Do you ever find yourself disconnected from life, more concerned with your to-do list or personal issues than the people and environment around you? Or perhaps you find yourself mindlessly scrolling through your smartphone just a little too often, tuning out the real world in the process.
There’s an exercise for that, or make that 6 exercises. Think of them as ways to wake up your consciousness and stay better connected to the world around you. I stumbled upon them while reading the companion journal to Falling Upward, A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life by Richard Rohr.
While the book is set up to help the reader navigate the second half of life by answering a series of probing questions (with blank pages provided for your answers), more compelling were the experiential exercises at the end of each chapter. Here are the ones I found most helpful, with Rohr’s lightly edited words appearing in italics.
6 Ways to Wake Up and Reconnect with Life
- Take a Slow Walk. Treat yourself to a slow walk in the neighborhood. Take the time to think about your breathing as you go. Notice things of beauty that might never have appeared beautiful to you in the past. Rohr mentions picking up a stone or stick to take a close look at it. You can also simply take in the majestic beauty of a tree swaying in the breeze or the unique architectural feature of a building or home you’re walking by. Take it all in.
- Really Observe. At work, notice how people treat each other and how you treat others. When you’re waiting in line, watch for the presence or absence of patience or understanding around you. Look for signs of compassion and empathy in others. Once you go through a few hours in this hyper-aware state, Rohr advises us to consider how these observations might lead to greater compassion and maturity in our own lives.
- Listen to Inspiring Music. Dance if you are inclined, even the most subtle of movements will do. Experience the places in your body where you are holding on to things that keep you from embracing a thriving existence. Breathe into these places. You might also consider listening to classical music, if you don’t have a favorite composer, any concerto by Mozart will do. You may find that music reaches a pleasure point in your brain that other activities can’t touch.
- Just Sit. Seek out a quiet, sacred place in your home or outside where you are able to sit undisturbed for a period of time. Be fully present in this sacred space for a set period of time each day. Repeat a word or phrase that holds meaning for you to settle your mind into the presence of God. If thoughts intrude, use your word or phrase to bring you back to quiet. The preceding passage reads like a non-fussy version of meditation and may be the most valuable tip here. We all need time to clear the head and settle into an inner peace.
- Reach Out. Jesus had no problem with the exceptions, whether they were drunkards, Samaritans, lepers, Gentiles, tax collectors or wayward sheep. Look for the “exceptions” in your everyday life. Consider how you might reach out to a person you have previously judged as abnormal or separate. This can include a cantankerous neighbor or bitter co-worker. Assume they are dealing with issues that you don’t know about and see if a smile or friendly word might ease their burden.
- Pay Attention to Life. Use all your attention as you observe people and events with new eyes. Pay attention to things that you may have never noticed before. Look especially at faces and read what they say. As you touch others, perhaps as you shake hands, truly feel the person’s grasp. Amid all your experiences, listen closely for the still, small voice of the Spirit within you. As we pay more attention, Rohr also asks us to speak gently and with more humility. People may not remember what you said, but they will remember how you made them feel.