When I finished school, I was exhausted. Mentally and physically exhausted. It turns out that even university programs in Chinese Medicine - which emphasizes self-care and work-life balance - aren’t designed with much personal sustainability in mind. My studies ended in China, so I decided to replenish body and soul by traveling around Southeast Asia for a few months.
I traveled with only a small, hybrid roller-suitcase/backpack full of clothes and amenities. I would stay for a week or two in a city, then pick a new location and move on. Mostly I ate, snorkeled, explored, and sought out people and experiences that would help me feel whole again.
While staying in the landlocked town of Ubud in South-Central Bali, I took group yoga classes (that's what one does in Ubud). It was yin-style yoga (more stretch than strength), where asanas are held for longer periods of time than in other styles. After surrendering deep into stretches for 5+ minutes each, I found myself in positions where my muscles were stretched well beyond their usual capacity. Moving quickly out of the stretches would have caused serious injury. The teacher advised us to use the following method to transition from one stretch to the next:
First get very present in your body. Feel every muscle. Don’t move yet, just linger. When you’re ready, move just a little bit, then stop. Stay very present in your body. Linger. Then move a little bit more. Stop. Linger again. Etc.
I like to call this the "Linger Method". Its basic premise: before moving, linger a moment to find presence. That way you move with complete awareness so as to avoid injury. It's good, safe stretching practice. But there might be more to it…
I left my first Ubud class feeling fantastic - deeply peaceful; energized but calm. On my walk back to my homestay, it took a while for the lingering habit established during class to leave me. I would walk a few steps, then pause... Find presence. Linger. A few more steps, pause... Find presence. Linger. I walked like this every night in Ubud, and eventually it felt like there was a lingering moment, a brief connection with presence, between every step. Hardly noticeable from the outside, but breathtaking on the inside.
It was at this time that I finally began to feel whole again.
"I should live life like this," I thought.
Indeed, and here's why:
#1: Like stretching, daily life has dangerous transitions. A ton of them.
The modern world requires us to shift gears so often. If it's not our work schedule, it's marketers, or devices. Shifting gears uses a lot of energy; energy that would otherwise be directed toward essential activities such as digestion and repair. We're not built to behave like this all the time. It might seem like we are, but we pay for it in the long term in the form of chronic disease and emotional and behavioral problems.
Moral: If you move carelessly and unconsciously from one thing to the next all the time, you'll get hurt. Why not use the Linger Method instead?
#2: The monkey mind will seize any opportunity it can get its greasy little hands on to make you NOT present.
The monkey mind is always trying to be somewhere else. It's focused on past or future; worried about money problems, relationship problems, parenting problems... It loves problems! Problems make it feel alive, make it feel better than other people (even if it's better only in its misfortune). If you take away all the problems, it will create more. If you stop its incessant monologue on one topic, it will find another.
Moral: The monkey mind will try to use a million small moments to pull you out of presence. Why not use a million small transitions to pull you deeper in?
The Linger Method says, "Always, before you do, just be." Use transitions to plug-in to presence.
When you finish a phone call, before you go check your email, stop and get very present in your body.
Once you put dinner on the table, before you and your family start eating, pause for presence.
Before you get out of the car, before you enter the store, before you grab your credit card... linger.
It’s a practical way to infuse your daily life with presence and avoid some modern ills.
If you feel "the blahs" and you can afford the time off (I certainly can't anymore), you should definitely take a couple months to travel, snorkel, stretch, and try to just be. You might just find health and happiness.
OR... you can refuse to accept the premise that human life needs to be lived in a way that we all eventually need a vacation. I found the Linger Method in Bali, but it could easily have been taught in a yoga studio in Manhattan, an office-space in Houston, or a family room in Louisville.
Health and happiness exist only in the present moment. Linger there, every little chance you get.
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