It usually hits me when I’m cycling. The physical motion is inviting to a state of mindfulness and, from there, this inner-awareness often arises. It starts out with this feeling that there’s something I need to get rid of. As if I were carrying too many things on me, things that ‘don’t belong’. I might be tired, feel spaced out, or unsettled.
I guess it’s similar to when you look at your wardrobe and there are too many different garments in there – too much of everything -, instead of just the pieces you truly love. As a result, it is not taking you five minutes to get dressed in the morning, but half an hour. The process is more complicated than when you just had a couple of options, and the final result doesn’t necessarily translate your mood nor your aesthetics better than a more modest approach. Also, do you really want to spend all that time overthinking your outfit choices? Too many unessential pieces make you more confused and that’s when most people consider minimalizing. Abundance is both a blessing and a curse.
As my legs are moving I’ve this clear feeling that I’m both going away and coming back. I cycle faster. Going away from the un-essential, coming back to myself.
Humans are like sponges, we absorb everything around us. We are social beings by nature, so not only we crave connection with other people, we need each other. We need that exchange of energy. We influence one another all the time, and that brings us a sense of recognition and propels us forward. I have a social butterfly side which I very much enjoy. Meeting people, going places and exploring brings me joy and it is also part of my job. And, I love a good adventure. Getting a lot of input from the outside world also means taking up ‘noise’. New ideas, new expectations, new projects, new links, new cravings, new acquaintances, new phone numbers. Exciting as all the new possibilities can be, they are also very distracting. The question I end up asking myself: is the newly acquired all that essential?
So, coming back to yourself. The idea of coming back to a place you’ve physically never left might sound funny. For me, this concept is the base of well-being. It is a necessity that usually sets in after a lot of social activities and interactions. It feels like a purification process, and that moment when I am pedalling just makes it so real. I might go like, ‘wait a minute, this thing that has been keeping my attention is not what I’m about. What really matters to me is X and Z’. All those desires, cravings, expectations, goals, pre-conceived ideas that I’ve somewhere absorbed, somehow created. It’s a process of decluttering, like I’m getting rid of layers, one after the other. Like a peel that naturally starts falling off, as it doesn’t belong to the core. And it all boils down to my core values. What does really add meaning to my life? What am I truly committed to? That’s when I start reconnecting.
When I was living in Lisbon, if I felt overwhelmed I would climb one of the seven hills in the city, which was just around the corner of where I lived. Once I reached Miradouro de Nossa Senhora do Monte, I’d sit at the viewpoint there, overlooking the city. The sky was often blue, and I could see the seagulls wavering around, the river in the distance, the cars and the people in motion. From this state of contemplation, ideas would arise, which I’d write down. I’d maybe taken my Ipod with me and listen to some music. After that, I’d feel relieved. More centred. I’d left the blues by Nossa Senhora do Monte (“Our Lady of the Hill”), who is – very conveniently – a saint, or the statue of one, that stands atop the viewpoint. There are no viewpoints in Amsterdam, no natural ones at least. So, I cycle.
@whatithriftedtoday has recently written something about decluttering the mind that really resonates with the feeling I am trying to describe. “This decluttering has become something not purely material, but also emotional. Decluttering bad habits, saying goodbye to short-term comforts. Such a process makes me long for surroundings of peace and quiet because my head can be already hectic enough to deal with (…) This comes in various forms. Walks in the woods, yoga, watching films, reading, cooking, long talks (either by myself – yes this is a great thing to do, give it a try, it’s amazing to discover what you have to say to yourself) – or with others. (…) All in all, I’m slowly finding my way back to self-love and purity after some emotional rollercoasters (and more to come I’m sure).”
I love how she links this idea of emotional declutter to self-love and purity. Let’s say we feel empty, sad, or just confused, after a series of events. As you make your way back to what’s essential – to where your heart lies – you also recharge from the inside. As I come back to my cats, the books on the shelves, my yoga mat, I know I am where I need to be – which is always right here, right now. I take care of the surrounding space, turn the music on (or maybe not), cook a meal to myself, open a book, write a few notes on the side, answer that phone call from my mother. Perhaps I go to the cinema on my own, later on. Work a little on that passion project that’s been neglected. I might feel this urge to text someone to finally sort out an unresolved situation. Or I might just tell someone important to me how I love them, or simply the role they play in my life. For the rest, it’s all about getting intimate with myself again. Fertilize my inner-landscape on my own. A solitude that I might have resisted at first, but now is just so soothing. A solitude that allows me to reconnect. Let the layers fall off, like an old skin, and become whole again. In essence, this is it. All the rest – expectations, goals, achievements, commitments, responsibilities, performance – are accessories.