Recently, owing to a head injury, I have had something of a lifestyle detox. I have stepped off the tread mill and disengaged from the normal trappings in order to focus on which aspects of my lifestyle are helpful to myself and the world around me. It has been somewhat of an enforced disengagement but a necessary one as it has put me in a much happier and more energised space. I may not be flamboyantly flaunting conscious living a la Gwyneth Paltrow, but I figured that a few small steps in that direction might just be the sort of leaps for mankind that we as individuals need to take right now.
My detox has made me re-evaluate my social media consumption so I’m having a retreat from facebook. I had become quite used to swiping as a means of switching off – repetitive motions of the hand acting as a valued method of tuning out from the tedium and tiredness of everyday life. My phone was my form of meditation (or so I thought). Now when I swipe I feel as though my energy is draining into the small device. As a working mum, I like to think of myself as a container that can only hold so much and which needs refilling in order to pour out to others. Reading about the impending environmental collapse or the political insanity in the country fills me with fear, anger and sadness. The environmental challenges we face fill me with grief. This causes my container to leak. By reading about the horrors in the world I have realised that I am jeopardising my self-care. So as a radical act of protest I have decided to start filling myself up by limiting my screen time.
I have also decided to temper my enthusiasm for more, more, more with a gentle bit of self challenge. This year I have already had lofty ambitions of a family holiday in Australia and a snowboarding trip to the Pyrenees – my google search history will attest. After a bit of gentle self- enquiry I realise that I want to do these things because ‘I deserve to do things that I enjoy’ and ‘I want to make the most of my life’. By contrast, my heart tells me that I am already making the most of my life every day by doing the things that I enjoy – writing and spending time in nature or out on my bike. My logic tells me that those things are free and I can do them more frequently as opposed to spending two month’s salary on ten days’ holiday that go in the blink of an eyelid. I query whether it’s arrogant to assume that I deserve long haul holidays in the face of the environmental harm flying causes. I also know as a fact that sweating blood and guts at work to pay off a credit card bill won’t make me happy. Spending twenty minutes every day walking in the park and being in nature will. So I have concluded it might be time to ditch the foreign trips (just for this year anyway).
I have examined my attitude towards food and cooking. I have somehow convinced myself over the years that it is quite alright to spend a small fortune every week so that I can have some sort of fine dining experience at my kitchen table every night. The more recipes I indulge in, the more food I seem to buy and throw away and the more money I spend. Is this OK, I think? I am all for eating healthily but does my dinner really have to be something that only Nigella would be proud of? So I have started to eat more resourcefully; using up ingredients and frying them up into something that isn’t written on a card and which doesn’t have a name or an identity. Last night I fried up eggs, tomatoes, olives and nuts and had it on toast with some chilli sauce. Granted it was some sort of amorphous slop but I felt a little better about myself as I had been creatively resourceful. I did not feel a sense of lack for missing out on a chateau briand. I had dined with a bit of humility, been eco-friendly by sparing food waste and contributed to my weekly food budget.
My de-tox has led me to question my attitude towards success. I have spent the last twenty years being injected with ambition; either from my peers, from society or from myself. Something in my conditioning told me that it was not ok to just want to live happily. I was conditioned to think that I needed to reach for the stars. I have done well in my career and have climbed up to the top of the ladder but reaching the last rung has made me question whether that in fact gives me the fulfilment I crave. I know deep down that doing what I love and spending time with people I love is what brings me happiness. Being happy is living successfully but somehow as a society, we have convinced ourselves that we have to make grand gestures. Success is about how you’re perceived as opposed to how you feel. You can have success by celebrating small achievements (as in, creating amorphous slop for dinner). Being successful in society’s eyes does not give you what you need necessarily; only what you think you need at the time. Life can often work out quite differently and for the better. I am enjoying the liberation of ditching my own expectations and living a bit more day to day.
So as I start to live a little more consciously, do I miss my old life? Or worse still – do I feel like I am missing out? Although I am currently gorging on a diet of meditation, exercise, work and creativity, I am not totally beans and lentils. I still have time for wine and pizza. I still swear a lot and laze around in my pyjamas drinking far too much coffee. I have to work to pay the bills like everyone else but I have discovered that joy and wealth is contained in the savouring of things and not in the things themselves. With a bit of mindful appreciation, a walk round the local inner city park is as much of a heart-warming experience as a trek through a rainforest. A home-made slop born of old ingredients in the fridge is as much of a feast as a rosette-starred meal out. A gesture of appreciation from someone who listened to one of my poems is more of an accolade than winning the Pulitzer Prize. Savouring what is, whatever is going on for you, is the key to creating more abundance in your life. Appreciation is a daily practice but it is free and totally worth the effort in terms of the riches it will bring.