“When you try to control everything, you enjoy nothing. Sometimes you just need to relax, breathe, let go and live in the moment.” ~Unknown
Recently I went to an annual fall retreat for my graduate program. This was exactly what my heart was longing for up until this point. I felt overworked by school and overwhelmed by the busyness of the city and suburban life. I needed something different, something that would help me feel more grounded and at ease.
We went out to Middle-of-no-where-on-top-a-mountain, California, where the only sign of civilization was the four-way highway down below. I’m originally from Middle-of-no-where, Illinois, so being in nature felt like home to me.
I’m very familiar and comfortable with nature, and I felt I had been greatly neglecting that deep desire to connect with nature once again.
This was not the first time I felt disconnected. During my eighteen months living abroad in Korea, I hardly spent time in nature. With so many buildings, cars, and people, I felt easily overwhelmed with other people’s energy and completely out of balance.
Many of us feel this way in our modern day technology and go-go-go lifestyles. We tend to feel drained, tired, easily irritated, and stressed.
Because of this imbalance, I noticed it was common to have fleeting thoughts like:
“Agh, why the heck can’t I find a parking spot?!”
“Darnit, I’m going to be late. People, get out of my way!”
“Why on earth does this line have to be so long?”
Though I noticed that many of these thoughts come and go rather quickly, the energy produced from them would “stick” and make it harder to be present.
These types of thoughts are very common because our habitual minds (or egos) want things done now rather than to simply be during the experience and get things done in our own time.
Our ego is the part of us that likes to reject the moment and focus on the future rather than accept what is in the present so we can experience joy.
So rather than being anxious and frustrated about not finding a parking place, we accept the moment and trust that, regardless of this minor obstacle, everything is wonderful and as it should be.
Although my intention for the retreat was to feel relaxed, rejuvenated, and refreshed, by the end of the day I didn’t quite feel this way. I felt my time there wasn’t long enough. I wanted to spend time being present with the sound of the crickets and to marvel over the smells of nature so much more.
Despite my inner longing for more time to connect with nature, I felt my responsibilities were forcing me to go back.
However, once I returned to suburban life, I didn’t fall into typical morning and day routine. I kept feeling my body pushing me to do something else. I woke up and went for an early morning walk. This time, without my phone—just my keys.
As I walked, I noticed and marveled over the large evergreens outside of my apartment. I noticed the maple leaves on the ground with beautiful fall colors. I listened closely to the sound of water fountains and allowed myself to feel peace from the sounds.
This peaceful feeling carried into the afternoon, when I avoided watching television or doing any work. Rather, I simply did yoga—and not in a structured, routine video kind of way but simply a “do the move I feel I need to do right now” kind of way.
I realized I didn’t need an escape from the city; all I needed was an escape from myself—my own mind. All I needed was to just sit back, relax, and just be without any motive or push to do things.
In our society we are hardwired to always be doing something. We tell ourselves that we have to go grocery shopping, do laundry, take out the trash, exercise, work, study, watch TV, and so on. How often do we do things without the pressure to do but rather to be?
Why don’t we simply be when we take out the trash? Why don’t we simply be when we exercise? Why don’t we simply be when we clean our house or apartment?
To “simply be” means to be connected. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what we are doing but rather the feeling behind the action. In other words, what thoughts are you having during the activity?
Are you in your mind, rejecting the moment, or accepting what is? Are you complaining about having to do the activity or are you making the most of it? Are you all preoccupied with all the other things you need to do today or are you simply being present with what you are currently doing?
When we reject, complain, or are preoccupied with thoughts about the past or future, we create this inner pressure within ourselves that causes the symptoms of stress. However, if we simply accept what is and choose to enjoy and really take in what life has to offer, at that moment, then we can be stress-free.
When we let go of the need to push and “get things done now,” we can actually enjoy ourselves. When we choose to accept the present moment, we can then experience a sense of peace, calm, and joy of life. We can enjoy the moment for what it truly is.
Think of all the various things you need to do today, tomorrow, or this week. What tasks can you shift yourself from “pushing to get it done” into simply allowing yourself to be so you can simply enjoy the moment?
Perhaps you can focus on the present while…
- Cleaning the kitchen floor
- Doing dishes
- Watering your plants
- Feeding your pet
- Walking in the morning
- Driving to work
When we choose to let go and just be in the moment, we can fully enjoy what life has to offer us right now, with no formal nature retreat required!
I challenge you to choose a daily task this week where you are going to try to simply be while doing it. What can you start doing today to help you be more present?
Photo by Hartwig HKD