Photo by Mattbuck
I had flown to London, for a meeting at one of the main financial centres, Canary Wharf. Realising I’d hit the rush hour and remembering my days of working in the City, I knew I had to watch my step or get out of the way; fellow commuters en route to work would behave like robots, eyes closed, or focused on one fixed point (usually their paper), then getting off the tube and walking straight to the office looking neither left nor right. They had the potential to trample right over you, should you accidentally fall out of line or God forbid, fall over. I did in fact once trip on the underground stairs, and the lady who helped me scramble to my feet encouraged me with: “Quick, get up, get UP, THEY’RE COMING! “ Back to Canary Wharf; there I was, wearing a cream mackintosh, like a lone white chess piece surrounded by black suited pawns. I smiled at the scenario, as although I was still on the chessboard of the working world, living in relatively quiet Geneva, I was no longer involved in the “game” in quite the same way as before. I could now really see the commute from an outsider’s perspective. It was like a sci-fi movie; the futuristic buildings, with what looked like zombified clones moving past me, just focusing on getting to their destination. They appeared devoid of life, non-human; expressionless faces, vacant eyes. I had to phone someone to share what I was witnessing! Which brings me to the point of my article:
It’s so easy to take the same route to work day after day and fall into a routine. Of course there’s nothing wrong with routine, as long as it’s serving you well. Routine can help give us structure and stability. However, it can also stagnate us if it leaves us drifting through life with a loss of awareness. When routine becomes stagnant, it’s easy to become “programmed”, as the clone-like commuters at Canary Wharf, traveling in a trance like state because you’ve done this journey a thousand times before, only to wake up when take your first sip of coffee at your desk.
So, here is some inspiration to refresh your trip to work and enliven you!
1. Change your route: Do you always take the same route to work? The quickest, fasted, most efficient one perhaps? The one that lets you have a little longer in bed? I invite you to change it. If you travel overland by car or bike, pick another route, perhaps a prettier more scenic one, even if it is a little longer. If you take public transport, particularly the underground/metro, and have the option, pick a different station to change trains or buses. If you have no choice, get off a stop or few earlier and walk the remaining way to work. If you are lucky enough to be close enough to walk, go a different way, just for fun!
2. Change your mode of transport: I realise this wont be possible for everyone but for those who can; do something else for a change. Instead of driving, take the bus. Instead of taking the bus, cycle or walk. You’ll get a different perspective. If you are always travelling on your own, by being on public transport you will get to be with other people. If you are often on public transport and decide to walk or cycle you will get some time on your own. The pace and environment in which you travel will also change and you will have a completely different experience.
3. Change your entertainment/activity. If you are normally a reader, or have your head buried in your phone, do something else (for example listen to music, or a podcast). If you always read the paper, take a novel with you or do a crossword. If you have a hobby that’s portable take it with you: perhaps you like writing, so start writing. If you have your hands free and some space, you could even do some craftwork! Which leads me on to the next point, you could just…
4. Look around you: If you don’t have to have your eyes on the road, and are walking or on public transport look around you. If you normally look down, look up: notice the sky, the architecture or the trees. If you are normally in your thoughts, look at the different people who pass you buy. Pick something different to notice each time you travel. Pay attention, you may be amazed by what you see.
5. Meditate: Perhaps you are a super active person using every spare second to do or think about something. In this case you could use your journey to meditate. This is different to just zoning out. Actively use your time to focus on your breathing, and creating a calm space for yourself in the midst of the flurry. Perhaps you would like to repeat a positive statement in your mind to set your intention for the day. e.g. “Today I intend to be calm and peaceful”.
6. Talk to someone: (I mean a real person not a virtual one!). Perhaps you sit on public transport with your head in your book or typing messages on your phone. Look at the people around you. Notice what’s going on. If you feel comfortable with the person you are near to, start a conversation. Find out about your fellow man or woman. Just smiling at another person can put their day and yours to a great start and you never know, you might make a new friend or business contact, or who knows, even a romance!
