Just be

In general, I have a very hard time not multi-tasking and an even more difficult time fully relaxing to enjoy a moment. My body and my brain move extremely fast. I unintentionally leave most people in my dust on “leisurely” walks because my legs move swiftly. I like to squeeze a workout in to 10 minutes of free time. I silently plan how to drive home as quickly as possible, using the most efficient roads and lanes so as to minimize unnecessary extra steps. I “write” blog posts in the shower while simultaneously choreographing dances and considering weekly to-do items.

Unfortunately, when it comes to speaking, by brain and body seem to be at constant odds with one another. Transferring the thoughts in my head out through the hole in my mouth is a laborious effort, often with confusing results as I either struggle to get anything coherent out in a timely manner or suffer from what I call “manic verbal autocorrect” whereby my brain seems to randomly pick a perhaps related, though sometimes completely random, word to insert into a sentence.

Just a few recent examples:

– “I’m in this room with you.” — referring to being a driver in a car.

– “The chips are on the ceiling.” — referring to storage on the top of the refrigerator.

– “There are a few more book on the floor.” — referring to the grass of my yard.

Now, these autocorrects aren’t necessarily negative. Usually my blunders cause quite a bit of laughter from my circle of family and friends. However, as an Enneagram 5 who likes to be seen as smart and sophisticated in all circumstances and wants nothing more than to be understood, this facet of my life is often extremely frustrating. I know what I’m trying to say and how to say it eloquently, but nonsense often comes out instead.

While this phenomenon has been part of my life for as long as I can remember, it seems to flare up a bit more when I am stressed and/or when I’m experiencing high amounts of creative productivity. It’s as if my brain can only hold so much actual content and once the quota is reached, words no longer stay organized in my speech.

Earlier this summer I had the privilege of taking a week of vacation to go on a personal retreat of solitude. I fully disconnected from responsibilities (and social media) and allowed myself the treat of just existing. My only task each day (other than taking care of my body with nourishment & hydration) was to “be.”

Although I still moved my body through long walks or yoga flows, and fueled my brain through reading and interpersonal connection, I slowed my daily pace. I paused to appreciate a lakeview or to take a photo of a wildflower. I sat and stared, sometimes focusing on things around me, other times blurring my vision as I let myself lose focus and just absorb the surrounding space. Above all, I gave myself time before speaking. I considered my words with purpose, my emotions with introspection and my intent with conviction.

Slowing down and creating space in my daily habits and rhythms helped me savor the art of living well and I came back home to reality with a different perspective. Living with a busy schedule can be strenuous on the brain and body, which is fine, but as I’m getting older (and hopefully wiser) I’m realizing that I have to create margin in order to maintain some sanity (and sensible speech).

What my trip taught me is that I needed new rhythms so that even in the midst of to-do lists, meetings, household tasks and workflows I can better check in with myself and notice sooner when I’m overwhelmed, distracted or anxious. Now that I’m back in “real life” my goal isn’t to walk slower or fix my autocorrecting speech tendency (the latter is honestly too funny of a trait to try to change), my goal is to establish some new rhythms and habits to emulate my vacation experience of just being, without necessarily sacrificing productivity.

By no means have I been perfect at implementing changes, but I have noticed that life feels different since taking that time away to reset. Here are a few practices in being that I’ve found helpful lately.

– I loved my social media break so much on my trip, that one new rhythm is to cut myself off at 9pm every day and totally stay off the channels on Sundays. It’s been blissful. Getting that time back in the evening has allowed me to read more, write more, and sleep more than I’ve done in years.

– I felt so alive by just sitting and staring at my surroundings on my retreat. Sometimes I was inspired to write poetry because of the observation, but most of the time, my brain and body were able to simply relax and unwind. Since being home, I’ve tried to take advantage of late-summer weather in the Midwest by choosing to take walks and eat outside as much as possible to fill my lungs with fresh air and my brain with sights of beautiful nature and interesting human interactions.

– I enjoyed the practice of existing in silence for long stretches during my trip and I’ve brought silence back comfortably in my daily life. When I do add music, podcasts, movies or tv, I have been more intentional about choosing sounds that bring me joy and fill me with positivity.

Can you relate to the challenge of just being? Do you have habits that help you be more fully present & alive?

p.s. A book that helped me navigate some of those rhythms and habits is “Rhythms of Renewal” by Rebekah Lyons. Check it out for some encouragement & inspiration.


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