“There is a word in Buddhism that means ‘wishlessness’ or ‘aimlessness’. The idea is that you do not put something in front of you and run after it, because everything is already here, in yourself. While we practice walking meditation, we do not try to arrive anywhere. We only make peaceful, happy steps. If we keep thinking of the future, of what we want to realize, we will lose our steps. The same is true with sitting meditation. We sit just to enjoy our sitting; we do not sit to attain any goal. This is quite important. Each moment of sitting meditation brings us back to life, and we should sit in a way that we enjoy our sitting for the entire time we do it. Whether we are eating a tangerine, drinking a cup of tea, or walking in meditation, we should do it in a way that is ‘aimless’.”
— “Peace is Every Step”, Thich Nhat Hanh
I’m often pulled, together with others, into a collective hallucination. I know that sometimes I am lured into seeing the world in a way that has very little to do with reality. Reading the news and scrolling my social feeds, I often feel like I’m in a funhouse with endless traps—I’m never sure which way is up, which surface is a mirror, and which turn will drop me into a maze from which I can’t easily escape.
It’s always a confusing trip.
Since I got interested in how the human mind works, I’ve been amazed and appalled at the unreliability of my mind and how casually it succumbs to the forces of influence in the environment (not just news and social media, but also the ideas of the people we live with, the cultural and societal notions that continue to wash over us, etc). Add to that the in-built biases in our minds, and the heuristics we like to use to take short cuts in our thinking…
I’m beginning to think of myself as a most unreliable narrator.
That’s why meditation is so important. The practice, at its heart, is about seeing reality as it is, adding nothing and subtracting nothing.
At times like this I catch myself thinking that meditation is the one important thing I should do in my life, above everything else. (Reading books and continuing to learn about how the mind works is also helpful. Unless you don’t mind life under the blue pill.)
“When you look at the night sky, you might see a very beautiful star, and you smile at it. But a scientist may tell you that the star is no longer there, that it was extinct ten million years ago. So our perception is not correct. When we see a very beautiful sunset, we are very happy, perceiving that the sun is there with us. In fact it was already behind the mountain eight minutes ago. It takes eight minutes for the sunshine to reach our planet. The hard fact is that we never see the sun in the present, we only see the sun of the past. Suppose while walking in the twilight, you see a snake, and you scream, but when you shine your flashlight on it, it turns out to be a rope. This is an error of perception. During our daily lives we have many misperceptions. If I don’t understand you, I may be angry at you all the the time. We are not capable of understanding each other, and that is the main source of human suffering.”
—Thich Nhat Hanh
I failed almost every time I got tested this week. I got annoyed when someone spoke to me rudely, almost burst into tears when I thought I’d lose something important, spoke without thinking, got defensive.
When it came down to it, my emotions always got the better of me.
Of course there were moments when I was aware enough to remind myself to practise, but they were often the exceptions rather than the rule.
That’s why I must continue to practise.
I’ve been wary about the “content” I put out (is that why it took me a month to publish this issue? Oops!). Increasingly I don’t want to create things that simply help to advance my career or to improve my reputation in this world. I want instead to create things that make this world better, even if slightly.
As I continue to work on my awareness (a much-needed exercise, I must add), I’m beginning to see that so much of the world is built on ego. The ego is a double-edged sword that allows us to survive and thrive in this world, but if we are not careful it can also become highly destructive and unhealthy.
Nowadays, when consuming (an article, a book, an app, or any kind of product), I stop to ask myself if this is something that was built on the foundation of one’s ego. Of course, everything in this world is built on the ego, but to what extent? The extent matters. The second question I ask myself is, does this thing create good in the world, no matter how little?
That’s my guideline to consumption nowadays, but it also influences the things I put out into the world.
The truth is that I can do a lot if I allow my ego to steer the way. I have certainly gone down that road before. I can use my ego to help me achieve more, go more places. I can second-guess my audience and put out things that I know they will like. I can be much less sincere and much more calculated. But once I do that, my intention has become tainted by the ego.
Our ego wants to build a self-image that can stand up to the impermanence of the world, so that it can sweep all our deepest, darkest issues under the carpet: Our lack of love and respect for ourselves, our low self-esteem, our desire to be loved by others…
Since the ego fiercely fears its destruction, it can be very hard to separate the ego from your “self”. The ego lies and tricks, so how do you know you’re doing something with the right intention rather than just wanting to go on an ego trip, to feel good about yourself, to fill that hole in your heart?
