand in the space where you are the only human being.
It is my regular moments of solitude where I am refueled, nourished and find clarity. It is in my regular moments of solitude where I reflect on my feelings, events and thus come to fully understand myself so that moving forward I know clearly how to engage well with others, to apply what I now know and connect more sincerely and deeply when I step out of my solitude.
4. Let your curiosity be your guide
Being curious leads you to new discoveries. And each step forward prompted by curiosity strengthens your ability to be vulnerable. Your first steps fueled by curiosity may be small and appear insignificant, but they all add up to you becoming a person who knows how to be present and keep an open mind, open to what will cross your path, and instead of judging it, exploring it.
Whatever it is that stirs your curiosity such discoveries are much like the cookie crumbs leading you to and on a trail of fulfillment. You begin to discover what brings you to life, what enlivens you in a way other activities may not have. And while other activities may prompt curiosity in others, you begin to celebrate the differences and realize that following anyone else's path is not the route to true contentment for you. All of this is to say, each of us finds our way to true contentment on different paths, and this is something to celebrate. Because when we find our path, we're not looking at other people's route, but grateful they have found the grounding peace just as we have.
Concrete Ideas for Noticing
Choosing to be an observer means we are holding ourselves fully in the present moment, and rather than judging what we see, which involves our unconscious biases, we are simply noting. We see it. This is what we see, hear, feel - the senses become our translators.
5. Choose to engage in only one task at a time
By choosing to engage in only one activity, we are not distracted by another tug of the other tasks. Our attention is given wholly, our focus is on one thing, and so we can take it all in and are less likely to rush and thus deepen the quality of our efforts.
6. Reflect regularly - Make a list weekly, yearly, etc. of just what is
To note what has evolved, changed, is no longer, has begun make a list first of what was just last week at this exact time. If you would like to go further, make a list of what what happening in your life one year ago today, perhaps even two years ago or three years ago. When you create such lists, you are not passing judgement, just stating facts - truths of what was happening, was in place, how you felt and why you felt it, etc.. I enjoy this regular practice for weekly reflection and what I have found, especially when I make the yearly and bi-yearly lists is that the headaches and bothers at the time are no longer remembered, and thankfully, often the large headaches have been overcome and that gives me calm and confidence. Moreover, I am reminded that any harried or fretful thinking I had didn't materialize and that savoring all that was going well was the best thing to do so that better engagement occurred (whether I wisely heeded this advice them or not, upon reflection I am encouraged to do so moving forward).
7. Allow silence in conversation to be present
While in a conversation, often when there is a span of silence, one or both people try to fill it. Why not . . . let the space of silence be. In so doing, you let thoughts marinate, you give time for a response rather than a reaction and how you hold yourself in this span of silence has the potential to provide comfort to the other that indeed, such a silence is okay and you are not rushing and you are choosing to be right where you are and with them.
Begin to notice in such moments how you feel. At first you may feel uncomfortable, unsettled as you acknowledge you want to fill the space but is there really anything that needs to be said at that moment if you don't know how to respond to what has just been shared? Give time and see how you feel not rushing to speak.
8. Just listen
My mother does this very well. She will just listen to me. She doesn't insert her opinion, pass judgment or interrupt and thus I meander in my words until sometimes I discover something I had not realized simply by sharing. Of course, just sitting silently all of the time doesn't consist of a conversation, but the practice is to know when to just listen. When you do this you open up space to just notice. You take in not only the words, but their physical movements, facial expression and all that is going on around them. You also again give yourself time to observe and thus when you choose to engage verbally in the conversation, you are responding having given thought to what you will say and how it will be received because you have wholly taken in all that the speaker has presented.
9. Regular digital silence
Walker suggests taking a week of digital silence to not engage or 'connect' on your social platforms, but instead just observe. You can check your email, your social media accounts, but if you are trying to become more aware of the world around you and really see what does surround you, do not comment, like or anything else that is engagement on your part. Instead, just observe and see what you notice. What really does draw your eye, and why? Discover if you really do need to respond and why you previously felt you needed to. Walker goes further to entertain the idea that if we had a limit to how many times we could comment or respond each week, where would we place our energy and focus? Why would we do this?