7. Don’t go straight to work: Wake up earlier, and stop off on your way to work, Perhaps you could have breakfast in a different cafe to the one you normally do? Maybe you normally eat breakfast at home or at your desk, so just going to a cafe would be a novelty. Perhaps you’d like to meet a friend also on their way to work at a mid-point? Some cities offer early morning lectures or concerts, see if there is one going on near your home or office. If there’s a beautiful view or place on route, stop off and spend some time there.
What’s the purpose of all this? Why shake up what’s working? By all means if what your doing is working keep it going! Here’s my question: How do you feel on your way to work work? Excited? Full of energy? Alert and aware? How do you feel when you walk into the office? Happy to be alive? Or does it take you the first cup of coffee to get into gear? How about if you walked through the doors of the building full of energy because you felt fully alive having already started seizing the day?
For those of you who already love their journey to work, please do share, I’d love to hear about what works for you and your ideas could help others. For those of you who feel that something needs to shift, I invite you to try some of these ideas out and let me know how you do. If nothing changes with regard to how you feel, I would I’d love to have a conversation with you to find out what really needs to happen to spark you up!
Last week I was sitting in the park finishing some work on a paper based on “flow”. I turned my head and to my surprise noticed that someone had hooked up a line between two willow trees and was walking the tightrope. Fascinated, I watched him navigate his way all across the rope using balance and concentration.
I asked him what what was going on for him when he made it all the way across the rope.
His reply: “focusing on just one thing, on the goal”. I then asked him how he felt when he was actually in the flow of doing what he did. He said “I don’t feel anything. I just feel that I am in my zone, the only thing in my mind is…nothing really…just relaxing and being at one with myself”. When I asked him what “flow” meant to him, his reply was “The way of projecting your energy into one thing and then letting that energy take care of itself…”. On asking him how this translated into his day to day life, he said “This is just a hobby but it’s kind of like meditating, when you are in the zone you concentrate on your breathing and clear your mind. This is just a form of meditation for me, you could call it my yoga “.
He was truly enjoying what he was doing, and was so focused on it that nothing else mattered at that moment. By focusing on his goal and the present moment, while letting go of the outcome, he was able to be in flow, find his balance, enjoy the journey and succeed in what he was trying to do.
(One other very important point. When, at the end, he fell off the rope, I told him I could edit that part. He laughed and said he was happy to keep it in, as that was part of the experience. Then he got up and started again).
What tightrope are you currently walking?
How do you find your balance?
How do you know when you are in the zone?
What do you do when you fall off?
What’s your way of clearing your mind, your form of meditation?
There is the famous saying ‘it’s the journey that counts, not the destination’. Well of course, that helps if we were to take life as the case. The only thing that we are certain of in terms of our destination as human in beings is death. We all die one day, and as to what happens after that, we have absolutely no idea. Well, in fact, let me just restate that. There are plenty of ideas abounding from a variety of different groups of people but not one of those ideas has been confirmed, hence we have no certainty. As we have no certainty, where could be better to put this statement into practise than our own lives.
So this leads to the question – where are we all rushing to? In today’s Western society, everyone is rushing around, agenda’s packed, things to do, the standard response to “Hi how are you” “Oh I’m good but so busy” answered by “yeah I know me too”. I hear it all the time.
What kind of journey do you enjoy? A mad rush, with bags being packed at the last minute, then running around to see every site there is to see before collapsing in a heap at the nearest fast food or crowded resort diner, only to come back to every day life exhausted? That’s what the vast majority of people seem to be experiencing nowadays.
Think about what kind of journey you enjoy? Personally – I like to mix it up. As I’m naturally curious I like an adventure, which may enjoy a little adrenalin here and there, as adventures, like life, are unpredictable. But I know that I want plenty of time to enjoy the sunrises and sunsets, really savour my food, whatever it may be and get truly involved in every moment – before going on to the next. The next moment is going to come along anyway – so why rush towards it unnecessarily?