“Stop. Just for a moment.”
In our busier-than-we-want lives, how often do we actually stop? To breathe, to notice what’s around us, to take in how we’re feeling? When our yoga instructor asked us to stop, I realized it was the first time since jumping out of bed that morning that I had taken a moment to be present to anything besides the thought of what I needed to do next. When I stopped, I noticed my shoulder hurt, my back was tight, I was breathing – and that everything in that moment was just fine. The worries of the previous hours lifted and I was aware of a sense of peacefulness that wasn’t clear a moment before.
In response to realizing she was overcommitted and overwhelmed, a friend decided to take 10 minute breaks during the day to disengage and do whatever she wants – or absolutely nothing. “It really helps,” she remarked. A client caught up in the rat race of seeing a patient every 10 minutes found that spending a moment between patients to take in and admire a photo of a beautiful landscape helped her stay more focused and centered through the day. And by consciously taking a breath before entering each patient’s room, I am better able to move into the present for that patient and not be stuck in the story or concern of the last person I saw.
I’m often reminded of a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction class, when one participant reported on a moment she took to savor the soft drink that had been her favorite for many years. As she stopped and allowed herself to taste the drink without any other distractions, she realized that she didn’t actually like the taste. I remember this anecdote whenever I look down at my empty plate, eaten while reading or doing my charts, and realize that I didn’t taste any of the food I put in my mouth.
Linda Henkel, Professor of Psychology at Fairfield University, reported on a study in which participants were led through an art museum and asked to photograph certain objects and simply observe others. Photographing the objects separated them from actually experiencing the objects and they were able to recall less than about the objects they didn’t photograph. With our ubiquitous smartphones, we too often deprive ourselves of the experience of life in service of capturing static images of it.
What does this mean to all of us who feel rushed and never caught up? Whose “to do” lists are never done? By taking moments during the day to really be in our lives – to appreciate a sunset, to capture the smile on a loved one’s face, to feel our bodies, and to allow the peacefulness that resides in the space between each of our breaths – we can restore a sense of control over our lives, enjoy and be nourished by the people and activities that are meaningful to us, and make the experience of life feel fuller and richer.
It just takes a moment.