We All Need Time and Space to Chill Out. Here are a Couple of My Favorites
Why We Need to Sleep, Dream, and Chill Out
The picture with today’s post is of our beloved lab Lizzie. That girl knew how to relax!
In truth, we don’t know exactly why we need sleep or why we dream, but the evidence is compelling that these states of being have something to do with our ability to recharge and refresh. The same appears to be true for pretty well all creatures, not just humans.
I submit that as important as these things may be, they are not enough. I believe strongly that we also need to set aside very deliberately some time, energy, and resources to recharge – to disconnect from the world at large – from time to time. At least for me, these are exceptionally important moments, and I bet the same is true for you.
It is easy to get wrapped up in the rhythm of daily life and forget to set aside such opportunities. That would be a shame. We should all make such set asides important enough to plan for them and draw from them what we need.
I have recently had the opportunity to do just that in two of my favorite ways of disconnecting. I would like to share them with you.
Music in General, Symphony in Particular
The power of music on the mind and body is well documented. It is a powerful medium in so many ways. I like all sorts of music – the list of categories of music I enjoy seem to grow longer the older I get. Maybe we do get wiser with age.
But first and foremost, for me, is symphonic music. Breaking that large group of musicians together in such powerful performances, is a transitory experience. If you saw me at a concert, you might think I was sleeping, as I spend much of the time with eyes closed, so I can really concentrate on what I am hearing.
The visual aspects are great, too. I very much enjoy aiming the opera glasses at different sections and musicians as they play their part, and on the conductor and the sometimes subtle effect they have on the music.
A few days ago, our local symphony orchestra held its closing performance for the season, and it felt as though they had taken my request list. They ended the season with Copeland’s Fanfare for the Common Man, perhaps my favorite piece of music, and Beethoven, who is in my mind THE greatest composer ever.
Choose Your Beethoven
The symphony chosen was Beethoven’s 9th. In the minds of many, this is the greatest piece of music ever created. I tend to favor the 5th symphony as the pick of the litter, but the 9th is beautifully transformative. Perhaps a tie for first place. The 9th has more grace and breadth, the 5th more power. The solo singers and chorus do make the 9th a different experience.
And this concert even added a new piece I had not heard before, Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman. A splendid night in which, for a couple of hours, the rest of the world was banished from my mind. If you have not treated yourself of late to a live symphonic concert, go do so as soon as you can. This is about as good as an experience can get.
Deep in Nature, Preferably in a Forest
The studies are endless and universally agreed that time in nature, any time in even the thinnest definition of nature, works wonders on humans. I will take some outdoor time just about anywhere for any amount of time I can have, but nothing comes close to being deep in a forest, preferably one that has not been harvested, preferably alone or with partners who respect the need for silence in these temples of nature.
I recently had the opportunity to take a short hike at night into the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest to observe synchronized fireflies. As luck would have it, we got soaked in an unexpected rain the first 15 minutes or so, making the already rough trail slippery and muddy as we moved along using pale red filtered flashlights. I fell twice during the hike, with lots of good company. But it was worth it. Soon, the band-aids will be history.
Being deep in a forest calls upon the human being to slow down, breathe easy, use all your senses. On this occasion, we enjoyed almost total, lovely silence except for a breeze going through the branches, the sound of rainfall, and one indignant screech owl who did not seem to appreciate sharing his forest with him.
The fireflies lived up to their reputation. What a display. Several of the constant glowing species flying around and hundreds of the flashing variety that all went dark at the same instant, over and over, about every 6 seconds.
This is as Good as Life Gets
A forest, especially one in the mountains, is a magic feast for the senses and for the inner mind. You don’t have to be Daniel Boone – a simple walk in accessible woods will do nicely. If there is a stream in the mix, even better.
For me the best part are the breaks, when you stop moving and just sit still, letting the forest connect with you. I’ve had some of my better conversations with trees, as a matter of fact. Go get out among the trees. They have much to share with you.
Smaller Doses Help, Too
Lots of smaller efforts also serve to heal the mind and body. I am really rough around the edges, but I find meditating for a few minutes, especially early in the day, to be healing and invigorating. Stroke a dog’s fur and I guarantee you that both of you will feel better. Our dog is a therapy dog and so we make the rounds a couple of days each week. It is so nice seeing how that human-canine bonds works so well for just about everyone.
Simple tasks can be performed intentionally, giving you a Zen moment. I find this true sometimes with yard work, often in the woodshop. Even simple cleaning and organizing can help clear your head. And massages! Not everyone’s cup of tea, but had I the time and resources, I would do this for an hour a day, every day. Get a talented person giving the massage and zone out physically and mentally. I love how I feel after a good massage.
And finally, the simple hammock. Get into one of these babies that is well made and properly hung, and you are as close to weightlessness as you will ever get. Do it outdoors in a natural setting, double bonus points. Of course, some hammocks threaten the user with pain or near death when trying to enter or dismount the hammock, but no pain, no gain. A good hammock well placed and properly hung is just about perfect.
How About You?
That is my short list of Ahhhh moments. What works for you? Anything on this list enticing you to try something new? If nothing else, I hope this posting gets you to do the right thing and relax. The world seems an especially dangerous and worrisome place these days. Use these moments to stay whole and healthy.
If you find this blog worthy of your time and curiosity, I invite you to do three things:
(1) Join the conversation. Your voice counts here. If you wish to share COMMENTS anonymously, make the last word in your comment “PRIVATE.” I will assure your privacy via anonymity.
(2) Share the word about this post with friends and colleagues. Share a link in your emails and social media posts (https://agentsofreason.com).
(3) You are welcome to share this post with anyone. It is easy to pass on via email, of course, but also on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus, or Reddit; simply click on the links for these services at the end of this article.
Let’s grow our circle.