Having noticed this fact, it’s still really hard to kill the ego, or as they say, to “die to myself” daily, but that’s precisely what I need to do every single day in order to walk the path back to my true self.
One thing I have realised is that my social media use reinforces my ego daily. My posts scream to the world that “I AM HERE. Look at me.” I crave for people to like and comment on my posts so that I can get the validation that I sorely need. And why do I post at all? A lot of times it’s to build and bolster my own self image. I’m trying to seem a certain way to people – successful, well-rounded, self-assured, secure in the world. That’s what I want to be, and that’s how I want people to see me.
All of that occurs in my subconsciousness – half the time I’m barely aware of what’s happening. But upon careful, constant reflection I find that this is the truth – distasteful, uncomfortable, but the truth.
But of course, I don’t want to succumb to perfectionism. It’s tempting to want to be perfect and flawless. And you see, that’s the ego speaking again. Instead of perfectionism, perhaps what we can more healthily strive for is working for other people’s good in mind, without wanting anything back. This is the opposite of perfectionism, which is self-oriented. Being other-oriented might be the antidote that can help drag us out of our narcissistic stupor and bring us back on the path towards ourselves, but we must be careful not to do it with ourselves in mind. Tricky yah?
For all the awareness in the world, it can still be hard to practise this whole “killing my ego” thing, but practise we must. It’s the only way out of suffering. Yet practice implies that one never becomes perfect – one only gets better. The curve goes upwards, endlessly.
There is no ending point to aim at, no point at which one becomes “perfect”. I think this is an extremely helpful thing to remember.
“Swimming is simply moving meditation.” ― Cesar Nikko Caharian
I can’t remember when I fell in love with swimming. A part of it is nostalgia, I suppose. When I was a kid my parents used to bring me and my siblings to Bishan Swimming Complex, a local public pool, on the weekends. It was a rowdy and happy affair. I can still smell the chlorine, taste the cheap microwaved pool-side cafe food and remember how smooth my skin felt after my post-swim showers. It’s been 20 years since, but it still feels like yesterday.
When I grew older, swimming became a refuge. I swam whenever I was upset or depressed. And it helped – I was always left happier after each swim, and my head clearer. Sometimes I’d also have light-bulb moments in the pool, ideas bubbling up from seemingly out of nowhere. The pool, for some reason, inspires, elevates and is a great cure for many ills.
Bishan Swimming Complex, where my parents used to take me and my siblings.
About three years ago, I decided to go for proper swimming lessons. What I knew about swimming, I’d learned from my grandfather. I knew the breaststroke and how to trap water and float, but that was the extent of it. I wanted to learn proper techniques and to swim less like an amateur and more like a person who knows how to swim. More importantly, I desperately wanted to learn how to swim freestyle.
So I started taking lessons from Sue, a 65-year-old swimming coach I’d met serendipitously at a photoshoot. Sue has a fascinating life story. She started swimming in 1993 after she strained her back propping her sick husband up in bed. Visits to the doctor didn’t help, so heeding a friend’s advice, she started swimming 25 laps a day. Her back was cured after two or three months.
Sue rides a motorbike, travels once a month, wakes up at 5.30am to walk 5km a day, has done a marathon and several half marathons, and swims the same number of laps as her age on every birthday. Just this past October, Sue turned 68 and swam 68 laps at the pool.
How cool is she?
This is how my swimming coach Sue looks like – at 65! And yes, she got me to do a photoshoot for her. Haha.
This reminds me of another story Terry Laughlin – the legendary swimming coach who invented Total Immersion Swimming (TI Swimming), a method that teaches people how to swim like fish – told about his oldest student ever, Dr. Paul Laurie, who at age 93 picked up TI Swimming on his own through a DVD, and then showed up at the doorstep of Laughlin’s swimming studio at 94 requesting for lessons in swimming the butterfly stroke. At 94!
Before that, Dr. Laurie had spent 40 years as a Pediatric Cardiologist, and upon retirement, became an emeritus professor at a medical college for another 25 years.
Even without knowing the details of his life, I can already sense Dr. Laurie’s palpable zest for living.
About two weeks ago, Terry Laughlin, the inventor of TI Swimming and whose blog I have enjoyed reading (through which he muses passionately about the link between swimming and happiness and the joy of mastery) passed away. His passing made me pick up the TI Swimming book that has been collecting dust on my bookshelf. It made me think of why I’d stopped swimming when it was clearly something I enjoyed and wanted to improve at.
