Last updated on May 12th, 2023
Do you notice the rise of the sun on the horizon in the morning or the way the leaves dance as the breeze picks them up? If you go for a walk, are you present to the world around you — noticing the warmth of the sun on your skin and the birds skipping through the trees? Do you sit at a table to have your meals, without your phone or social media — without a book or television, without your thoughts racing ahead to what else you have to do for the day?
Or are you constantly one step ahead or behind yourself at any given moment, always feeling a bit frantic, thoughts racing and jumping from task to task?
The pace of the modern world can lead us to feel that we need to move at a million miles an hour from the moment we crack our eyes open in the morning to the moment we sigh into our pillow at the end of our long day. Many women share with me that they don’t feel as though they have the time to catch their breath let alone pay attention to what’s going on around or within them. The general consensus is something along the lines of “I have so much to do and there’s just not enough time in the day.”
But what are we missing out on by not bringing more presence to our day-to-day life?
It’s undeniable that our lives are faster than ever before. If we look at what life was like even just fifty years ago, we can see the radical change that has taken place for the vast majority of us. It wasn’t that long ago that when we left the house no one could get hold of us. Email and social media didn’t exist. Written communication required writing a letter. Food was slower, too.
Today, many families don’t have any other option but for both parents to be earning an income. The cost of homes and living has skyrocketed and the increasing financial pressures have resulted in what, for many women, is a frantic double shift of work day and night, a paid job during the daylight hours and taking care of their families and homes at night.
For too many women, this pace — their unrelenting to-do lists and their perception of pressure and urgency — is driving troubling biochemical processes in their bodies. They’re tired yet wired, experiencing PMS and debilitating menopausal symptoms, IBS, headaches, anxiety, poor quality sleep, regular colds and flus and many other symptoms they just accept as “normal”.
Is great health and a degree of our happiness the true expense of our incessant rush? And does all of this really mean that there is no space in our lives for presence? Are we honestly too busy to pause and admire the sunset or have we just forgotten the importance of pushing pause every so often and coming up for air?
In my heart of hearts I believe that for most of us, we have simply lost touch with the precious beauty of life. We’ve been swept up in the hurricane of modern living — seeking, striving, reaching to fit more in to our bulging schedules — without really giving pause to consider our priorities and whether our way of living is aligning with them.
And along the way we can too easily forget to appreciate what we already have and what a blessing it all is. Even when it’s also hard – beauty and pain co-exist, it’s just that we tend to focus on one or the other in any given moment.
Are we really happy to give up our health for our lifestyle? To be so caught up in getting everyone out the door on time that we miss our child’s pure delight from playing with the dog?
I once witnessed a friend throw away an opportunity to be present when I commented on how precious her three children’s clothes looked hanging on the staircase railing, all pressed and tiny and ready for school the next day — with all their little shoes lined up beneath each outfit. When I commented to my friend, the children’s mother, on what a sweet sight it was, she (bless her in her exhaustion) rolled her eyes and said it is Groundhog Day to her.
In an instant she saw what she had done. She saw how she had washed over a moment in time, missed soaking up the soul-nourishing sight at the bottom of the stairs, and instead jumped ahead with her mind to her perception of what tomorrow would be—another morning of feeling beyond exhausted and of chaos and demands on her time and energy.
Yet the beauty of life, and the beauties expelled by the lives we helped create, is there to behold if we can be in the moment, rather than always being ahead of it.
Yes we have to plan and organise, of course we do. But my goodness the feelings of stress are so much less when we have moments of noticing and soaking up the immense beauty around us. And the stress is so much less if we invest in ourselves and our health—whatever that looks like for you.
Going to your local café and reading a magazine, sitting outside where you live and letting the sun warm your back with only the birds to keep you company, starting the day with qi gong and a walk. I encourage you to shift the perception that there is never enough time, and part of this is creating spaciousness in your life. That looks different for everyone, and we all have varying capacities for creating space—but space in some form we do have. It’s usually a sense of mental spaciousness we’re seeking because what we do in a day can’t/won’t necessarily be able to change.
Consider this: we’re only busy with what we say yes to. Being busy can lead us to use the language “I don’t have time.” Instead, try saying, “That’s just not a priority for me at the moment” and see how that feels. Conversely, it may help to consider the things you spend most of your time doing and try saying, “This is a high priority for me at the moment.” This can help you to decipher what you really want to say yes to, what your priorities are, and for many people, this alone helps them to experience a greater sense of spaciousness and inner peace, to cultivate better personal energy and experience a greater level of wellness.
Stay in touch with how privileged your life is; all of your basic needs are met when that is not the case for too many people in this world. Science has shown that the human nervous system, a body system inextricably linked to our stress response, cannot focus on more than one thing at a time. So when you’re feeling grateful, you cannot be stressed.
Stay connected to wonder—that wonder you see plainly on children’s faces when they experience something incredible for the first time. Stay in touch with the wonder and the gift of life, with all of its messiness and chaos and unpredictability. Do your best to embrace uncertainty, for some of the most beautiful chapters in our lives won’t have a title until much later.
And let yourself have what you already have. I have read that when people who are dying are asked what they will miss the most, they say, “The ordinary things. The smell in the air just before the rain. The feeling of my dog’s fur under my hands. My partner’s face. A freshly cut lemon. The night sky.”
We have those things now. Don’t let them pass you by.