Sometimes solutions can be so stupidly simple. This holiday break I experimented with doing nothing. It paid off. I got some serious rest. Indeed, each day I got seriously excited about heading home in the afternoons to do nothing but lie and read and potter and make fermented mayonnaise. And so forth. So much so, I failed to pull my weight over Christmas with the family, such was my slothfulness (my family forgave me, seeing it as something of a novelty).

Image via tineye.com
Image via tineye.com

I also got perspective. Now at the end of the two-week period and back in the office, I feel clear and calm. I withdrew further back from the flurry than I ever have. And this is what I saw:

The secret to calm is to book in more time.

I’ve written before about buffering. I guess I’m using this potent time of year to remind myself (all of us) of the worth of padding out life with more space and time.

Thing is, getting things done in less time has become a sport. The ability to cut corners, juggle more things in the one hour, conduct a conference call while checking the mail – and so on – is worn as a badge of honour. But the longterm effects of this unmindful way of being is not something you’d want to pin to your chest.

It scrunches. It constricts. It scratches at your emotional fibre.

Over the past fortnight I realized how resentful I am of my rushing. Driving makes me tense. Meetings get me anxious (for them to move faster). Even some of the more creative, fun aspects of my work leave me cringing.

…all because I don’t leave enough time to be in the moment with it. The tight little vessel of time I allow for getting things done isn’t big enough to fit me in it comfortably. I squeeze in half a limb, a quarter of my brain…rarely my whole.

I’m not sure if I’m spelling out something too obvious. But it’s something I very much overlooked and dismissed in 2013. My clarity exposes it, now, as a vital component of real wellness.

If I were to sum things up in a pithy statement, in an affirmation-y fashion, it would be thus:

2014 is about cultivating an air of languidness.

Talking about solutions in terms of an “air”, an ambiance or a vibe is often very effective. It cuts to the chase. Once the “air” of languidness is activated, everything else can flow from there. Don the air and you start to allow more time to get ready to go out for an important dinner with a friend, you create a good gap in the day to call someone back and talk mindfully, you eliminate non-essentials from your diary.

Because to do anything else feels unbearably scrunchy, constricting, scratchy.

Don’t you think? Or are you cultivating a different air after your break?

Have your say, leave a comment.

  • A few years ago I realised the root of all my problems was how tightly scheduled my days were. There was no room in any day for the contingencies that pop up EVERY day. Every time something happened that threw out my tight schedule by even a tiny bit, I’d get anxious which translated into snappiness and irritability with everyone around me. It got to the point where even I didn’t want to be around me.

    It seems so obvious in hindsight, but I really had to make a huge and conscious effort to do what you have described above. And of course once I did it made a huge difference to my ability to cope with life in general.

    • I’m intrigued Kelly, how did you do it? 🙂

      • Loooooong story – it took over two years. I actually wrote a book about it (and am now re-writing that book!)

  • I’m so with you on this Sarah, I always used to feel lost if I wasn’t doing or planning 20 things at once, but I got t ,the point where thinking about what i had to do made me anxious and my breathing quickened. So, now, sometimes I just enjoy being 🙂 because when you’re just being is when the clarity and focus happen naturally.

    Love the website.

    Sue Davies @ThriveFeelAlive

  • Edwina

    Sarah I totally agree. Every day I resolve to “not rush”. I think rushing is undignified, stressful and, in the end, unproductive. I enjoy my day much more when I don’t rush. I like how you’ve formulated this in a positive rather than restrictive way: cultivating an air of languidness.

    • I like that – “undignified”

      • I recall an indigenous friend who was one of the stolen generation telling me about his experience of being placed to live in ‘civilisation’. He reminded me of this very issue, the indignity of rushing around, believing we are so important that it’s essential. He could see me caught in the trap of busyness and completely missing the point as well as doing damage to myself. He told me ‘Sarah, remember to be civilised’ and he meant the very opposite to what we believe civilised to be in our western society. Makes me feel sad just thinking of it. His presence in my life was such a blessing, at a time that I was learning big lessons about personal boundaries and overworking.

  • Renee

    I absolutely agree too Sarah, my job is such that if things are busy you have no choice but to multitask and prioritise and it’s exhausting. Since taking up yoga and meditation after reading your blog, I’ve actually finally developed some try mindfullness which I never had before, I was always just going through the motions and never really paying attention to anyone or anything fully, I was stuck in my busy head. I used the remainder of 2013 to resolved that after becoming so stressed that I didn’t think my head could spin any faster or my adrenals could cope any longer! I’m proud to say it has changed my life, I created that space between things and now when I have free time, I actually relax and do nothing, be sloth like and create that space. It’s a whole new world.

  • This reminds me a bit of a Fiona Apple song I love! “Waltz (Better Than Fine)”:

    “If you don’t have a date
    Celebrate
    Go out and sit on the lawn
    And do nothing
    Cause it’s just what you must do and
    Nobody does it anymore

    No I don’t believe in the wasting of time
    But I don’t believe that I’m wasting mine”

    This is something I need to be more mindful of. I’ve been feeling the uncomfortable misfit pressure, like my body is it’s own constraint. It’s rubbing up against the edges of all the must-dos, get-it-dones and should-be-doing-fasters. I need to allow more time.

