The old advice of "Stop and Smell the Roses" is more important than ever. We rush around even when we don't have to hurry. Last week, I enjoyed a beautiful garden in the Cloisters at Fort Tyron with a couple of friends. Mili, who had arranged the day for us, said she was happy that we wanted to stroll and admire the scenery. She explained that when she invited other people to join her, they would take a quick look and want to move on. She felt they were missing out by not taking time to really see the beauty in front of them. It made me wonder why many of us have trouble standing still for a minute or two? Is it a feeling of guilt when we're having fun and not working instead? Is it a fear that we won't cram enough sightseeing in and miss something? Or, maybe nature is not exciting enough. Honestly, what's thrilling about a pretty flower that can't possibly devour you in a second?
How far back in our evolutionary process do we need to go to understand our restlessness and our avoidance of boredom? Does it come from running away from large animals to not being eaten or chasing large animals to prevent hunger? On the other hand, sitting around in a cave, drawing on the walls, must've been quite the party after a day of facing life and death. Yet, some of us still find it challenging to decompress and be in the moment. We have a million things running through our minds about what we must do when we get home, what we're having for dinner, and preparing for tomorrow's stressful day at work. So when do we allow ourselves to unwind and enjoy the colorful paintings on the wall?
I've always had too much energy to sit or stand in one place for very long. I remember being in school and sitting in class for hours on end. It felt like torture, and I found it hard to stay focused. I constantly found myself daydreaming even though I tried to pay attention. Over the years, I've had to learn patience and stay in the here and now. It's a never-ending practice for me. When I feel myself getting antsy, I get up and walk around. If possible, I get outside to feel the fresh air. When I'm in a meeting, and my leg starts to bounce up and down, I concentrate on my breathing. I release any tension I have in my neck and shoulders. I find this relaxes me and keeps the nervous energy at bay. I use the same technique when I'm out having fun, and my mind wanders to the presentation I'm working on or what housework is waiting for me. I stop and look closely at how the sunlight reflects on the water and how lovely the sand feels on my feet. I watch the birds flying in the sky, and it brings me back to enjoying this single moment in time. It's almost as if time halts, and I'm fully present.
I remind myself that I want to have wonderful memories to look back on and not a series of occasions that I pushed through and barely appreciated. The more present we are, the more we retain those images of events in which we participated. Those happy pictures in our minds make us smile when we're feeling tense. We have the power to slow down time by paying attention to what's in front of us. Life goes by fast enough, and if we don't stop to smell the roses, we'll never get over our fear of being devoured by one of them.