Sunday, January 29, 2012
Learning to Stop and Smell the Roses
Have you ever had one of those weeks when no matter how fast you work, you can't keep up? That was this week for me. Every time I accomplished something, three more things popped up. By Friday, I knew I needed a break. But sometimes it's really hard to pull away. On a recent trip to Thailand, I had a moment of self-reflection I try to remember on weeks like these.
One evening after a long day of work, I set out for a run to Lumphini Park in Bangkok. Cranking up my iPod to drown out the scream of rush-hour traffic and breathing in the scent of exhaust mixed with chicken drippings, spoiled fish, and meat skewers simmering on the street venders' grills, I ducked inside the walls of the park, grateful for the stretch of green amid the crowded cement city. I followed a track around peaceful ponds and sparkling pagodas, weaving in and out of families out for an evening walk, tourists riding cruiser bikes, and couples strolling hand in hand. I ran for about a mile, until I realized I was the only one running. Everybody else was just walking around the path, enjoying the afternoon. And here I was, trying to get a workout in. What does that even mean--"get a workout in?" Why am I so obsessed with "getting a run in," or "squeezing in a spin class?" What kind of life is that, dashing back and forth to the gym, never having enough time to sit and breathe and just let my thoughts wander?
Slowing down to a walk, I eyed a stray calico cat sitting in a marigold garden looking at me like, "What are you doing?" I popped out my ear buds, tucked them into my waistband, and listened instead to the sounds of the park: the birds singing in the Banyan trees, the leaves rustling in the gentle breezes, the children practicing on little bongo drums and the calming, cheerful notes of the xylophone. When I stopped and looked around, I noticed how many people were sprinkled through the park doing yoga. I picked my way through the gardens to a stretch of green beside a slow-moving river. I sat down on the grass and, for the first time in over a year, I started to remember what it felt like to stretch and go into that quiet space where everything slows all the way down. And I laid back on the grass, closed my eyes and breathed in the sound of the birds and the floral-scented air.
Have you ever had an experience like this? Do you frequently find yourself getting swept up in a mad whirlwind of to-dos? How do you pull yourself out of it?