For many, life is a never-ending series of stressful events and anxieties. There are so many things that occupy the mind: appointments, deadlines, bills, chores, projects, and an inexplicable desire to not miss a single facebook status update or piece of internet gossip. Never is the mind allowed to rest. These thoughts are juggled in the air, so that as soon as one is released from the mind, the next has to be caught lest it be allowed to fall to the ground.
The thing is, few of these things are real; and by real, I mean a present, concrete reality. Take deadlines for example. A deadline is not present, but in the future; neither is it concrete, but rather an abstraction of time and the mind. It's not something you can appreciate or consider with any of the five senses. You can neither taste, smell, see, touch, nor hear a deadline.
This is true of many of the things which occupy our minds. This is true of many of the things which keep us awake at night. Strictly speaking, they're not real. They exist only in the mind.
Since they do not involve the senses, it could be said that they are extra-sensory. Since they are not ordinary parts of reality, it could be said that they are extra-ordinary.
I don't know about you, but sometimes I long for something sensory and ordinary. Sometimes I long to experience something real and present.
I do not wish to free my life of all deadlines, bills, projects, etc. There is some value to such things. However, I do work to limit the commitments I make which give birth to such things. And when I find my mind overwhelmed with anxieties and things that are neither real nor concrete, then I know it's time to re-engage my mind and my senses in the real world.
Last week, my family spent three days camping on a rocky beach. For three days, I and a number of people - children, mostly - built sandsculptures and rock forts. I ended up hauling a lot of rocks across the beach, lining them and stacking them.
Stacking rocks is real. To do so, your mind must be present. You have to feel the rock in your hand. You have to focus. You have to empty your mind of all other distractions, worries, and anxieties.
Some folks camping not too far away saw my rock towers. They were sure I had used glue to hold them together. I assured them that my only tools were focus and patience.
As if to prove my point, the sea breeze picked up, and started knocking over my towers, rock by rock.
How do you empty your mind? How do you free yourself (temporarily, at least) of stress and anxiety? How do you bring your thoughts into the present?