If you feel like the summer holidays always pass you by in a flash or are so packed you don’t truly relax, we hear you. So we reached out to someone who could help us find the time to focus on our mind this summer: Jacqui Lewis, principal of meditation school The Broad Place.
Jacqui recommended six mindful activities any busy person can do in a day to reset their holiday mindset and feel prepared for the year ahead:
- Walk barefoot in nature
- Cook a mindful meal
- Take time out from tech
- Write three things you’re grateful for
To find out if all these things in one day truly make you feel de-stressed and refreshed, we asked our writer Meredith to road-test Jacqui’s itinerary. Here’s what she found.
The day before
I call Jacqui to chat through the itinerary and its benefits. I’ve had one of those years that plucks your tidy life from its comfy spot on the conveyor belt and throws it over the edge of a steep cliff, so I’m keen to find out how this day will help me shed stress and feel ready for 2020.
“These activities will help you let go of that which is no longer relevant and invite in that which is,” Jacqui says. “Think of it like a garden: you’re doing the weeding, and then you’re planting the seed for nourishment.”
As Lao Tzu said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” So here goes.
10.30am: Walking barefoot in nature
My first activity is a half-hour walk in nature – specifically, with no shoes on. I choose one of my favourite spots: a bushy part of a park that runs along my local creek. Jacqui had steered me away from driving out to the bush or the beach: “A lot of people are like, ‘Oh, no, I need to find a forest.’ But it might take the entire day to get out to a forest. Just go where there’s grass and trees or there’s water.” Where I’m going has all three, and it’s close by, so I head out the door.
When I arrive, I take off my shoes and walk. I immediately notice how soft the earth is and how silent the native grasses are as they sway in unison. My mind fills up with childhood memories of playing in ‘the tree’ outside my friend’s house and exploring every bend in the river that winds its way through my hometown. I realise how important nature has been to me all my life. It’s a strange realisation – something I’ve always known but have forgotten I’ve always felt.
I sit back down, bare feet still on earth, for a while longer. Then when a dog bounds up from the creek and a bee buzzes by my big toe, I decide it’s time for activity number two.
On Jacqui’s advice, I’m combining my meditation with my nature walk because they work so well together. (I’m already sitting down!) I’ve chosen a 15-minute guided meditation from The Broad Place’s Enhance program, but there are other apps that offer mindfulness and meditation guides you can carry around in your pocket. I pull out my phone and load up the audio. Eyes closed, I hit play and breathe in, and breathe out.
I’ve done a few meditations before and I always have trouble keeping my mind focused, so I’m not surprised when it drifts off to thoughts of work and haircuts and laundry. But Jacqui’s voice pops into my head: “Come back to your breath. Slowing your out-breath will bring you back into your body and into the present moment.” So I do, and Jacqui’s right: I get my focus back.
When my 15 minutes are up, I open my eyes and a butterfly zooms past. I look around and feel warm and calm. I feel like hugging myself. I legitimately feel happier.
I’m back at home for this one. Jacqui suggests reading something that’s “interesting and engaging and, most importantly, inspiring”. She told me it could be anything: book, magazine, article, essay, a musing on life like the ones in the letters on The Broad Place’s journal. I read a few of these letters first and really enjoy this one about life being a treasure hunt – it reminds me of how fascinated I was by gemstones and Indiana Jones when I was a kid. Then I pick up my current book, Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, which is inspiring me right now because I’m planning my own solo hike, and I head out onto the balcony.
I read while the afternoon sun moves slowly across my plants. I read while kids kick a footy in the park next door. I read until I realise I’ve been happily reading for hours and it’s suddenly time to chop the veggies for dinner.
6pm: Cooking a mindful meal
For dinner, the itinerary suggests creating and eating a mindful meal. I’m going with an Ayurvedic vegetarian recipe from The Broad Place’s At Home Weekend Retreat, but of course you can pick your own meal. Check out the Heart Foundation or other online resources for recipe inspiration. The important thing is that you take the time to cook and enjoy a meal that’s full of good, digestion-friendly stuff.
I choose a quinoa risotto with leeks, kale, asparagus, peas and fresh herbs. While I get everything going on the stove, I follow Jacqui’s advice to think about where my groceries have come from. When the quinoa is in the saucepan and absorbing the stock, I’m struck with a memory from a trip to South America in my twenties, when I hiked past fields of the grain on Bolivia’s Isla del Sol and ate it as brekky cereal the next day. I look out the kitchen window and feel grateful for that memory and for today, which isn’t something I normally think.
The meal itself is aromatic and rich. I’m a slow eater anyway, but I consciously take my time. I end up satisfied but not full. I do the dishes and set myself up for what’s next.
9pm: Taking time out from tech
“People find it really confronting to sit with the discomfort of not checking their phone,” Jacqui had warned me when we spoke about this activity: Jacqui teaches it as the Power Down Hour – an hour for a digital detox, an hour to go completely tech-free.
I’m doing this one in the last hour before I go to sleep, but Jacqui says you could sprinkle it throughout the whole day: “If you’re going to take one special day for yourself, I would recommend extending the hour into as many hours in that day.”
To clarify, ‘tech-free’ means no TV, no mobile phone, no tablet, no computer and no e-reader. I make my bed. I sweep. I boil the kettle and brew a cup of tea. I sink into the couch and read again in the silence. And when the hour is over, I actually feel a bit disappointed.
10pm: Writing three things I’m grateful for
Jacqui suggests doing this one right before you head off to bed. I write down the first three things that pop into my mind – and then I keep going. Turns out, I’m grateful for a lot of stuff, big and small. Jacqui advises unshackling happiness from big moments, so on top of the major things (my family, my home) I remember to focus on the daily bits too (the dogs in the office, my favourite podcasts). I see why she told me to do this last: by ending the day noting down the things that make me happy, I can plan how I’ll appreciate them – or work towards them – tomorrow.
It worked: I’m actually de-stressed and refreshed. I thought I’d just timebox these activities throughout the day, between my usual business. But as I moved from one to the next, I learnt how it feels to make the effort to focus on the things that actually, truly recharge me. In just one day, I reconnected with nature me, reading me, cooking me, downtime me. It’s hard to describe, but I feel like I reacquainted myself with myself.
“A lot of people say, ‘Oh, it feels so selfish to take care of myself,’” Jacqui had told me when we spoke on the phone the day before I started. “But in modern society, we give so much of ourselves out, out, out, that the very act of saying, ‘I am going to do this. I’m carving out this day,’ is incredibly powerful.”
ING is not affiliated with The Broad Place or Heart Foundation and does not endorse their product or service, nor accept any liability in relation to the statements made by them in this article.
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