EXPEDITIONIST Diaries: How To Find Time For Reflection When Faced With Constant Outward Influences
It’s no big secret that we now live in a world that is crammed with every form of stimuli you can imagine. People are being bombarded with advertisements all over social media, receiving emails they never signed up for, as so on. With all that noise refusing us the ability to be fully present and to enjoy our surroundings, how do we disconnect from the machines and reconnect with ourselves?
This has happened to me more times than I care to mention, especially while on the road, constantly moving from place to place. In the rush of jumping on night trains and buses, being hustled off to this monument or that temple, it can feel hard to slow down my mind enough to appreciate what I’m experiencing.
I also find it a little bit of a struggle to not want to capture the views in the lens of my camera rather than my own two eyes. I first noticed this happening when people I met would ask me where my favourite destination was, and although I could remember the big details (like which countries and cities), I struggled to remember the smaller details. My mind went blank until I grabbed my phone and scrolled back through my pictures to remind myself. This simple action of scrolling photos at first made me sad. I thought to myself, ‘How can I not have remembered something so amazing and so special to me?’
The answer shocked me into a realization: I’m not being present enough.
By moving so quickly through certain places, snapping quick pics and taking off again, I wasn’t allowing myself time to absorb and appreciate the things I saw. Because of this, I was having trouble remembering how I felt when I was in certain places. When I discovered to root cause of my memory issues, I knew I had to do something to stop this from continuing.
But where to start?
Firstly—and most importantly—I turned off the wifi connection on my phone. I know this seems small, but it was paramount for me to sever ties with my social sharing apps in order to curb the urge to snap and post immediately.
Secondly, before I took out my camera, I forced myself to take 30 seconds just to look at my surroundings. 30 seconds to scan the scene in front of me. 30 seconds to register how I felt about what I was seeing. How did this view in front of me make me feel? What emotions was I experiencing by being in this place? Where did my thoughts go while scanning this horizon? Who did this place make me think of at first glance? What about this location resonated with me?
These questions may seem like they would take longer than 30 seconds to acknowledge and answer fully and you’re right, they would. But taking that 30 seconds just to begin to think about them was all it took to spiral into a special moment of reflection and was therefore more special to me than a quick snap-and-go. I had feelings and thoughts and memories of loved ones attached to these places was able to remember them with more clarity and fondness than others.
Thirdly, I would take my snapshot (if I felt it necessary) and I would make a note about each place, jotting down a few quick words in answer to the questions I asked myself. This helped to trigger those memories all over again when looking back on previous moments. It also helped me to write down who I was with when these photos were taken as this brought back fond memories shared with new friends and their personal perspectives on things we’d seen and done together.
Lastly—and this may sounds silly— I thanked the scene in front of me for giving me that moment to myself, for the feelings I felt, and for the chance to remember them. If you’ve ever gone somewhere and loved it so much you didn’t want to leave, you’ll understand where I’m coming from on this last point.
By saying thank you to the place that brought you joy, that made you smile, that gave you time for rest and relaxation, you are acknowledging that it was special to you. By taking that moment, you are allowing yourself a teeny tiny moment of reflection before moving on to your next journey.
Trust me, it helps.
Try it next time you venture out and explore some unknown landscape, or you’re in a beautiful hotel room overlooking the ocean, listening to the waves crash again the shore in that wonderful rhythmic way they do. Allow yourself that moment of reflection, whenever, wherever, and however you can get it. Those moments will be the ones you remember most about whatever journey you’re on.
Have you had this issue in the past too? If so, how did you deal with it? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Featured image: Rose-Marie Huet