My eyes were closed. I had a smile on my face. My arms were out and I was swaying along with the live music.
It was one of the most peaceful, blissful moments of my life. I literally had not a care in the world, and that had never happened before.
I had just graduated college, so school was over. For good. I had moved out of my college house and all of my stuff was packed up in a storage unit, so I had almost no bills or responsibilities to worry about. I had travel plans for the summer, so the stresses of job hunting hadn’t commenced yet.
I was far away from the pressures of family, the drama of friends, and the bustle of city life. I was standing in a field in front of a stage on a warm, sunny afternoon listening to live, soul-changing music. It was what I would define as perfect.
Growing up in a city and never having gone on a trip like this, my physical, emotional and mental freedom at this moment was a first. My friend, at the time (now my husband), saw me smiling, eyes closed, swaying with the music and asked me how I felt. I replied with three words, “I feel free.”
This happiness pinnacle opened a door for me that I didn’t know existed. I didn’t know one could be so content and not worried about anything at all. I didn’t know there could be a single moment when I wasn’t thinking about my future, my next step, my plan of action. I didn’t know that “unplugging” for a few days would change my outlook and my life forever.
I didn’t know.
Even the imaginative, creative kid I was worried about stuff all the time – trying to be perfect for parents, making sure my toys were in their proper places, so on, so on and so on.
I just didn’t know.
Once I had a taste of it though, I had to go back. And we do.
Almost every year, we attend a music festival. We unplug for a few days, we camp, we rough it without real toilets and showers, we enjoy the outdoors, we listen to unbelievable music, we cleanse our souls.
A decluttering, if you will. (I’m a professional organizer…I had to throw that in.)
Unwinding my neat freak tendencies was, and still is, very hard to do. This moment in 2005 at the age of 21 was the beginning of it. It’s hard to undo 21 years of anything, but little by little the ripple effect of this freeing experience has infiltrated my life.
While the whole point of being “free” is not to have rigid structures, there are some general rules I follow to maintain it that are both life lessons as well as daily routines. Thus, here’s one of each that I highly, highly recommend you apply to your life.
Limit The Drama
Remember “the drama of friends” I referenced earlier? There is absolutely no room in your life for so-called friends to bring a bunch of B.S. in, so I slowly but surely started dropping connections like that.
People who want to fight with you about nothing, people who want to talk about others behind their backs, people who don’t want to show up on time, whatever it is that is causing you grief, you don’t need it.
Start cutting those ties, which I know is easier said than done but it’s possible. Begin by hanging out with them a little less or talking on the phone with them a little less and keep dwindling it down little by little until you’re comfortable. In many cases, my comfort level meant a complete sever but do what works for you.
This means a lot of things to a lot of people; I like to keep things really simple. To me, a few minutes of quiet time to clear my mind does the trick and I recommend you do the same.
First, since it’s only a few minutes, it’s a habit I know I can stick with. If you have more quiet time than that AND you can actually meditate for longer (it’s harder than it sounds), then feel free to extend it past a few minutes. Either way, I suggest you start small to build the foundation of the habit as well as practice the actual skill of meditating, and then build up from there.
Second, when I say “clear my mind,” I literally think about one of my happy places which is walking on a sunny beach. I think about the sand between my toes, the warm sun on my back and the sound of the waves coming in.
If other thoughts enter my mind, I let them in with the incoming wave and then I let them flow back out when the wave recedes. Do the same with your happy place to rejuvenate your mind for a few minutes every day.
Just those 2 things, limiting the drama and meditating daily, have lowered my stress levels drastically. What a difference it is!
I appreciate life at a much deeper level, and that would be an understatement. I’m mindful, I’m present, and I’m grateful. Most notably, I’m enjoying the journey a lot more than solely focusing on the destination because let’s face it…it’s all about the journey.
Taking the time out of my journey – my organized, planned out journey – to declutter my soul has, and will remain, a constant. The best part, I’ve come to realize, is that they go hand in hand.
Yes, plan things out. Yes, stay focused. Yes, work hard. Yes, be disciplined. But take the time to stop, perhaps in a field in front of a stage on a warm, sunny afternoon, to hear the music…and then you’ll truly be free.