Rich meals often take much longer to digest than they do to consume. And sometimes, the process happens in spurts.
On an early morning walk a few days ago, I am doing a bit of digesting of this big meal which has been my six-months trip. It was a feast of many courses and many flavors.
As my feet keep on moving on the pavement, my mind does a bit of scanning. It’s searching for “the defining moments,” the times that asked my life take a left turn of sorts. There is a nice small collection to choose from, for sure. Bright shiny images, strange locations, exotic characters, heady sounds and big conversations.
And yet. Something about my feet’s rhythm invites me to move past all these colorful vignettes and to land on another memory, a memory which is so quiet, so unassuming that it seems almost silly to stop there and take a look.
Sitting on my tiny balcony overlooking the sea, in a small medieval village in Southern Italy. Sun on my face, my panties and a tee shirt drying on the line above the courtyard, and nothing at all to do. No museum to visit, no language to learn, no one expecting me at any time, no problem to solve, no food to prepare. Nothing.
For a couple of hours, it would feel so good, so peaceful.
Then it would start to feel weird. Deeply unfamiliar and even uncomfortable. Nothing for my busy-loving mind to tackle. Nothing to alter. Just a time for being, of resting.
When that happened, I would often go on a long walk in the olive groves or along the sea. No one to talk with. Just me, my breath and my hungry mind. Then I would come home and meditate or nap.
I would do this for days. And nights. And more days.
During that month, I barely wrote. Most of the time, the only people I talked with for days on end were my coaching clients and a friend or two on the phone. I ate very simply: a bit of mozzarella, some prosciutto, a little basil from the garden and a few olives. A juicy pomegranate for dessert. I barely listened to music.
When eventually I quietly left the village and got on the train for Rome, I felt as though nothing had happened during my time there. It was as though I had “Pressed Pause” and could finally hit “Play” once I got to the city.
So why is it that months later I think of this time as possibly the most important part of my trip? Why is it that deep down inside of me I know that this time is where the most lasting changes occurred?
I have a few theories:
1) The Rest: the rest from the “shoulds,” the rest that came from listening to my and only my needs. After decades of single parenting, business building and metaphorical bullets dodging, the sheer “nothingness” was immensely restful to my nervous system.
2) The Self Re-Acquaintance: I used to think that left on my own, I would write brilliantly, I would read voraciously, I would learn... something. Now I know that whether I write, read or learn anything has very little to do with circumstances and all to do with me and my choices. I love knowing that. I also know that my family matters to me more than I ever took the time to realize.
3) The Preparation: The deep rest allowed me to be ready when life rang the bell to signal a new, more demanding chapter. I had slept plenty, I had been quiet plenty and I had gathered a nice big batch of reserves of energy. This came in handy for the next stage.
So yes. That strangely quiet course might have been the most powerful part of my huge meal. “Pressing Pause” might have had the most impact.
This is a lesson I hope not to forget.
Today, I invite you to “Press Pause” and allow the process of Resting, Self Re-Acquaintance and Preparation to do its thing. Whether it is 4 minutes with your eyes closed sitting in your parked car after work, an hour with your phone turned off in the middle of the day, or a weekend of solitude, you may find - as I continue to - that these unglamourous, seemingly useless moments are actually our most effective allies.
I also invite you, if your life has Pressed Pause and you are finding yourself impatient with the pace of this chapter, to consider that this current tempo might be exactly what you need, and that only in the rear view mirror will you be able to see its Gifts.