One of my favorite Einstein quotes is this: ‘There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.‘ Of all his theories, I think, it’s the best one.
Life is either sacred or it isn’t. Life is either amazing, just as it is, or it’s not.
You don’t even have to be a big brain to figure out that acting as if everything is a miracle and trying to respect and celebrate that premise as a “fact” will probably have different consequences than acting as if nothing is a miracle and, therefore, it doesn’t really matter what you do.
Our moves that arise out of each of these basic premises are very different. The life that results from making moves predicated on them are also very different.
Of course, most of us are not as “either-or” as Einstein or the assorted wise guys and smarty-pants who offer guidance on these things. For us, Life-Its-Own-Self mostly runs through a spectrum of “meh” with an occasional off-the-scale event featuring fireworks and other significant joyousness.
The daily grind and our jam-packed calendars and too-full to-do lists roll right over our days and leave us feeling flatter than street pizza. We often end up moving faster than the speed of everyday miracles.
Our discontents blossom even as we accumulate all the touted “good stuff.” They grow as the pile of accomplishments and achievements increases and sprouts new projects and initiatives and so on and so forth.
It’s like we continue to cultivate the kudzu vines that got away from us and are even now taking over the landscape. YEEP!
SAVORING = MOVING AT THE SPEED OF MIRACLES
Countering the ubiquitous Meh Creep is not really hard to do and all of us can do it. With a minor investment of time and attention we can get so good at it that we can let the miracles in our life catch up with us.
It’s called “savoring,” described by dictionary.com most beautifully as, “giving oneself over to the enjoyment of.”
Fred Bryant, a social psychologist and professor at Loyola University in Chicago, wrote a very detailed and learned book, SAVORING: A New Model of Positive Experience in 2006. His co-author, the late Joseph Veroff, was a researcher and a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan.
That book grew out of his work analyzing a wide range of studies that focus on “being mindfully engaged and aware of your feelings during positive events”. It lists the benefits that come to you when you savor (i.e., enjoy) the good things that happen in your life.
The Smarty Pants have figured out that paying attention to enjoying yourself helps you build stronger relationships, improve your mental and physical health and find more creative solutions to problems too. The wise guys always said that as well.
A beautiful illustration of “giving oneself over” is this YouTube video, “Far Leaves Tea: Slow Down. Pay Attention. Savor Life.” was published in 2017 by Far Leaves Tea as an explanation of the company’s mission.
BUT, WHERE DO I FIND THE TIME?
Considered as an abstract concept, “giving oneself over” may seem like an impossibility in the face of that overfull and ever-growing To-do List.
Sure, we’d all love to have huge blocks of time where we can devote ourselves fully to the moment.
A few hours on a quiet beach to gaze into the waves rolling in? Yes!
A whole weekend devoted to doing whatever we most love to do? Sure!
How about a sabbatical in the mountains with time enough to spare for exploring and dreaming? Yum!
And what happens? The latest crisis/trauma drama whirls us around and we get caught up yet again in the rough-and-tumble. ACK!
I suppose the thing to remember is what Sarah Breathnach says in her book, SIMPLE ABUNDANCE: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy:
“Life is not made up of minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, or years, but of moments. You must experience each one before you can appreciate it.”
While it’s true that you may not have weeks or days or hours of time to focus on the touchy-feely stuff, you do have moments. You do have spaces between and within the busy bits. You can use those spaces to help yourself do some very small, very powerful things.
BUILD SOME SAVORING RITUALS INTO YOUR DAY. Find a few things that you do every day and make them into a special ritual for savoring.
- You might want to copy the Far Tea guys and build a ritual around your early morning tea or do one in the mid-afternoon. (Coffee works for this as well.)
- Taking a tub bath can be a ritual to savor.
- Reading to your child or snuggling with a loved one are others.
SAVOR THE FOODS YOU EAT. Don’t just cram stuff in your mouth. Pause for each bite. Give the food in your mouth space. Notice the taste and the texture. Think about where the ingredients of a dish came from, who made it, what went into it.
- It’s a funny thing. Several studies have shown that speed of eating may be a factor in the problem of being overweight. Apparently, people who quickly shovel food into their mouths are more likely to overeat. By taking the time to pay attention to and enjoy what you are eating, there is less of a tendency to speed through a meal, gobbling up more and more and more.
- Taking the time to taste and feel the foods you eat also allows you to develop a feel for the kinds of foods your body really likes. Very often these foods are good for your body.
- Also, slowing down and paying attention to how your body reacts to the food you eat allows you to notice when you are full. You stop eating.
SAVOR THE CHORES YOU DO. Slow down and pay attention to what you are doing, especially when it’s some task that you dread. When you’re writing that stupid report, when you’re cleaning the bathroom or doing your taxes, slow down.
- Ask yourself what is enjoyable about it.
- Notice how you position your body, how your hands move, how you breathe as you do the task.
- Enjoy your skill at getting the surfaces you’re working on super-clean. Appreciate your ability to work with words or numbers or the tools you are using.
ENJOY LITTLE PLEASURES. The French culture emphasizes the value of little treats, “petits plaisirs.” They understand, the French, that taking the time to indulge in small pleasures add a little bit extra to an ordinary, mundane experience.
- A scented candle or a single gardenia floating in a dish can add a little bit of richness to the air around you.
- A special pen or fine papers can make writing a letter to a special friend a pleasure that beats out a post on FB or yet another Tweet.
- Looking for and indulging in little joys like this consistently can change the pace and the flavor of your days without a lot of huge money outlay or massive planning. Their effects are cumulative; they can add up.
IMMERSE YOURSELF IN WHAT YOU ARE DOING RIGHT NOW. Avoid thinking about what else you could be doing. Just do what you are doing and when it’s done, enjoy the doneness of it.
- If you can pay attention and savor what you are doing right now, then eventually you will be able to give many of the moments of your life the space and attention they deserves.
- No moment cannot be savored. Even the ones when you are stuck in a not-so-pleasing routine can be given your attention and your focus. Perhaps you might come up with some new ways to make the everyday routine more pleasurable if you do this.
- Savoring the way you are spending your time and feeling what is happening when it is happening helps you appreciate how you are spending the time of your life. That awareness and appreciation and reveling in the moments of your life can lead you to growth in a direction you find more pleasing. A good thing.
These are all little things, it is true. The Real is, however, life is actually made up of little things.
ONE MORE TAKE
This video, “Savor the Coffee Not the Cup” was published in 2017 by Rushabh Dediah. It presents a little bit of wisdom that I wanted to share.
Here’s a poem:
There are days when nothing grabs
At the heart and the complexity
Of a life lived large scoots
Around inside your head like
Those quicksilver drops that scatter into
More globs when you poke them.
The best way to gather the
Skittering blobs is to poke the
Space next to each one so it
Scoots away from your finger and
Then you can shepherd it to
Another glob and they will stick.
Zut, zap – yes, just like that:
They’ll make one tiny bigger blob
And if you keep after them,
You’ll get them all herded together
Into one big shiny, flowing whole.
Poking the middles doesn’t work, though.
So, I guess, the spaces next to
Blobs are the key to making
Them move, just as playing with
The spaces between life things like
Duty and responsibility and having fun
Connects them all into one life.
And if you slam your way through
The middles of your life things
Then they scatter outward in
All directions like quicksilver and you have
To start all over again, herding
All those silly things back together.
by Netta Kanoho
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