Like Dr. Laurie, I too have the Total Immersion Swimming videos downloaded on my computer, but unlike him, I never had the self-discipline and will to commit to the programme long enough to see any huge improvement in my swimming. I did learn to swim a very beginner’s version of the TI freestyle, but it’s nothing to boast about.
I am lazy and inconsistent, but deep in my core, I want to be as cool and awesome as people like Sue and Dr. Laurie, and anyone else who dedicates themselves to a sport or an activity or a craft. But in particular, a sport. There is something about moving and training your body that intrigues me. I was never an athlete and never thought of myself as a sporty person, but TI Swimming preaches exactly the fact that you don’t need to be young or athletic or particularly strong to become good at a sport like swimming.
It is also true that I feel best when exercise is a big part of my life. When I was running a lot, when I was swimming regularly, when I was rock-climbing two or three times a week (right before my jaw surgery), I felt good, and both stronger and lighter. Sometimes it would strike me that that’s all it takes to be happy – one good session in the pool, one long run around my block, one challenging climb up the wall.
So I have a renewed desire to make sports and exercise a big part of my life. And hopefully by doing that I can age as gracefully and healthfully as Sue and Dr. Laurie and Terry Laughlin.
More importantly, I want to start doing the things I want to do. For real. And to quit simply thinking about doing them. And sports/exercise on a regular basis is just one of the many things on my list.
I guess you could say that I want very much to squeeze every drop out of this short but sweet life, and I’m not going to let my laziness and inconsistency stop me from doing that. Even if I fail (at anyone of those things on my list), I’m going to try again and again.
Swimming and watching the sun set counts as one of the best experiences one can have in life.
But yes, TI Swimming. As much I want to run and hike and rock-climb and play table tennis, what I want to do the most at the moment is to master TI Swimming. That’s because I’ve been talking about learning it for the longest time. It’s not that I’m going to stop running or rock-climbing, but for now, I want to put a lazer focus on swimming.
In Terry Laughlin’s last podcast interview, he talked about how, to master something, there are two keys: pleasure and attention.
It sounds obvious but it’s not. Too few of us find joy in the things we are doing or learning to do, and even fewer of us pay careful attention to the task at hand.
If I want to master swimming, then, I must first enjoy the hell out of swimming (which I do). Then I must engage with it, pay close attention it, learn its theory, practise its skills. I must engage with it at a deeper level. In other words, I must not be mindless about the process.
One of my favorite places to swim in Singapore – a pool that overlooks the city.
I think we can also apply the principles of pleasure and attention to almost every other aspect of our lives (but I can attest as to just how difficult it is to do that).
So, what is it that you have been wanting to do but have never gotten down to doing? Are you going to finally start doing them? Share your stories with me if you want by replying to this email. I receive all the replies directly and appreciate every email and story, but might take 2 million years to reply. Even so, I will get back to you eventually.
Now enough talking, let’s start doing.
PS: If you are interested in seeing TI Swimming in action, check out this video titled “The Most Graceful Freestyle Swimming by Shinji Takeuchi”. It’s a short 3-minute video of a 40-year-old Japanese man swimming… like a fish. Shinji Takeuchi also self-taught himself TI Swimming through a DVD. In this video you can see that there is so little splashing of water, so little evidence of effort, and yet he cuts through the water as if a line were pulling him forward. That’s the magic of the TI Swimming method.
PPS: TI Swimming in open water is just as graceful and beautiful.
“If you want to get unstuck, don’t use your mind – use your body.” – Turia Pitt
A friend told me that she finds my writing “too positive”, and the moment she said that, I kind of got what she meant.
Looking back at the articles I have written, I get how there just might be a tad too much “life is good and everything is going to be alright” sort of vibe to my writing.
So I feel the need to put out a disclaimer today: I am not happy all the time, and life is not all rainbow and fluffy clouds for me 24/7 (and no, I am emphathically not a unicorn).
Perhaps I just need to be a better writer so I can more fully express not just the brightness of life, but also its shadows and its dark corners.
But my friend’s comment made me think.
While it is true that I have bad days and sometimes horrible days, it is also true that generally, I see the world in a positive light.
I have my fears and worries and insecurities and sadness, but at my deepest core, I know that there is always a way out of my suffering.
It’s this conviction that has led me to work at trying to understand what it takes to be “truly happy”. If I didn’t believe that such a thing were possible, I would not have continued to search for it.
And yet I don’t know where this faith or confidence comes from.
Could it be that I was born positive? And if it were only a matter of genetics, then aren’t those who are born negative doomed to a life of darkness?
