14 Nov The Awkward Art of Doing Nothing
I learned a pretty cool lesson today.
The last few months have been pretty full on – 2 work trips to Fiji (to co-ordinate volunteer programs), 2 work trips to Melbourne, and a VERY busy diary full of patients on my clinic days.
My final trip for 2017 was for a 2-day functional medicine conference in Melbourne that was all about working with complex cases (it was awesome by the way!), and I arrived home in Byron Bay yesterday afternoon.
I woke up this morning, and even though my body ached and my brain was foggy, I stubbornly decided to go for a surf. It had been aaaaages since my last surf, and I’m on a bit of a get-fit mission right now, due to a couple of extra kilos that appeared after the carb-laden Fiji trips.
So I packed my gear into the car and off I went. I changed into my wetsuit in the carpark, took my board down onto the beach… and then I realised:
No leg rope.
I uttered a couple of choice swear words under my breath, remembering that I’d taken it off to use on a friend’s surfboard. I never EVER surf without a leggie because the surf is too crowded here and frankly I’m not good enough. And in my foggy state, I didn’t think today was the day to try.
So I was faced with a choice. Go all the way home to get the legrope, or come up with a Plan B.
I didn’t have any entertainment – no phone, no book, nothing to distract me. But I did have a beach towel. And I was standing on one of the most beautiful beaches in the world (I’m well aware of how lucky I am to live here!) This wasn’t a disaster – this was an opportunity. A chance to practice mindfulness. To be present. To practice the art of doing nothing. What better place to give it a go?
After being so busy lately it felt awkward and odd. Almost like I had to really force myself to sit there. I was restless – I alternated from lying on my back to lying on my front. I sat up. I flopped back down. I shut my eyes. I opened my eyes. It took a whole 15 minutes before my mind started to chill out a little.
I decided to go for a swim (without the wetsuit on!) and felt the cool, fresh ocean on my skin. I walked around in the shallows and watched the fish darting around in the clear water. I watched the surf school on their foam boards learning to stand up. The I went back up to my towel and sat again. This time I was more settled.
And you know what happened? By the end of my time at the beach, the brain fog had disappeared, I felt the corners of my mouth turning up in a smile of contentment. My chest felt less tight (had I even been breathing properly lately??). My shoulders felt like they’d dropped away from my ears too.
This whole turnaround took just 40 minutes.
Now, don’t get me wrong – surfing would have been fun too (in fact, I’m committed to heading down there again tomorrow – this time WITH my legrope!). But I also remembered the value of going out in nature just to BE. No phone, no entertainment, no agenda.
Can you make space in your week to be present in nature? Can you give yourself permission to make it a priority? Take your phone out right now and make an appointment with yourself. It doesn’t have to be a beach – you could choose a river, a park, or even your backyard. Make it happen. And watch those stress hormones just melt away.