Friday, August 3, 2012

The Extraordinary Nature of Everyday Life

 The ingredients

Dissatisfied with their everyday lives, many people look for something extraordinary somewhere else. Some would travel to "magical" places in hope of finding that special ingredient that is missing in their daily lives. Others resolve to mind altering substances in order to experience something different. All in vain because as soon as their trip (the physical or the psychedelic one) is over, the whole magic disappears and they are back to the lives they tried so hard to escape from.

The story repeats itself over and over. People try to escape the dullness and monotony they created themselves. They look for something "exotic" but sooner or later, if they are completely honest with themselves, they must admit that the "exotic" is not necessarily more satisfying. Enlightenment comes when they realize that the very thing they were looking for was right where they started. 

The product

It is not a widely recognized fact that the small things in everyday life are what makes our lives special. Why not look for the extraordinary in the most ordinary? Cooking, eating, walking, gardening, writing, reading... One only has to slow down a bit and ponder. 

Very often we are told to keep an eye on the greater picture and not lose ourselves in small details. Although the big picture is important, it is the small details that eventually make it.

The big picture is necessary of course and one should not try to get lost in small details, but how sad one's life must have been when, at the end, a person realizes that  his or her life was empty and meaningless if not actually wasted. All that fortune and fame for nothing!

So, how do we add meaning to everyday life? 

The Japanese Zen masters invented an elaborate tea ceremony, for instance. In the tea ceremony each ordinary gesture is highly ritualized. The participants experience tea drinking as something extraordinary. But once again, the ritual becomes an escape. A "trip" to a place in space and time where the rules of everyday life are suspended. At lest for a while.

In our fast paced lives we do not normally have the time and the comfort to create elaborate rituals, but we can try to change our focus. Enhanced concentration and full presence are required if one wants to see the marvels of everyday life. The steps are simple:
  • stay in the present
  • slow down
  • have the courage to face your reality
  • re-evaluate your choices - more often than not less is more
  • break the routine and introduce new things
  • take responsibility for everything that is happening in your life
  • and last, but not least, stop sending text messages while eating, walking or driving
Stress, multitasking, and superficiality, among others, are the culprits, but if we slow down just a bit and concentrate on the present we can develop intimate relationship with our surroundings and for the first time see the things that we left unnoticed. 

First steps

Start slowly and take small steps to change your habits. Switch off your cellphone and take a walk through a park. Make a wholesome breakfast on Monday instead of taking coffee to go on your way to work. Celebrate your relationships as something special. Plant a garden and watch the vegetables grow. Start a journal or a blog. Go to a concert, create art, cook with friends, go dancing, take a bath, visit a museum, or take a trip. 

Yes! Take a trip not to look for what is missing in your life, but to experience the magic of traveling and, most importantly,  the magic of returning home. 

No matter what you do, remember that you do not have to go to far away places to find out how extraordinary your life can be. You have the power to give meaning to even most banal of things.

So, slow down and smell the roses! Or the freshly baked bread!

By Dominique Allmon ©2012


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