Writing on, and about, an island

Posts Tagged ‘Zen’

The 5 Things that Matter Most

In Career, Freelance, Island Life, Minimalism, Tasmania, Writing on February 3, 2012 at 1:35 pm

My days have always been filled from end to end. I love being busy, and I am more productive when I have a lot on. Until recently, however, there were a lot of things in those days that frustrated me, didn’t satisfy me, and made me feel stressed. Things like:

  • committee meetings
  • an overloaded to-do list
  • freelance jobs that didn’t reward me enough for the time/creative energy invested
  • the feeling I had to reply to every single one of millions of emails in my inbox

Managing them meant I was losing valuable time for no gain – I was doing things through obligation not passion – and it took me a while to work out what was going on (obviously, because I’d been too busy to stop and think).

I only realised that I was giving away my time too cheaply during a 10-day holiday I took to paint my living room black and white. Spending every day doing nothing but sanding, plastering and painting was very zen, and although I didn’t plan on thinking about my life, and what matters most to me, it happened anyway.

I have spent the past 6 months thinking about what matters most to me, and got it down to a very minimalist top 5.

The 5 things that matter most to me:

  1. Eating homemade meals with my family
  2. Writing
  3. Reading
  4. Running by the ocean
  5. Living in Tasmania

I make sure those 5 things come first every day. (It’s almost like a muscle you need to keep using so it doesn’t waste away.) Pay yourself with your time first.

I’m not perfect at this. And, of course, there are many things I want to do, and many things that interest me – going back to uni or starting tango lessons, for example – but I’ve had to let go of the urge to do them all right now. At the moment, anything that’s not in that top 5 are just distractions from my main goal: learning to focus on what really matters most.

 

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Sailing…

In Island Life, Tasmania, Travel on January 4, 2012 at 1:32 am

I am no good at living in the moment. No good at mindfulness. I am a master multi-tasker, have made a career out of it, and every day is a series of insignificant tasks sticky-taped together.

However, I have come to realise that this is not something to be proud of. I react to outside demands, rather than consider what matters to me. Days are filled with busy-ness and to-do lists that fool me into thinking I’ve achieved something. Countless days that have left me exhausted and unsatisfied… and rudderless. The end result being that my life controls me – not the other way around.

Perhaps sailing will change that.

I sailed when I was younger (my father helped found the Wooden Boat Centre, and our boat, Lady Franklin, was the first to come out of the School’s shed on the Franklin waterfront. Tetsuya’s boat recently launched from there, also.)

Then I moved to Sydney – one of the world’s most beautiful sailing playgrounds – and despite living opposite the Cruising Yacht Club (home to the Sydney to Hobart), I skipped the boat part and instead made full use of the beer part.

Now: back in Tasmania. Tasmania has the highest amount of boats, per capita. As an island, sailing is inseparable from our history and our identity. I am now the proud owner of a beautiful 100-year-old, 35-foot Huon Pine yacht. Royal blue hull, white sails, oiled decks – the full cliché…

This Christmas holidays just past was spent sailing around Bruny Island on that boat – with a five-year-old (mine) and a husband (also mine).

The romanticism of sailing was given a beating by a 100-year storm, endless games of Snap and a port-a-loo that turns your poo blue (nice view from the seat, however).

It was a real test for me. Not the lack of creature comforts, although that was bloody hard. The test came in the lack of space and distractions. The fact that every simple dry-land task was made long and thoughtful at sea. Making coffee, for instance. You had to concentrate on making coffee. Not 12 things at once.

Somewhere between day three and four, between rain-damp sleeping bags and bottles of Gordon’s Gin*, it occurred to me that there was a lesson in my discomfort. Being forced to focus on the basics of daily living gave me space – not physical space, but the mental space to listen to my mind. Something I very rarely do.

(When I first had a baby and was going mad with the insignificance of each day, a wise woman said to me that it was the ultimate ‘Zen’ lesson. To learn to live in the moment. To realise that the past and the future don’t exist. To stop trying to ignore/escape stillness and stop trying to crowd out the chatter in your brain with ‘doing’. With a new baby there’s not a lot you can do on a grand scale – you have to embrace the small things, each moment. And the sooner your realise this, the better)

Perhaps sailing will strengthen my mindfulness muscle. Perhaps Tasmania will teach me mindfulness. The frustration I’ve felt since moving here – with how slowly things happen, how apathetic people seem in contrast to what I’m used to – is perhaps less an indication of something broken in Tasmania, and more an indication of something I need to address within myself.

Perhaps slow Tasmania has it right, and I have it wrong.

Here’s to more sailing.

*Gin and boats just go together. Gin is best kept in a dive bag, slung over the side of the boat. Tassie’s cool oceans make the perfect bar fridge.

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