I don’t have answers to these questions, but maybe science can offer us some insight.
Matthieu Ricard is a Tibetan Buddhist monk who is known as “the world’s happiest man” (although he dislikes the title). He earned this title after a 12-year scientific study, during which he was hooked up to fMRI machines while he meditated.
His brain scans showed that whenever he was meditating, areas of his brain would light up with excessive activity, as compared to a normal person. These areas are usually linked to happiness “and a reduced propensity towards negativity”.
Years of skillful meditation have altered his brain and made him experience greater happiness.
In “The Joy of Living”, Buddhist monk Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche describes what it takes for our brains to create thoughts or memories: Neurons (a specialized nerve cell in our brain) transmitting electro-chemical signals to one another. Every time neurons connect, they form “a bond very much like old friendships”. The more they connect, the stronger the bond.
So if I grew up in a broken family where my parents were always quarrelling, everytime they fought, the same signals would be passed from one neuron to the other. Over time, the bonds between these neurons would be so strong that any small thing would trigger these bad memories of my childhood. It is very likely then that I would grow up with a propensity towards more negative thoughts.
This is basically what is known as neuroplasticity, which is the scientific consensus that our brains are not static, and that they can change over our lifetime.
What this implicates is huge.
If our brains have the plasticity to change for the worse (i.e. childhood experiences leading to a more negative personality), then it means our brains also have the plasticity to grow towards greater happiness.
Maybe it is an uphill task by the time we try to change our brains as adults, but I still think it is worth a try.
To end this article, I must say, I do get sick of saying/typing the word “happiness” over and over again. I don’t even like that word much, because it’s so vague. What does it mean when someone says she is happy? Can we be sure that what she is feeling is true happiness?
“Happiness” as a word has lost its meaning because we have over-used it, or we have misunderstood it.
For me, happiness is not just a mood, but a kind of peace and non-resistance that sometimes has nothing to do with merely pleasant feelings. Happiness, to me, is also the full acceptance of all my emotions, whether good or bad. It is the result of constant honest self-reflection, constant self-discovery, and the growing ability to see life for what it truly is. It is, finally, the taking off of my mask that I have put on all my life, and now, in my nakedness, I am finally free to be myself, warts and all.
It is truly a life-long journey of self-education.
So what is happiness to you? What have you done to achieve it? And are you happy now?
I would love to hear from you.
My life keeps getting smaller these days. Just today I got rid of a calendar, a photo-holder and a book whose author I no longer hold in high regard. Every day I feel the urge to get rid of a few more things in my life.
In fact, I want to do it until I am left with only the things I need. The essential things. It’s a high ideal, and one that requires constant mindfulness. After all, it’s easy to think that we need an extra pair of scissors at home, when the truth is we can survive just as well on one (true story: I have two pairs of scissors in my kitchen and I can’t make myself get rid of one of them. Yet.)
But I have been getting better at getting rid of a whole bunch of other things – clothes I don’t like, decorative pieces around the home that don’t quite spark joy, random things I bought from my travels overseas.
I’m not quite a minimalist yet but you can definitely say that I aspire towards being one, or at least have the inclination of one.
Although, I have to say, I used to really enjoy buying things.
I have tasted what I thought was true happiness when I walked into a store and bought an iPad mini on the spot. Or when I was buying a $1,000 bicycle just one day after the thought of buying a bicycle drifted into my head. (I have barely used both the iPad mini and the bicycle since. The joy of buying both of them wore off in less than a few days after the purchase.)
It used to be that I would walk into a mall and think of things to buy (not that I needed anything in particular). I’d feel my body awash with the pleasure of the anticipation of spending money on something, anything. It was almost primal. Nowadays, sometimes, when I have had a long day, I find myself dropping back naturally into the habit of wanting to walk into a mall and look for things to buy, but I have learned to dismiss the thought.
(Actually, now I sometimes feel not just zero urge to buy things but a slight discomfort at the number of things that are on sale in a mall. Imagine the amount of resources it must take to produce all these things.)
As time went by, I began slowly to suspect that my things were a barrier towards more happiness in my life. Firstly, I was spending so much money on them, money I could have invested or saved. Secondly, even though I owned all these things, I never did learn to savour each of them. I would buy something and move on to the next thing or gadget I wanted to buy (I was always looking out for the next version of Kindle, for example).
So I began the process of wanting not just to buy fewer things and save more money, but also to look deeply into why I wanted to do this. And I realized it was because I wanted to have the opportunity to see clearly, for myself, what are the truly important things in my life.
