January in the stunning city of Sydney. My growing-up home.
Perfect weather for the harbour: we hugged its edges every day. Sail boat. Power boat. Waterside pub. Ferry. Bushland harbourside strolls.
Thanks to a longtime family friend, accommodation five minute’s walk to the nearest ferry into the city. And a ten minute walk to glistening sea baths on the harbour’s edge.
ONLINE PHOTO BOOK
Now I’m home and sorting the photos from our trip into one of those albums you put together online. (Can’t wait to get the hard copy in the mail!)
There we are! Harbourside, backdrop of Sydney Harbour Bridge. There’s my partner Nish and sister Julia on the little yacht. Here’s the view from Centrepoint Tower (“the full tourist trip” messaged my son).
Here’s a photo of my favourite landmark, North Head; a beer surfside; coffee at our ferry wharf, Neutral Bay.
Photos, photos, photos to cull, to choose from, to select, to arrange on the page.
EMPTY AND DISTANT
I was looking forward to the photobook process. Yet am disappointed to find it somewhat tedious and unfulfilling. It’s a pale reflection of the real thing. I feel a bit empty as I move the pics around. The holiday and its joys now seems distant and remote.
Fragile like a dream. Fading, threadbare. Insubstantial.
IT DON’T CUT THE CHEESE
The photos simply don’t come near the original experience. They don’t cut the cheese.
Hang on a minute… What if I try the mindfulness practice of ‘savoring’, recalling the four dimensional experience of the holiday while I’m working with the 1D photos?
Savoring is a practice that counterpoises the innate negativity bias of the brain. Applied regularly, it reverses the human brain’s evolutionary tilt towards looking out for the bad stuff and getting hooked by negativity, bad news and over-focussing on threats.
Lightbulb moment. I realise that the unsatisfactory nature of the photo collating is due to it happening up here- in my head. I’m expecting mere photos to bring back the original beautiful, heartfelt, real-life lived experience. But the pictures by themselves can’t do that.
Unless I help that happen.
This is where savoring comes in- intentionally revisiting happy experiences with the senses alive.
Once I start to recall the feeling of the holiday, allow the big blue sky to open in my imagination, physically summon the sensations of relaxation, beauty, wonder and awe, the way I felt and experienced it at the time, as well as the colours, smells and sounds, the photo collating comes to life. Satisfaction arrives.
The rationale behind savoring practice is that when we rush past a good experience, we can’t expect it to leave a lasting effect. Indeed, our pleasures rarely leave lasting effects for the very reason that we habitually rush past them!
BUILDS BRAIN TISSUE
However, when we invest a good ten seconds to deeply drink in an experience, let it penetrate and sink into our body and being, it moves into our deeper emotional memory bank. It gives the brain the opportunity to install positive feelings and build fresh new tissue and connectivity, leading to resilience. We build the physical neural basis of inner strength, coping capacity, joy and self-nurture.
SAVORING VERSUS CRAVING
A quick caveat- it’s important to note that savoring is a very different animal to craving. If I were moaning over the photos, regretting the trip is over, wishing helplessly I was back there- that would be craving. And it would be painful!
Craving brings a sense of deficit. Lack. Loss. Savoring, on the other hand, delightedly renews the original experience, bringing with it a bright sense of satisfaction and enough-ness.
Savoring produces a brain pattern that rejuvenates rather than depletes.
SAVORING PAST, PRESENT
After savoring a past event, I think it’s a good idea to quickly find an event in the present moment to savor as well. It can be something as mild and simple as looking out the window at the garden, or appreciating the ability to type on a laptop. I don't want to teach my brain that good things only come in holiday packages! They are all around us, for the taking.
DO IT, DO IT!
Savoring needn’t be limited to a chance activity like collating holiday photos. We can use savoring as a strategy for installing joy in our being, gifting our self endless rewards. We put ourselves in a better position to support not just ourselves and our family, but even our world.
The repercussions of savouring, with its positive effect on mood and emotion, is staggering. Dr. Rick Hanson, a leading proponent of savoring, talks about transforming addiction to consumer culture through this method. It’s just what the planet needs.
Try it out: throughout the day, take 10-20 seconds during or after a positive experience to let it sink in. Tune in to the embodied sense of the good experience. Keep your attention on it so it lasts: don’t jump off onto something else too soon! Sense the experience is soaking into your brain, body and being. Let it register deeply in emotional memory. Keep absorbing it. Enjoy it, linger over it, relish it! Notice how good it feels to savour. Experience its transformative power.
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