Slow Down and Live More

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We, humans, are rather strange beings.

As kids, we can’t wait to grow up so that we have lesser restrictions on what we can (and can’t) do. As teenagers, we can’t wait to stop or finish studying and make that foray into early adulthood, which we all perceive to be an amazing time to be alive in. Of course, eventually, when we get to adulthood, and tick a lot of the other ‘fun’ boxes that we had dreamt of as kids, we sort of get tired of ‘adult-ing’ now and then and dream about getting rich quickly and retiring with our pots of gold.

Why? So that we can relax. Again.

Perhaps the irony of all this is that while most of us spend time chasing the things we want, we often forget that our life is but one giant hourglass with the sand slowly tricking away, few grains at a time. By all means,  do chase your dreams and have a plan. But perhaps, it is sometimes a good idea to realise that the ‘thing’ that we are actually chasing is ‘time’ itself.

I am no expert, but much like with everything else, we seem to focus a lot more on the destination than the journey itself, often forgetting that the latter is what often gives us those important lessons that we sometimes miss. I admit; there is absolutely nothing wrong with scheduling your life down to a T. I know plenty of them who do that. In fact, I’m married to one of them. And in today’s age, where resources are far more scarce than consumers, it is imperative that we do plan a little ahead. But that shouldn’t stop us from living a bit in the present.

We live in a hurried world with jobs, families, kids, career, responsibilities and much more that constantly force us to be in ‘Get Shit Done!’ mode. In fact, there have been times when we have asked our little one on Sunday itself about the things he’d like to do the following weekend so that we can plan ahead. In retrospect though, I often wonder if it takes away something that makes us excited about an activity or a task. The element of surprise and the joy of the activity itself.

Back when we were in London, there’s one thing that used to drive me absolutely insane. Retail stores and shopping malls would start playing Christmas songs as early as in mid-October. Now, it may sound silly to a lot of you, but it sort of killed the whole joy the festive period in my head. Here we are with almost 2 months to go, already listening to Jingle Bells on loop. I mean, I did appreciate that there was a little nip in the air and stores were advertising gifts, hot chocolate and mulled wine. But to be honest, by the time it actually got around to December, most of us were probably so tired of it all that everything from carols to special offers just became a giant killjoy. And I see it happen here too. Weeks and even a month before Diwali, most shopping malls in Bangalore are already advertising special offers, diyas surround us left, right and centre and the whole malls are lit up enough for them to be seen from space. By the time we actually get to Diwali day, we’ve already been subjected to an overdose of celebration, adverts, offers and sweets that it sometimes feels just plain awkward and nothing more than a long weekend.

[tweetbox design="box08" float="none"]We are constantly living in the build-up to something that by the time we actually get there, we’ve lost half the enthusiasm[/tweet_box]

 

And it’s not just festivals and events. We seem to rush through everything - seasons, life, relationships, even sleep. To be honest, I crave for simpler times. Just like when we never used to plan so much in advance about even the tiniest things and lived in the present, sometimes even doing nothing more than lazing around and doing something silly and fun with family.

But perhaps, the worst thing to have happened to us with regards to all this rush is this concept of packaged holidays. I understand that given the fact that we have very little time and resources (and money), packaged holidays are perhaps the most practical things to do sometimes. And thanks to ‘them’, we suddenly live in a world where a substantial portion of the populace have actually been to multiple countries and tourist destinations than their predecessors. Yes, it helps a lot of us tick off some of those places from our bucket list, but please don’t call yourself well-travelled. Cramming 100 things into a space of 7 days, visiting mostly tourist sights and doing touristy stuff does not make you well travelled. Except maybe on Instagram or social media perhaps.

By all means, do some touristy stuff. Do explore, talk to others, make friends and plans with them. Make them with your family too. But slow down. Enjoy some of the local stuff. Don’t be in a hurry to fill up the pages of your passport with as many stamps as you can. Slow down and make some memories. Put that camera away occasionally, and that mobile phone and tablets too. Yes, I realise the irony of that - mostly because I don’t do that. But I am starting to now.

Don’t be so busy planning the weekend down to a T that you miss the daily things with the people you love - your friends, your family. Take a breather. Laze around a bit and always stop and enjoy your present.

 

There’s another trouble with rushing through life. We don’t often notice what happens in the present. It is almost a constant race against the clock. I suppose it is safe to say that in many ways our rush gives us a little high, and perhaps even some meaning to our otherwise mundane lives. The rush makes us feel like we’ve worked extra hard to get something we wanted, when in fact you may have gotten it anyway, albeit a little later. But here’s the thing that I've come to realise. While rushing definitely takes effort, perhaps it takes more of focus and control to actually be in the present than to rush. When we rush, we are often in the zone and in the urge to push through to the end. But living in the moment requires us to resist this urge, which then makes you more aware and more in touch with the people and things around you.

Perhaps though, it is to do with some of our conditioning. We are all sort of pre-programmed in a certain way from day one. We are constantly told that the opportunities are there - in the future. And true as that might be, often it is also a classic case of missing opportunities in the present. From work to friends to even love. I am not against competitiveness. It makes you want to improve. But it's important to slow down and take it all in too. And the opportunities of the present may bring more happiness than worrying about others pushing past you. Yes, resources are limited, but then so is your time here. So use them both wisely.

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Remember to always find time for the things or people that make you most happy. The ones that make you feel alive.

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Maybe the trouble is that we focus too much on achievement than the experience. Which coincidentally is the same trouble with our academic system. Or rather has been for many generations. Achievements are good. They should be celebrated. But perhaps they shouldn’t always come at the cost of something else that you messed up along the way.

I realise that I have no right to ‘preach’ about all this. I have been on both sides of the fence - from wishing there were 25 hours in a day so I could do more, to sort of just zoning off without being aware of what’s going on around me. But I’d like to think that I’ve changed. Or at least I am trying to. And not trying to cram too much into every single day and experiencing the present are things that I’m trying to do more of these days.

[tweetbox design="box10" float="none"]Life should be experienced like good wine or fabulously dark chocolate - savour it slowly and enjoy the moment.[/tweet_box]