‘You’re only here for a short visit. Don’t hurry, don’t worry. And be sure to smell the flowers along the way.’ – Walter Hagen
My dad started saying this to me during the period of my life when I had an office job. Looking back, I can see why. My life was completely consumed by work; I was either constantly in the office or my head was buried in my work phone, and the stress associated with this meant that I couldn’t see beyond my to-do list. And at weekends I was often too exhausted to do anything that required energy or forward planning. I wasn’t actively participating in my life; I was dragging myself through the working week and collapsing at the weekends, living only for the 25 days of annual leave that I had each year. And I didn’t even enjoy my job.
When we’re absorbed in this way we lose ourselves; our energy gets zapped, we stop prioritising self-nurture and we lose sight of what’s really of value. We cease to be present; living in a fight-or-flight always-on mode we miss things because we rarely stop to look around us. We forget to appreciate the simple pleasures in life. Looking back, I wonder what all of those wasted hours that I spent sat in front of the computer were for. But I am fortunate enough to have made a change when I did. As Walter Hagen said, ‘we’re only here for a short visit’, so we need to make sure that we’re making the most of every precious moment.
So now the pace of my life has slowed down a little. I am still super busy, but not in a self-destructive way. The key difference is that I love what I do. I have created space to be present and mindful, and with that comes a greater sense of compassion and appreciation for all the little things and moments in my life that mean so much, such as treasuring time spent with loved ones or making the most of glorious sunny days. Now, rather than always striving for achievement, I don’t feel the need to be constantly ‘doing’. I find myself stopping to smell the flowers along the way.
And at the moment, that means enjoying the arrival of springtime. During the long winter months I always forget the joy of being woken by the sound of birdsong or feeling the warmth of the sun on my face. Now the memories associated with spring are coming flooding back and with those memories there comes a feeling of new energy and possibility. There is evidence of rebirth all around us in nature; the days are getting lighter, the crocuses and daffodils are starting to emerge and lambs are appearing in the fields.
At this time of rebirth and renewal that we’re witnessing, now is the perfect time to make positive changes in our lives. The approaching Spring Equinox is a time of fertility and regeneration; a time for shedding old layers, habits and stagnant energy, so that we can awaken, set intentions and plant new seeds to bring about change and growth.
So how do we recognise where there are opportunities for change and growth in our lives? How do we go through the process of shedding old layers so to become more awake in the present moment? How do we prevent ourselves from missing the important things? Here are a few of my tips:
1. Make time to stop
In today’s world we are always on the go, and quite often even in our ‘spare time’ our diaries are filled with appointments, socialising and other activities associated with ticking off tasks on our personal to-do list. Try to create time for yourself - to stop and simply be. It’s ok to have nothing scheduled on a Saturday morning so that you can be still, or to just sit outside to eat your lunch without checking your phone. The extra space that comes from allowing yourself to do nothing will bring clarity of thought and you might even find inspiration in something unexpected. If you really find yourself needing some time to be still, a yoga retreat is the perfect environment to create space for yourself.
2. Go outside
Nature is uplifting. Enjoy being part of it. Whether you are sitting, walking, running or gardening, be outside and smell the scent in the air, feel the sun on your skin or the breeze on your face. Listen to the sound of the birds singing. Notice the buds starting to appear on bushes or the flowers starting to emerge. If you’re having a bad day there’s nothing better than going outside and blowing the cobwebs away – shedding all that’s not wanted and starting afresh. When we start to pay attention to little details of the natural world around us we can find an inner stillness and a comfort that comes from knowing we are part of something bigger and so very special. And from this present moment awareness we can draw new energy. There comes the realisation that every moment is an opportunity for growth and change.
3. Explore mindfulness
Mindfulness practices, including meditation, are excellent tools to help you to live more in the present moment. The clarity that comes as a result of living mindfully can make a huge impact on your outlook and how you interact with the world. I’ve shared some examples of mindfulness techniques here.
4. Make changes
In the words of Jim Rohn, ‘your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change’. Allow youself some time to sit and identify the things that are negatively consuming or cluttering your life, causing stress and strain or zapping your energy. Then consider how you could eliminate them or at least reduce their burden to create more space. Your actions don’t need to be drastic (such as quitting your job!) but there may be some simple steps you can take to make space for the more important things. Then other doors might start to open and before you know it those simple actions may have led to more significant changes.
5. Do what you love and love what you do
Life is for living. I’ve always approached my life with a carpe diem attitude, and the times in my life where I have not followed this ethos are the times when I have been unhappy. Once you’ve identified the things that are having a negative impact on your life (as discussed in the point above), then it’s time to identify the things that you love doing and considering how you can make them play a bigger part in your life. If you’re not passionate about what you’re spending your time doing then ask yourself why are you doing it? Is there something else you could be doing that would allow you to be more present?
6. Choose happiness
Ultimately, smelling the flowers along the way is all about fully experiencing life and making the most of every experience. With present moment awareness we realise that every moment is an opportunity for cultivating happiness. So, celebrate your achievements, be grateful for the people that you have in your life and all that you have done, see the positive side to situations and enjoy the precious time you have. Don’t hurry, don’t worry. Choose to be happy. I’ve shared some ways in which you can influence your happiness here. Have a read. Then, if you need to, now is the time to set some new intentions!