I sound like a spoilt sport to write on this at this time of the year where Christmas shopping needs to be done, office parties need to be attended, year -end holidays need to be planned. Why would anyone want to PAUSE now? This is the season to have reasons to be busy. I think all the more reason to PAUSE – the busier you are, the more you need to catch your breath.
What’s the perfect getaway? It’s as simple and reachable as the chair in your study room or the garden and the bench in your neighbourhood park. It’s a time of recharging yourself and increasing your margin of freshness for the next task and activity.
Give these three great getaways a try:
Contemplation is a time to ponder and to calm our souls. It is to reflect on what has been most life-giving to you, both small and grand things. Being appreciative gives you the greatest satisfaction in life. You enjoy your present moments better and it makes you hopeful of the future.
Something wonderful happens inside our brain when we are appreciative of things and people around us. The amygdala which is the emotional region of the brain does not need to sound any alarm as no stress is experienced. Stress hormones are not activated as they are not needed. The body is at rest. The recalling of good memories and the experience of gratitude trigger the body to produce a feeling of well-being.
I took out my journal this morning and started to record the many blessings that 2018 handed out to me.
- I am thankful for the 34 new friends I made in the mental health sphere. I was connected to them through a prayer network called Perth Together.
- We had the first family wedding – my niece got married! The wedding was most touching and grand, held at the Capella Hotel in Sentosa, where President Donald Trump met President Kim Jong-un.
- We grandparented Nudie and Jack, our daughter’s two cats
I am already feeling my level of well-being rising as I penned these 3 blessings. Try it yourself. PAUSE and contemplate on the things you are grateful for this year. C S Lewis expressed it so well, “I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed.”
Give yourself this sheer enjoyment of contemplation and the complete delight of giving thanks. The endorphins released in your contemplation will be a great energy booster for all that you need to do between now and Christmas J
Our souls need a quiet, secure place to rest from a noisy world. A woman I knew recently said it so well, ‘I need a lily pad to rest quietly on.’ It is essential for the soul to have pockets of silence in our busy lives to rechart and recharge. Scientists are discovering that the practice of silence actually developed new brain cells in the hippocampus, which is the region of the brain that is associated with memory (elephant memory?), emotion and learning new things.
The Temple of Solomon, a magnificent ancient architecture, is said to be built quietly. All the stones were prepared at the quarry. No hammer, chisel or any other tool were used at the temple site. This is a metaphor of the soul – quietness needs to be built into our psyche. The finest work is happening even though, judged by the level of noise, nothing seems to be happening.
As an exercise to be silent, I spent 20 minutes yesterday in my study room being quiet. I heard the roar of the traffic because my window was open. I also tuned in to the chirping of a bird. It was a juxtaposition of 2 very distinct sounds, which I must confess I don’t hear much of because I don’t pay attention to them. I drew a lesson from my 20 minutes of observing this silence – amidst the hurry and flurry of activities and the loudness of my active life, like the solitary bird, I need to find that space to sing and stay in touch with my voice.
Are voices overcrowding your mind? Is the noise around making you irritable and unhappy? Cultivate the good habit of practising silence daily. Deliberately turn your radio in the car off and the TV off to allow for some quiet time. Allocate a seat in your garden or your house where you could go and sit quietly and do nothing for a few minutes. Plan silent retreats regularly to give your system a break from being overloaded by demands, expectations, agendas and programmes.
Dr Mike Miller, a research cardiologist at the University of Maryland Medical Centre in Baltimore, studied the effects of things that make people happy. He found that music, both playing music and listening to music, is a destressor. The inner lining of blood vessels are relaxed, they opened up and produced chemicals that are protective to the heart. Music counters stress and brings joy and a sense of well-being.
Music is a gift to humanity. In the movie Shawshank Redemption, Andy a prisoner and the prison librarian was donated a record. In wanting to share with every other inmates a song from the record, he went to great lengths to get hold of the microphone, activated the PA system and played the song on air. For a few minutes, the prisoners were rooted to the ground, their faces shone as they were mesmerised by the song. They didn’t understand a word of it as it was sung in a foreign language. But their hearts were touched!
When the going gets tough, put on your favourite songs and let the tune wafts its magic into your soul. When I first came to Perth and was incredibly homesick, music played a big part in unearthing my emotions and soothing my heart. I would tear up at the sound of the song and after a good cry, I found new strength to prepare tea and dinner for my two school going daughters and husband. Now music for me is for pleasure. Music makes me happy.
PAUSE with Shakespeare and say with him , “If music be the food of love, play on.” (Twelfth Night)