    It’s especially hard in the face of all the things I am wanting to accomplish. But, as Fiona says, “it’s just what you must do.” Time to welcome the air of languidness.

  • Alex

    “The ability to cut corners, juggle more things in the one hour, conduct a conference call while checking the mail – and so on – is worn as a badge of honour” – Absolutely. Four years of studying at uni full time, working part-time and raising two children has meant sometimes the ONLY positive aspect to such an overburdened schedule was the martyrdom of appearing to ‘do it all’.
    Bring on the ‘air’!

  • EK

    Daydreaming stops me feeling like that. I realised that it’s been a long while since I gave myself permission to just sit and day dream and during my last break I discovered it’s where most of my inspiration comes from.

    In a world where everyone is telling me to be “in the moment” I find that if I allow myself to day dream and come up with all these alternative worlds in my head then I am happier. Consequently it’s this happiness that allows me to be more present during my interactions with the world I live in.

    • I wonder if we could consider day dreaming as being in the moment? When we dream whilst asleep it’s not considered escaping..day dreaming is to enter a beautiful realm of possibilities and potential. You become incredibly present to the experience of daydreaming…hope that makes sense!

  • healthyservesone

    I’m on your same wave length, Sarah.
    A few months back I had a fab yoga class where the teacher asked us to “question your impatience” in the poses. Ding, dong – resonated big time with me!
    Similar to you, I’ve also just had an unexpected break of a month and rather than ordinarily filling it with a million tasks, I actively chose to kick back. I feel a million times better for it and am trying to keep that same relaxed attitude going into 2014.

  • Ms Jane

    Ha!! I’ve just told my boss today that I’m cutting back my hours as the thought of the kids going back to school and having to cope with the morning rush is just one thing I REFUSE to have to cope through 5 days a week. I’ve made my son cry yelling at him that I’m going to be late!! No more “air” of hecticness (is that even a word? ) for me x

  • Jo Jo

    I love that this theme is being dropped by the heavens on me at the moment ( or something!). Just read this the other day http://www.tylerwardis.com/busy-isnt-respectable-anymore/ …. Worth a read! My two children are my biggest reminder to slow down and enjoy life

  • Something that I wish for in 2014 is definitely to try and be more present in every moment, whatever it is i am doing to make sure that I am there and not constricted by time and what happened before or after that moment x

  • Deepa

    This is what I needed to read today. Today is what I call a ‘gluggy’ day. I feel like I’m moving through molasses. I had so many things planned but I see that they may not all be possible. The vibe of today is gluggy and I shall go with it.

  • Bell

    Sarah, how wonderful to read this – over the past few months I’ve been learning to create space also and not be so caught up in the perpetual “go ! go ! go !” of daily life. And it’s been such a liberating experience to do so. A nice, big, happy & relaxed grin on my face : )

  • Polanski

    This is good Wilson! After taking three weeks off I have found myself with time, sweet glorious time to walk along the beach, read books, process the year before I take up new adventures in 2014. Here’s to time, space and rest! 🙂

  • Nerissa

    Been feeling exactly the same way Sarah. How all the problems you seem to have just go away when you have time and space to just ‘be’ – it is a totally amazing thing and shows us – true happiness comes when we are truly present. We over complicate our lives with to many ‘things to do’ and packing in as much as we can in our time – which is just exhausting!

  • Jenny

    I am naturally a languid person, much to the frustration of my speedier colleagues and friends. As much as possible I do even the most mundane tasks mindfully, as this pleases me, and it means I do a good job. Mindfulness has been forced on me to a certain extent as well, as I broke my arm last year, and currently have a back injury from going too hard during a kettle bells workout! Wake up call.

  • Katie bo batie

    I used to be very good at this, and really HAD TO build in space and time for my mental health, but I have let people’s judgements about being “productive” and busy make me feel as though I have failed at life. Hopefully this year I can get some more buffering going on in my life again. It certainly does lead to a happier and healthier being:-)

  • Vee

    Yes! I had two weeks off over Christmas as well, and consciously chose to put my enormous to-do list aside and just spend the fortnight pottering. I feel so rested!

    My motto this year is “Less rushing”.

  • Katie Thornton

    Love this article, thank you 🙂

  • Lara

    Can I please “borrow” your sentiment for 2014? I too want to cultivate an air of languidness this year. After a 2013 of bad health for myself and family I am now very much conscious of my own self talk. The voice that tells me, after I do that, then I will do this, then that and this…. So on, so on, feeling the need to fill every single minute. With things that I should do, not really want to do. Now I remind myself to take a breath, slow down and that by doing this I am not commiting a crime. I am actually taking care of myself, not turning myself inside out on a daily basis. Thank you sharing this…. You have just given me further validation, to allow time… To just breathe!!!

  • Candice

    I absolutely have been feeling exactly this of late. I still have days when I can sit still but I am teaching myself to slow down, wander around watering the garden and getting not a whole lot else done, but not caring. I actually find I am completing more things though, because instead of doing 25 things and doing them half heartedly, I am doing one thing, and it could be reading a book but I am focused on that, not distracted by the other things I started. It’s a nice change and I hope I can maintain my momentum, or lack thereof. ..