The gathering clouds are as impressive as the ocean waves just before they crash. Your surfboard is calmly bobbing up and down. Inhale. Exhale. Beneath you, nature is gathering momentum, ready to rise up. Now! Start paddling. Right. Left. Until the board is just as fast as the rushing water. As soon as you sense the right moment, push yourself up. Now stand. Glide. Fly. Moments like these are rare. Moments when you are not thinking about anything else and are simply in the here and now. But in our everyday lives, the world often looks very different: we are constantly dashing around, already ticking off the tasks of tomorrow’s to-do list, running to catch the bus or getting distracted by our constantly flashing smartphone. Our heads are full, our hearts are racing. We are living in a world in which stress has mutated into a status symbol.
WE NEED TO STOP
Stress is actually one of nature’s more helpful inventions: whenever we perceive a potentially dangerous situation, the body releases hormones such as adrenalin and cortisol. Our breath becomes fast and shallow, our blood pressure rises, our muscles tense up – the whole body reacts. But the problem with the “modern-day” state of constant stress is that we have forgotten how to fully relax. The effects of being permanently activated manifest themselves both physically and mentally – from sleep disturbances and concentration difficulties to gastrointestinal problems and a weakened immune system through to cardiovascular diseases and burnout.
Why do we expose ourselves to these dangers? Is it because we are seeking recognition? Or is it down to social pressure? Or perfectionism?
One thing is for sure: we need to stop and instead learn how to manage our own resources, energy and health more effectively. Because ultimately, we are moving further and further away from the very thing that we all aspire to: a fulfilling life.
RIDE THE WAVES
The first step we can take to slow life down is to pause for a moment and be mindful. Where am I right now? What am I doing? And how do I feel? Particularly effective tools are holistic sports that train the body, mind and soul in equal measure. That could be a surfing session in the crashing ocean waves, but also a round of bouldering in a climbing hall or a yoga sequence in your own living room. It is important that you are fully present during these training sessions and that you put your whole body and mind to work – allowing you to forget the rest of the world for a while.
Professor Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of the philosophy of modern mindfulness, created the groundwork for this in 1979 with his “Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction” (MBSR). The aim of the program is to be consciously aware of the present moment, to engage in it in all its beauty and darkness, and to accept it and to find a suitable way of dealing with it. “Mindfulness essentially means that every single moment is incredibly unique. None is better than the other. It is rather a question of how we deal with the pleasant and the unpleasant moments, as well as all the others in between that are often overlooked,” said Kabat-Zinn in an interview with Swiss broadcasting company SRF.
The scientist sees meditation as a general method for treating a variety of ailments and as a way to reconcile with your own experiences: “So you can, to some extent, control the ups and downs of your life – with full awareness and a certain degree of calmness and compassion for yourself.”
LESS IS MORE
What is truly important in life? This is another central question to help you learn mindfulness and slow down. By freeing our lives from unnecessary ballast and disorder, we can all create room for the most important things in life: for health, relationships, passion, growth and for making a real contribution. Therein lies the first step to true happiness. It is not about owning less, but about making decisions more consciously. This process begins with questioning one’s own consumption and extends to our entire life and all the options it brings – fewer impulse or frustration buys, more high-quality products, less stress and more inspiration.
We do not need a lot to live a fulfilled life. Sometimes all we need is a backpack, a surfboard and a bit of courage. After all, life is an adventure: it crashes over us like a roaring wave and gifts us with a rainbow in the sputtering foam. What makes the difference is the way we approach it. Let us learn to say no more often, take more deep breaths and be more willing to let things go. The key here is a more conscious approach to ourselves and the world around us. After all, mindfulness – and also happiness for that matter – begins with us.