These days I make myself own one pair of sandals, one pair of sneakers, and one pair of track shoes. One for every possible occasion. I like all of them, and I don’t question any more if my footwear fits my outfit – my sandals are black and my sneakers are white, so they fit almost anything!
I also got rid of my Spotify and New York Times subscriptions (and a bunch of other superfluous subscriptions I signed up for on a whim), deleted Uber off my phone (saving Grab for the really dire moments when I absolutely need to pay $20 to get a ride home, as opposed to less than $3 if I take the train home), trimmed down my insurance policies, cut my spending on books by 90%, stopped buying new clothes, etc.
In the last year I have managed to save quite a lot of money, way more than I have ever saved throughout my entire life. Having saved this much money means I now have the freedom to ride out the tough times of my freelance career if it ever comes to that, start a side business, or even better, not work for awhile if I want to, without having to worry about money issues at all.
Also, I don’t spend precious time battling my craving to shop online anymore, nor do I waste time researching on the best, for example, wallet or bag to buy. I’m happy enough with the wallet and the bag that I already own.
That’s the beauty of being a more minimalist lifestyle – you learn to enjoy and savour what you already have.
Freedom and time – now those are things that are truly important to me.
As I said, I am merely an aspiring minimalist. I don’t live in a clutter-free home yet (although I try to keep my living room neat, my store-room and study room are still piled with clutter that I hope to clear some day).
But I don’t think there’s any turning back. I have enjoyed the benefits of buying and owning fewer things too much to morph back into a maximalist again.
And I certainly hope to one day live in a home as cool and awesomely minimalist as this guy’s 😉
All of last year I had a meaning crisis. I was shooting a lot and working with a lot of cool companies and brands, but I couldn’t help but feel like something was missing.
Things felt hollow, devoid of significance. True, I was earning money doing what I enjoy doing, I was self-employed, I didn’t have to work for a boss in an office, I had a lot of freedom to go wherever I want and whenever I want – these are all things I’d worked very hard to achieve over the last decade (yes, decade!).
But now that I’d “arrived” (not that it’s some big accomplishment, but it was a destination I’d dreamed of for awhile), I started asking myself, “So what?” And of course, “What’s next?”
At first, I wondered if this was a matter of me being never satisfied, of not knowing how to appreciate the here and the now. Perhaps it was just me wanting to be, as usual, somewhere else.
I was troubled.
I discussed this existential crisis with my friends and my family and then one day my sister said to me, “But what you do matter! The photos you took for me elevated my brand and helped me reach out to more people. Even though you don’t think that you are helping people with what you do, you are. You helped a small brand become more visible and allowed me to help more people lead a healthier life, and that’s something.”
(My sister runs a cold-pressed juice company.)
I’d never thought of things that way.
And then I realized something: For the last 10 years, all my efforts had been directed at achieving things for myself. I had spent years and years being introspective and asking myself:
“What do I really like to do?”
“What do I really want to become?”
“What will really make me happy?”
These are not bad questions to ask myself at all – in fact these were the very questions that led me to building a career with all the elements that I originally yearned for – freedom, money, enjoyment.
But it was all me, me, me.
I’d never actually thought of my work in terms of helping other people.
I had spent, on the contrary, a lot of time thinking about how to help myself: How to have more clients, how to have a better portfolio, how to get the attention of the brands I love so I could get commissioned by them to work on new projects, but I hadn’t focused on helping people.
In a book I’m reading now – “The Power of Meaning” – the author writes memorably about a group of people who devote their lives not to personal happiness but to a meaningful life that has, at its foundation, a service mindset:
“Though the darvishes led seemingly normal lives as lawyers, construction workers, engineers, and parents, they adopted a meaning mindset that imbued everything they did with significance – whether it was helping to clean up a dinner spread or singing the poetry of Rumi and Attar and living by its wisdom. For the darvishes, the pursuit of personal happiness was completely beside the point. Rather, they focused constantly on how they could make themselves useful to others, how they could help other people feel happier and more whole, and how they could connect to something larger. They crafted lives that mattered – which leaves just one question for the rest of us: How can we do the same?”
Nowadays, I too try to imbue everything I do with a service mindset. It’s not an easy thing to do for a person like myself who has been, all along, so self-centred about achieving and realizing my own goals, my own dreams, my own desires.
Looking outwards and trying to make other people’s lives better through my work as a photographer gives new meaning to what I do, and lifts me out of the sense of futility and purposelessness I’d been feeling over the last year.
