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?


8 comments:

  1. Grab my Buddha dog and take a long, leisurely walk. Another beautiful photo.

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  2. I went apple picking somewhere in Maryland during the fall. Lots of good old family fun. We really felt like we had escaped the city to this quaint area where everyone seemed to just be enjoying some BBQ and then leisurely picking apples or pumpkins. The weather was absolutely beautiful too! Although the funniest part to our naturesque, serene trip was loving the slice of pumpkin pie on the farm and asking if we could buy the whole pie. We thought we were getting someone's great, great Grandma's recipe, and in the end it turned out our pumpkin pie all the way in the country was from Sam's Club of all places! A funny end to a great day, but maybe that's a sign I should be doing more of my own cooking and baking :)

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  3. About 5 miles from where my parents live is a beautiful water fall and state park. There is a walking path that goes down to the bottom of the falls and more walking trails that wind around the creek and down the to the lake. One of the most memorable times I did this walk was with my 89 year old grandfather, my dad, cousins, and aunt. It was the day after we had a memorial service for my grandmother, so to be in such a peaceful, serene place with my family that I don't get to see often, was incredibly meaningful. It was a good reminder of the important things in life.

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  4. I am still in the vortex....but am looking forward to a quieter afternoon!

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  5. Hey Sophie, popping in from Susie's party. I love this post, I get a similar feeling of calm when I walk back home after Karate, enjoying the peace and quiet and the feeling I have the world to myself.

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  6. This is such a great post! Love it!
    I was right there with you through your vivid descriptions! I agree that it is important to slow down. Often on the weekends, my husband and I will get so into the maintenance of our house that we forget to stop and relax! We try to remind each other. If I feel I have been on the computer too long, I would snap it shut and go outside. I just had a horrible reaction to a bee sting so I may have to curtail any outdoor activity for a while..
    Thanks for coming by the party! It wouldn't be one without you!

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  7. Love your blog, feels very peaceful and Zen. I came over from Susie's party-blog to see what you are up to. Great photo as well.

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  8. Last week we had triple degree heat and my to-do list just wouldn't end--so I went to the movies in the middle of the day. I had my tub sized coke zero and settled in to laugh and cry. :) Loved every minute of it!
    Nice to meet you Sophie--I found you at Susie's blog. :)

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