Wednesday last week, I made a spontaneous decision – I packed my suitcase, called a cat-sitter, and the next day I drove to my father’s house in Florida.
I hadn’t seen my dad and his wife in awhile, but more than that, I realized I could use a break. So I put everything on hold and skipped town. I gave deep thanks that the circumstances of my life allow me such a decision, as bombs drop on homes and hospitals in Ukraine, and as essential employees report for mandatory in-person shifts.
At this time of grave intensity in our world, there are important reasons to “Just stop” when we can. Beloved Ayurveda teacher Claudia Welch often taught us (and I’m paraphrasing here), “It’s easy to keep going in the hamster wheel of life – to keep putting one foot in front of the other and push through to maintain the intense pace and output of an over-committed life. What’s hard to do is to stop. It takes courage to get off the hamster wheel, to acknowledge when life has gone too far, and too fast, in the wrong direction.” I’ve been through a few of those major, “Stop the train, I’m getting off,” moments in my life.
Thankfully this is far from being one of those times – I feel more lucky than ever for my life these days – but I do recognize a smaller-scale impulse that may foreshadow a larger-scale need if not attended to. And I know first-hand the restorative effect of a dose of “Just stop” medicine.
So I drove the 7 hours to my father’s house here in Florida, and I’m staying through the weekend to soak in their pace of life for a bit. The main activities of the day are eating breakfast, doing the New York Times crossword puzzle, taking a good long walk, planning for dinner, and taking a nap.
I have never really been a crossword puzzle person. Maybe that’s why it feels so restorative when I’m here. There is no hurry to leave the kitchen after eating – just hang out a bit and ponder a 6-letter word for carnival act. It’s adult playtime. “Play” is one of the 10 Practices of a healthy life that we explore in the Inner Wisdom Circle, my year-long Ayurveda mentorship – and ironically it’s one of the hardest for many of us to instill in our routine regularly. When life is intense, it’s even more important medicine.
After breakfast here, it’s time for the daily walk. Everything else is second in importance as they follow through on this daily excursion, part physical exercise and part social exercise. The neighborhood is filled with beautiful plants, friendly neighbors, and periodic views of the river. This simple activity gets us outside enjoying nature, strengthens the muscles and bones, and circulates prāna. Everything else goes on the back burner.
In a sweet coincidence, yesterday I also got to see an old friend from childhood. He recently relocated to my father’s town, and it was such a delight to walk together, to sit at a cafe and have a good catch-up on life. I was reminded how valuable and rare these life-long friendships are – and how important it is to nurture them with conscious time together. Had I not been here, it wouldn’t have happened.
And get this – I just got up from a nap. I don’t remember the last time I had a good afternoon nap. After lunch, my eyelids started to droop, and I just stopped. I got up from the table and lay on the couch, and I was down for an hour. My body was jubilant at the gift of rest, right when it wanted it. The folks moving through Day One today of our annual Spring Digestive Reset are hearing my broken-record insistence on this one – Just stop!
Do you need a dose of “Just Stop” medicine?
To get you started, here are some possible forms this vital medicine could take:
- Stop and smell the flowers: Get up right now and take a walk around the block, and literally look for flowers to appreciate as spring unfolds around us. Take some deep breaths.
- Stop and connect: Shut down your computer and call up an old friend on the spur of the moment for a catch-up conversation. Or book a trip to your old hometown and reach out to your grade school bestie. We won’t always have tomorrow to hold these conversations that reinvigorate old friendships, and that remind us of the through-line in our lives, so we can see that who we were when we were young is also who we are today.
- Stop and rest: Get up from the desk, or put aside the book, or turn off the TV and lay down your weary head when your eyelids get heavy. Listen to the urge of your body and simply REST when you need to.
- Stop and PLAY: Whether it’s Wordle, or a jigsaw puzzle, a game of cards, or soccer with the neighborhood kids, give yourself the medicine of play – it resets our creativity, stimulates our dopamine production, and reminds us of the joys of life.
It’s the weekend, my dear. How will you Just Stop today? Let us know in the Comments below.