This Sunday, I want to talk about the importance of taking breaks.
Most of us hustle and bustle around all week, only to look forward to the weekend to get that “break” we feel like we need. Yet, somehow, that weekend break never feels like it’s enough. In fact, for a lot of people, that weekend break somehow never seems to hit the spot.
I have also been a victim of that problem, where no matter what I did, I just felt hassled by life. There is that under-the-surface unease, that knowing that this break is just an illusion, and the hustle never really ends.
At what point do we really get the time to find peace?
All week I have been so focused on my next upcoming projects, and trying to sort my current ones out, that I was beginning to feel extremely overwhelmed by life. As a mom, currently in the Canadian atmosphere surrounded by family members I haven’t seen in a long time, I kind of feel like I am just cramming all the time. I’m trying to watch my kid, make sure he’s okay, well fed, well rested and entertained, trying to take care of myself, stay in shape, stay sane, be sociable and respectful around my family while trying to be myself, get work done, offer my younger sister guidance in her late teens, sort out my finances, stay in touch with what’s going on back home in Thailand, etc., etc.
The list goes on.
And getting a new business off the ground in the midst of all that isn’t easy. My kid is only 3 and while we are here in Canada, he isn’t enrolled in Montessori school so he is with me all the time. Ah!
I felt like I was going to break down in tears a day ago, because my head keeps swirling with so many to-do lists and deadlines that I even wake up in the middle of the night remembering things I’ve forgotten during the day. I realized that I need to slow down, not in general, but for a moment. I needed to take a REAL break.
For most, taking a break from the hustle of life means doing something they don’t usually do. But not all of us get the luxury of taking such a huge step back from life, and for those that do, some never find the restful satisfaction they are looking for.
But this morning, I did. I took a meaningful pause that had a huge impact on my day and my current outlook on life. I suddenly realized that “taking a break” doesn’t have to be a ceremonious effort or something that has to seem out of the ordinary. It really just means letting your mind break away from those continuous streams of thought that seem to endlessly run automatically.
You see, the majority of our frustration, anger and feelings of being overwhelmed come from our mental experiences of life. Our minds are constantly processing information and experiences into thoughts we can interpret, understand and store away for later recall. Many of us will never stop to really notice how that works, or the fact that this is even happening, but our minds are constantly at work.
That’s why some breaks never feel satisfying, even when we’re doing something different than our usual routines. A real break is when you give your mind a chance to pause, to stop processing so much and to just take it easy. That is why practices like meditation are so crucial for your well being.
You don’t need to travel to a scenic place or even be totally alone to give yourself a real break. You just need to take a moment to silence your mind and let your thoughts quiet down.
This morning, I did that.
While everyone was downstairs having breakfast and my son was still sound asleep, I got up and sat quietly on the floor by the end of my bed. I reminded myself that I was not my mind. That was significant, because it’s s easy to identify yourself with your mind, as if you are both one. But the truth is, your mind is your tool and is NOT your consciousness. Your mind is not in control of you; you are in control of your mind. You are a conscious being who has a mind; you are not one and the same. Your mind is a tool to be used, and to be silenced at moments when your soul truly needs a break.
So this morning I sat down, remembering that my conscious being was the essence of my being, and my being was in control of my mind. I began to observe my thoughts, witnessing them come and go without judging them, but just observing the thought patterns my mind had been running all week. Then suddenly, there were no thoughts to be observed. My mind went quiet. I was aware of myself, but I was free of my mind in that moment. And it felt good. I observed my breathing, my body and the sensations of being alive. I had no anxiety or anticipation for the moments ahead. Just peace.
When I came back into full awareness and my thoughts began to flow again, I felt great. I felt light and I had regained control of my thought flow. I didn’t feel hassled or cluttered with things to do. I felt ready to begin my day, empowered and knowing that I could accomplish anything, as I always do.
I gave myself that break that I really needed, and I didn’t have to go anywhere or do anything extravagant to get it. I basically just practiced meditation, in one of its most basic forms.
The break most of us really need is some silence of the mind. It really does change you from the inside out, and when you feel peace inside, you can create it on the outside too.
This week, I’m going to be taking a lot more breaks. There will be a lot more moments where I pause to observe my thought flow and how my mind tries to run on auto-pilot. I’m going to take a lot more time to become intensely focused on the moment that I am in. We really don’t need to entertain a thousand thoughts at a time, especially when we cannot act on them all at once. Life must be lived in stride.
What I did this morning was take the time to be in the moment, to be aware of myself and my mind. After all, how can you control your mind if you can’t even observe it? The mind is such a powerful tool, but if we don’t take the time to harness its power, it can control us and even destroy us.
A lot of the negative feelings and ideas I had in my mind were there because they were left unobserved. They were negative patterns left to fester and repeat in cycles. Observing your mind is important for changing it, and understanding what it does when you’re not paying attention to it. Understanding that your mind is not you, but rather a tool that you control, is a greatly empowering realization. It is integral to taking control of your thoughts, feelings, actions and ultimately your life.
So the next time you feel like you need a break, or feel like your last break didn’t give you that restful feeling you were hoping to get, try giving your mind a real break. Put your thought-streams on pause for a moment. Give yourself a few minutes to just be, to just exist. No thoughts, no demands, no obligations. Just observe, feel and be aware of your conscious self.
We all need a break sometimes.