Some time ago, I’m grateful to say, I stopped looking at ordinary things as “ordinary.”
And it has made my life indescribably richer.
But what makes things ordinary, as opposed to miraculous?
It’s quite simply ‘familiarity’.
They say that familiarity breeds contempt, but I don’t think that’s entirely true: the way I see it, familiarity breeds invisibility.
It’s very easy to stop truly seeing and being grateful for the little things that make up our lives, day in and day out. It’s like these things become “part of the furniture” and that goes for the belongings we use every day and even our family members. Basically anything that has become familiar and routine, is relegated to the automatic parts of the brain.
It’s a lot like ‘habit’!
When we learn something new, we have to really concentrate on it as we process everything there is to know before we can master it. Once we’ve mastered it however, we can then relax somewhat as it becomes more and more a part of our understanding. We are able to just give the command (for example, take a shower, get dressed, make coffee, drive to work… etc) and because we have done these things thousands upon thousands of times, they’re usually easy and efficient. Because of previous repetition, it requires so little thought that we can be almost fully engaged with something else.
When this happens, these actions are assimilated into our routine and they become ordinary. They lose their excitement and the appeal of novelty and they can even begin to feel boring.
And what’s wrong with that? What’s wrong with relegating everyday things to “ordinary” and focusing only on the extraordinary and exciting new experiences, people and things that come into our lives?
Well, the first question to ask yourself is how often does that really happen?
For many, sadly, it’s most of the time, on a day-to-day basis. We essentially wake up each morning and repeat what we did the day before and the day before that. Worse still, many of us don’t particularly enjoy it either.
Extraordinary experiences only come along when we pull ourselves out of our daily routine and become ‘aware’.
Because most of us are not in the habit of doing this, we instead go on vacations, or on dates, or purchase new things … and for a while, life takes on an exciting and vibrant feel.
But then, that new thing we’re wonderfully grateful for becomes familiar and no longer new and exciting.
Have you ever seen a child who begged and begged for a toy? That toy was so important, it meant the world to the child. The child gets the toy that was so incredibly important and sure enough, a few days later, that wonderful new toy gets left sitting in the corner of the room because the child had become bored with it? As much as we like to think we’ve moved on from such childish behaviour, the reality is, we have not.
We want and want and want, and when we get, then life is good and we feel super grateful for a brief time. But then, the longing re-surfaces again the moment the “shine” has worn off.
The truth is that the whole world is a series of miracles.
The truth is that we can learn to be happy and content with what we have, while at the same time working toward our goals.
The truth is that we can be completely familiar with something and still feel grateful.
Here are three simple ways to be in the moment, enjoy the miracle of the moment and thus get the maximum kind of living out of the moment.
- Practice gratitude. Look for the things you appreciate most about your everyday life. What do you do every day? What is it that you take for granted, that actually benefits you in some way?
- Listen. Your brain can take in a truly extraordinary amount of information, but only a very small part of what it takes in, makes it to your conscious awareness. This is to prevent overwhelm. However, this ‘selective processing’ makes it easy to miss out on a lot. Pause every day for a minute or two, and just listen. Birdsongs, traffic, music, kids playing… listen and pick out the various sounds around you.
- Slow down. Do you rush through your meals? Blast through your chores as fast as possible? Always on to the next thing? Take a slow day. Do what you normally do (I recommend doing this on the weekend, not at work!) only do it slower, more deliberately and with joy. If you resent your chores, think about lovingly taking care of your possessions – they enrich your life, so why should it be so onerous to care for them? If you gulp your meals, treating food as fuel and not as an amazing sensory experience, you miss out on the subtleties of taste and the potential for a lovely social time with friends or family (even if you’re dining alone, why not indulge in the flavours and aromas before you).
We are often encouraged to go big or go home, live large, be bold, go for it, do the extraordinary – and that if we don’t, we are basically failures.
However, there is tremendous value in a quiet, contented life of social connections and simple pleasures.
Think about it: despite its ordinariness – if you can’t find joy in your everyday life, how can you expect to be happier once you’ve set sail on your yacht?
I guarantee that eventually, you will start to hunger for something else, something more, and the once-enticing dream of sailing the world on a yacht becomes tedious and difficult.
So embrace the ordinary.
Embrace the everyday rhythms of life.
If you have a roof over your head, enough money for the necessities, and a rich social life… enjoy feeling grateful. It is enough, if you consciously enjoy and appreciate it.
Happiness is here and now, if you choose to see it.