It’s an ongoing process where I learn to put others ahead of myself (it’s truly not quite as easy I’d imagined).
And this spills over, naturally, to my personal life as well, where I have discovered just how important it is for me to be a better, kinder and more giving friend, sister, daughter and partner.
Living a life where I put others before me also means having the courage to make commitments. Being so obsessed with freedom, I have been actively shunning making new commitments for a long time, not wanting to be tied down to any project or any community.
But yesterday I met with a few new friends from the mindfulness retreat I attended a couple of weeks ago.
We had gathered to discuss coming together to build a mindfulness community made up of young people in Singapore, as part of the Wake Up movement inspired by Thich Nhat Hanh. The conclusion, at the end of our meeting, was to meet weekly as a group and eventually organise regular events, like a Day of Mindfulness, to reach out to more young people and help bring to them the joy, happiness and peace that can be the result of a mindfulness practice.
Leaving the meeting, I was both inspired by and in awe of my new friends – many of them don’t just talk about being compassionate but really walk the talk by already being involved in organizations that advocate for animals and tackle climate change; one of them has accompanied a doctor on trips overseas where they operate on children with cleft palates, and another has pledged to give 10% of his income to charity for life.
These are people who not just talk about putting others before them, but live this principle out through their own lives.
I have a lot to learn from them.
In Plum Village, the mindfulness practice centre and monastery founded by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, one day a week is designated as Lazy Day, where everyone practices being, rather than doing.
On Lazy Day, there are no scheduled tasks, no one has to do anything, and the day is allowed to unfold naturally and with ease.
As a former, recovering workaholic, I love the idea of a Lazy Day so much. And I love, even more, the idea that it’s okay to sometimes do nothing in a world that has fallen in love with the notion of being busy all the freaking time.
At one point in my life, I thought work was everything. I was a productivity addict, addicted to the high of optimizing my days. And I worked and worked, all the time. I thought I was happy, but the truth is I was scared to death.
I was worried that if I stopped working I would find less success in life. And then life would be a disaster.
Then I almost had a burnout last year. That was when I decided to take two months off. During that period I found myself living in Taiwan for a month, in a hostel with many young people from all around the world.
I remember one of them was an American who woke up very early every day to meditate. He would then spend the rest of the day doing nothing but wander around Taipei admiring the city’s architecture. I asked him why he did that, and he said it was because he wanted to. It was as simple as that.
Every night, a bunch of us would gather aimlessly at the hostel’s living room to talk about random things. Someone would bake a cake and leave it on the table for everyone to share. We never had to fix a time to meet; everyone just wandered into the living room whenever they wanted to.
Sometimes we would spend an entire evening just sitting there, eating, chatting, doing nothing of much consequence.
There was no agenda, no project, no goal, but yet it felt nourishing to the soul.
There is a Plum Village song that goes like this:
“Happiness is here and now,
I have dropped my worries,
Nowhere to go,
Nothing to do,
No longer in a hurry.
Happiness is here and now,
I have dropped my worries,
Somewhere to go,
Something to do,
But I don’t need to hurry.”
That month in Taiwan taught me a lot about how to be happy doing nothing.
At the mindfulness retreat I just went to, time also lost its meaning there. We had a schedule to follow, but there was often ample time in between the activities. One morning, after eating breakfast by the sea, I even fell asleep under a tree. When I woke up, groups of other retreatants were still near me, talking and enjoying each other’s company and the breeze from the sea. It was magical.
And amazingly enough, even though I wasn’t replying to my emails or working during the retreat, the world didn’t end. In fact, to me, the world sparkled and glowed. In each present moment, I found something beautiful to live for (the early morning light, the bowl of porridge I was eating, or a kindred moment with a new friend), something that had nothing to do at all with my future success, or my future happiness.
Back in the real world, it’s a little hard to do nothing all the time. We are all so busy, and we all have responsibilities. That’s why I enjoy the idea of designating a Lazy Day, to remind us that it’s okay not to be buzzing around doing things all the time.
If you want to take it a little further, you can also spend your Lazy Day practicing mindfulness throughout the day. When you eat, only eat. Eat slowly and in silence, chewing each mouthful at least 30 times. When you wash dishes, only wash dishes. When you are with your loved one, only be with your loved one. Keep your phone away. Quit social media for a day. And remember, do nothing and let the day unfold naturally and easily.
Lazy Day is also an effortless day. No struggling, no striving, just being.
If a Lazy Day like this isn’t refreshing and nourishing, I don’t know what is 😉