Remember when you were a kid and you could play for hours with no plan, taking your make-believe adventures anywhere that your heart desired in the moment? Your mind was able to undistractedly move between entire made up worlds with so much focus that imaginary friends could feel real and pillow fortresses could become as solid as brick and mortar. There was no attention paid towards needing to be somewhere or needing to check your email or needing to do that thing on your to-do list. Somewhere along the way, we gained responsibility and these free flowing times of play became defined by a schedule, whittled down from all the time, to recess, and finally to the week or two we are given of vacation every year. And then, most frighteningly, during that week of vacation we have a hard time tuning out and just being with ourselves and our loved ones. Come on, you know you check your work email and social media when you are on vacation. We all feel the addiction to our schedule and responsibilities. As adults, we have lost the ability to just be with ourselves and with it we have lost a level of creativity and freedom that literally feels almost impossible to ever recover.
I, like most people, have lived my life from the first day of pre-kindergarten following a schedule that someone else has made. Wake up at 7. Be somewhere at 9. Lunch around 1. Come home around 7 (or as an architect past midnight). As some of you might know, I just recently left my job as an architect to run SERENE with Jordan and Millana full-time. This has been incredible and rewarding and is exactly what I have wanted to do for years but has definitely left me feeling slightly ungrounded. Suddenly, I make my schedule, choose where I want to be, where I want to work, and how I spend every moment of my day.
Now that my schedule is completely mine, I can’t help but feel like I still need to be somewhere, and there is no place I need to be. This newly found freedom (or has it just been recovered?) completely stresses me out.
I could fill my schedule every single moment of the day and I often do. From meetings and work tasks to classes and meals out with friends, I could very easily find myself without a spare moment to breathe. But that is not a mindful way of living. Cramming your schedule full of things in order to feel productive is as mindless as following a schedule provided to you by others. We are taught from a young age that a full schedule is a good schedule - a sign of productivity. But the brain doesn’t work well that way, and neither does the spirit or heart.
So many times we are told to calm ourselves and claim time for ourselves by scheduling in time to do something - take a yoga class, go for a run, read a book, write in a journal. These practices are all incredible parts of life that we need to cultivate - but they aren’t moments where we can truly just be with ourselves. We need space that is just for us to be, not time for us to be somewhere.
And how do we do that? We need to create a work-live-be balance.
Its so important to truly claim time for yourself to just be within whatever schedule you have - whether its a schedule that is defined by a 9-5, a schedule that is defined by your child’s naptime or a schedule that is defined completely by you. For me, a scheduled yoga class or a mindfulness class is great but is still somewhere I need to be, a place to show up, and doesn’t fit the bill for the type of mindful-me-time that I am talking about.
So, I have a challenge for you, and for myself. Set aside some time this week or weekend to do absolutely nothing and see what happens. See where you want to go, what you want to do. Maybe you will end up baking cookies or going for a walk, or checking out a book store that you have been wanting to see, or going to a museum you haven’t had time to see yet. Maybe you want to meditate or try a new yoga pose. My only rule for you is that you aren’t allowed to turn on your TV or social media or Clash of Clans. And you aren’t allowed to work. And you aren’t allowed to plan it before hand. It might actually feel quite uncomfortable. Just let yourself be with that feeling as well.
This seems like such a simple thing, but when is the last time you gave yourself the space to do exactly what you want to do in the moment you want to do it?
Tegan is a vinyasa yoga teacher, architecture and product designer, insatiable traveler, and co-founder of SERENE.