Sometimes, I feel like I’m going through life on auto-pilot. I get so caught up in the routine of life – eat, work, sleep, repeat – that I stop really feeling it. And the scary part is, I don’t realise I’m in that zone until something happens to snap me out of it. Have you seen the movie Crash? I always remember this line:
In LA, nobody touches you. We’re always behind this metal and glass. I think we miss that touch so much, that we crash into each other, just so we can feel something.
I think that’s the difference between existing and living. And I really noticed it while on holiday overseas recently. It was only a 2 week break but it felt long. I felt each hour of the day. And I had done, seen and felt so many things by the time my head hit the pillow each night. Two weeks at home on the eat-work-sleep-repeat cycle can fly by without much to remember it by. Is a change of scenery the only difference?
I’ve written previously that I think travelling provides a much higher number of opportunities for challenge and growth on a per day basis than staying at home. Maybe this is why I feel more alive when travelling. It only took 48 hours of being home to slip back into the auto-pilot mode of existence. And I get it – a life of constant, daily challenges and new experiences would be exhausting and unsustainable. But surely there’s a happy medium somewhere between zombie existence and life junkie?
Mindfulness. It’s a bit of a buzz word these days. But experts say that this is how to achieve contentment and – I think – to bring yourself back into that balanced space between existing and living. Mindfulness is a mental practice of focusing awareness on the present moment and acknowledging and accepting any feelings, thoughts or sensations without judgement. (The key part for me and most others being “without judgement”). Studies show that regular mindfulness practice leads to improved physical and mental health, reduced emotional reactions and increased resilience.
We do this subconsciously much more often when we’re on holiday. If you’re sitting on the beach in Mexico, you notice the sound of the waves, the feeling of the warm sun on your skin, the smell of mojitos. You feel a surge of endorphins and contentment from being totally in that present moment. When you’re sitting at your office desk, you’re more often trying to drown it all out and get through the day as seemingly-quickly as possible so that you can do what you actually want to be doing – catching up with friends, exercising, watching The Bachelor etc.
Since returning home, I’m making a conscious effort to be mindful and find contentment in daily existence – brushing my teeth, the daily commute, sitting at my desk. If you’re interested, there are some good daily exercises here to help practice – and believe me, it takes a lot of practice – mindfulness.