Slow Down! Adults at Play!

October 3rd, 2012 by Laura Longley

We hear all the time these adages like “stop and smell the roses” and “be in the present moment.” And it’s true that we need to slow down and just be in order to experience happiness.

The other day, I got a powerful insight into how, as much as I believe in the value of slowing down and being present, and as much as I have tried to do this in the past, an old habit was interfering.

I was in Eugene, Oregon for an all day meeting with my mentor, and had come in the night before. The hotel I was staying at is on the Willamette River, and there is a lovely walking and bike path system through Eugene that goes along the river.

I went out early the morning of the meeting to take a walk. There is a lot of wildlife, particularly birds, in the river and ponds along the path. This morning, there were a lot of geese. As I stopped to watch them, in my head I was calculating my schedule for the morning.

Let’s see, if I stand here five more minutes, I’ll get back to the hotel by 7:15. Then I need to take a shower and eat breakfast. And if I want to have time to check out of the room before the meeting at 9:00 I’ll have to be done with breakfast by 8:45 at the latest. And on, and on.

I suddenly realized that I do this all the time! Instead of truly taking in the experience I’m having – in this case with the geese – I’m thinking about everything I need to get done and the schedule I need to stick to if it is all to be done.

This was a “light bulb moment” for me, where the light bulb came on and I suddenly got how I was sabotaging my attempts at being present and enjoying my current experience.

It’s not like I hadn’t already planned out my schedule for that morning. That’s how I decided what time I should go on this walk. I didn’t need to keep reviewing it in my head. This is not a thought process that needed to be going on at that moment.

The value of my walk and experiencing the geese was greatly diminished by my inability – at least until the light bulb came on – to just enjoy it in the moment. We all need this time of just being to regenerate, rejuvenate and allow our creative spirit to come forward.

The common wisdom is that children learn through play. When children are playing they are present in the experience and activity they are doing at that moment. That’s when their imagination and creativity shows up. It’s the same for us as adults.

Now that I’m conscious of this old habit of mine I am paying close attention to when my mind starts whirring with scheduling me for the rest of the day instead of just focusing on being where I am at the moment. Already I have felt a shift in the joy and happiness I get from my walks when I notice, and let go of, this need to plan.

I wonder what habits you might have (and may be unaware of until you look for them) that are keeping you from being fully present and enjoying your experiences?

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