In a few short days I will be leading a group of 38 students and parents on an international trip of a lifetime. We will visit seven major cities in twelve days: London, Paris, Florence, Rome, Pompeii, Sorrento and the Island of Capri. Needless to say, we are all excited.
At a recent group meeting, one insightful young man asked a valuable question: Do you have any tips for slowing down time? How do we remember the details when we are constantly rushing around?
While the answer I gave was specific to the trip, I think much of what I communicated can be applied to life in general.
Slow down. Recognizing the problem is always the first step. Since we know life is speeding by, we can now become more conscious of the world around us. Rather than always looking straight ahead with laser-lock focus, glance to the left and right to see what lies next to you.
Occasionally lift your head to the heavens and marvel at the color of the sky, the shape of the clouds, the warmth of the sun. Scan the path beneath your feet and notice the texture of the ground and the smell of the earth.
Allow your imagination to wonder who else traveled this same road. What did they experience? How was their life the same or different from yours?
Engage the senses. Don’t just walk around on automatic pilot, looking but not really seeing anything. As much as possible, try to notice specific elements, particular smells, distant sounds, unusual textures, and mouth-watering tastes.
The more we engage all five senses, the more likely we are to remember the moment in vivid detail.
Prior to writing his chef-d’oeuvre, Remembrance of Things Past: Marcel Proust wrote, “The sight of the little madeleine had recalled nothing to my mind before I tasted it … but … as soon as I had recognized the taste of the piece of madeleine … which my aunt used to give me …. the memory suddenly revealed itself.”
Monsieur Proust then went on to write more than 3,000 pages of memories. Do not underestimate the power of the senses.
Journal. We are far more likely to remember events or information if we write them down.
In her book, Writing Down Your Soul, Janet Conner reminds us, “When you write, you use several modalities at once: visual – you see what’s on the page; and you also see the events you are writing about in your mind. Auditory – you hear yourself talking about the events you are writing about; kinesthetic – you feel the pen, the paper, the whole physical experience of writing. That alone – using all three modalities – makes writing very, very powerful.”
When dealing with the hectic pace of an international tour – or everyday life – we don’t always have blocks of time to sit and write. In fact, we consider ourselves lucky to grab a spare minute here and there. But that is plenty of time to quickly jot a note, a thought, or a fleeting emotion.
The act of writing is what matters, not the perfect prose or the elaborate description.
At another time, when life is less chaotic, we will have the opportunity to review the journal entries, relive the experience, and add specific details as they come to mind.
When we take time to slow down and savor the moment, we are living in a state of mindfulness. It is in this space that routine tasks can become a source of joy.
For example, rather than grumble about the sink full of dirty dishes, shift the paradigm. We can be grateful for food to eat, colorful pottery on which to eat it, and indoor plumbing.
Rather than stand at the sink, mindlessly pondering our task list, we can emerge our hands in warm water, feel the bubbles tickle our forearms, and gently scrub away the grime.
Mindfulness is holistic, meaning, it focuses on life as a whole rather than the specific goal of the day. The latter emphasizes tyranny of the urgent, whereas mindfulness helps focus on life’s priorities – deliberately choosing what will bring long-term peace and joy.
Mindfulness also means living in the present. If we focus on the here and now, we have no time to think about the past, regretting things we cannot change; and we have no time to think about the future, worrying about things that may or may not happen.
This present moment is really all we have. And it is enough.
While present in the above context means the here-and-now, another meaning of mindfulness is gift. Imagine a large package, wrapped in colorful paper and tied with a festive bow. Excitement builds as we carefully remove the pieces of tape to discover what lies within. Such an exquisite package always contains a precious treasure.
This image is nourishes the mind. It helps us remember to never take a single day for granted. It keeps mundane chores in proper perspective. And it slows our steps so we can vividly live in the moment.
©2017 Molly Totoro for GateWay of Hope
Molly Totoro is a writer who has a heart and passion for authentic living. She firmly believes “Everyone has a story to share.” Molly helps others write their stories to impact future generations. Follow Molly’s new blog series, “How to Journal” at Revising Life after 50.