Satisfaction and Experience
Savor the experience–experience of what? The experience of everyday activities. Why might that be helpful? Well, think about it. Does it seem as if every week just whizzes by leaving you wondering, where did all the time go? Or how about the year? Does it feel like time is speeding up to you? It does to me and sometimes I have to stop and reassess just how much I am consciously participating in my life, beginning with daily routine activities. I’m talking about the difference between just crossing out things on my to-do list versus allowing myself the time to experience a sense of satisfaction after completing a task. It’s like the difference between feeling empty or full. Can you relate to that? I’m especially aware of a certain hollow feeling on the days when I feel more exhausted than satisfied after accomplishing my tasks.
Elsa Gindler and the Practice of Sensory Awareness
Happily, while in graduate school, I was introduced to the work of Elsa Gindler (1885-1961). She was an extraordinary woman who taught a simple practice of paying attention to breathing, relaxation, and tension which she called Gymnastick. Eventually her practice became known as Sensory Awareness. It was after reading her essay, “Gymnastick for People Whose Lives are Full of Activity,” that I finally began to understand what was hindering my general sense of satisfaction. She wrote in part:
We do not quite keep up with our lives . . . We no longer live our lives thoughtfully and sensitively . . . We do everything in order to be finished with it, and then the next thing that must be done comes along.
Sensitivity and Thoughtfulness
Ah, so here were the missing pieces: sensitivity and thoughtfulness. After class, I went home and decided I would try a little exercise while I washed the dishes. I began to pay attention to the sensory experience of washing dishes. Say what? Well, first I paid attention to the temperature of the water and how it felt on my skin. Next, I noticed how the dish soap added a slippery quality to the water. I also took in the scent of the soap. Then, I looked out the window and took in the view beyond the sink. As I consciously paid attention via the senses, my breath began to slow and become more even, my muscles were less tense, and I found myself really enjoying the experience.
Now I began to understand the difference between mindlessly tackling a routine task or choosing to consciously participate in the experience. Making time to be in the experience and to savor it via sensation definitely increased my sense of accomplishment, satisfaction, and well-being.
How do you approach routine chores and how do you know when you are experiencing satisfaction?