A rare moment of calm

It’s very quiet here. I went out earlier with Ozzy (my younger Labrador) for a brisk run around the local countryside. We then came back and collected Molly (my older Labrador) for an hour’s walk at a slightly more sedate pace. Upon our return home, I prepared their dinner and added some microwaved chicken, which always puts them in a good mood. And now I’m back at my desk, while the dogs snooze contentedly.

It may just be the endorphins from my run, but these unexpected few minutes of calm (because it’ll surely only be a few minutes until the dogs wake up and start to cause havoc again) have left me feeling unusually peaceful. That I’ve made good progress today on some work projects probably helps, too. As does the fact that I managed to set aside half an hour after lunch to catch up on some reading.

There may also be more substantial factors at play. I’ve been slowly reducing my caffeine intake over the last couple of weeks and am down to about a quarter of a cup a day. I’ve made a conscious effort to eat healthily, to avoid snacking and to drink plenty of water. And I’ve been proactive in managing my time, ensuring that I focus on the things that matter and that I don’t spend (too much) time on pointless stuff.

Before I get carried away and disappear up my own backside, let me reassure you that my claim to sainthood is still some way off. I remain grumpy as hell and have zero patience with anyone or anything. I need an app (Freedom, it’s great) to stop me from doomscrolling news websites whilst I’m supposed to be working. And I have a to-do list the length of a blue whale’s tapeworm, with tasks that have been languishing on it since Edward VIII was on the throne.

I suppose I’ve been trying for a while to live a little more deliberately, to be driven more by my own sense of purpose. And this got a kick-start a week or so ago when I read an article by Leo Babauta about how to adopt a more zen approach to life. He quotes the late Zen Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hạnh, who summarised the zen mindset as simply “smile, breathe and go slowly”. Leo also gives some great tips of his own, by the way, which are well worth a read.

As someone who traditionally runs around with their hair (figuratively) on fire, the exhortation to ‘smile, breathe and go slowly’ struck a chord with me. Sure, it’s simplistic, but I like it. And I try to keep it in my mind when everything kicks off and I find myself approaching Warp 10. So is this current moment of calm the first glimpse of a nascent, zen-like inner peace? Probably not, to be honest. And I suspect it won’t last long. (In fact, I’m surprised it’s lasted the few minutes it’s taken me to write this.) But I’ll make sure to enjoy it while it does.

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