All of this silence we choose to welcome into our lives as shared by #7, #8, and #9 give you the opportunity to become more aware and thus discover if you are engaging in the world in a way that is in alignment with the life you want to live and how you want to show up in the world.
10. Audit your daily sonic profile
This particular suggestion by Walker caught my attention, especially as someone who lives alone, and for any TSLL readers who tune in to the monthly A Cuppa Moments, Norman's snoring (something I adore) is more pronounced than I realized when it is captured on video. This always makes me smile because when we take note of all of the sounds in our everydays we might discover certain ones provide comfort while others dull our experience and still others numb us to truly feeling what we need to feel.
I have spoken about this before but I have realized that as I have grown, I am more and more comfortable with silence and prefer it as unnecessary sounds if not soothing to my ear (I adore birdsong for example and find it nurtures and encourages my writing, but the sound of a leaf blower drives me up a wall leaving me unable to concentrate). What I have also realized is that part of why I needed some 'noises' in my life - the television on or the radio in the background - was because I was unable to be mindful, unable to master my mind and where it would wander. As well, advertisements are always muted or turned off when they appear during shows I am watching as after having taught rhetoric for many years in school, I am now aware of the subtle influences of skillful advertising companies and don't want to introduce any ideas I don't choose to watch or explore mindfully and entirely into my days when all I want to do is relax with a quality program.
The auditing of your sonic profile also includes the small, everyday sounds such as the dishwasher's humming, the dryer's whirling, ice crackling when you pour the liquid over the top for sipping. Observe the natural sounds that surround you as well - the drizzling of rain, the gentle breeze and dancing of the leaves. When you begin to notice all of the auditory details of your days and how they affect you, you begin to pay more attention to how to build a life, a day, that nourishes you, your mind and your being.
11. Be alone in public
I sincerely enjoy doing this and because of how I live my life, I am alone in public often, and am quite comfortable with it. Being alone in public also makes me more deeply appreciate when I am spending time with others out in public as I engage differently as my attention is primarily on the conversation I am having and what we are doing together rather than the exterior going-ons.
When I am alone in public I notice details far more quickly, easily and deeply. I also notice how others are not noticing all that is going on around them which, as I shared above, is what most of us (including myself) do when we are with someone we want to be with - we give them and our engagement with them our full attention (this is a good thing :)). The balancing of both time in public alone and with others enables us to become more aware of our environment and how the community we live in engages, organizes, what it enjoys, explores, celebrates, etc. I also find myself being open to new and unexpected conversations and opportunities when I am alone in public because you see more, and if you are observing and not judging, you are open to whatever may cross your path. This doesn't mean you have to engage, but you see it and that is what noticing is all about.
12. Journal your days
This one is my practice and suggestion. One that I have found when I don't know what to do with my mind due to feeling restless or confused or at the beginning of shifting my days to a slower pace. When I sit down to journal, I begin to notice what just thinking about what I noticed could not accomplish. Putting on paper how I felt when I woke up and how the morning sun streaming through the reading nook window brought a smile to my face reminds me of the awesomeness that I may have forgotten about by the end of the day. Such seemingly trivial 'noticings' are actually, as Walker states in his introduction, vital. "[Paying attention] connects us with others. It makes you eager to find interest in the everydays to notice what everybody else overlooks—these are vital skills and noble goals." When you begin to really pay attention to the present moment and observe with an open mind, you begin to realize "what matters to you" and you begin to let go of what was told to you that you should care about, what your life should look like and what next steps you should take, because you now know what brings you to life when certain details, events, people, activities, time alone awakens your true self.
Today and moving forward, infuse your everydays with more 'noticing', more observation and by doing so you will strengthen your ability to hold yourself in the present moment which strengthens your ability to be mindful which all contributes to your discovering how awesome your everydays are and the world you choose to live in fully.
SIMILAR POSTS/EPISODES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #331