I am not someone who can easily “chill out.”
Productivity feels like the ultimate goal, and it’s often hard for me to set aside time to do something that doesn’t have an attainable end result. This becomes more complicated when I am flooded with anxious thoughts, such as to-do lists, “what if” scenarios, and regrets.
Because of this, it becomes easy to see “hanging out” as a treat. I feel as though spending time with my friends, whether it be over a cup of coffee, trying out a new restaurant, or simply going on a walk, is something that needs to be deserved. It can only come after a long day of work, or upon completion of a large project.
But what if socialization was more therapeutic than it was a privilege? What if in the moments with my friends, I could take a break from plotting out the future and instead focus on the beauty of the now? I recently considered this notion, placed the mental to-do list on the back burner, and gave it a shot. And after adapting this mindset, I can say it was easier than I thought.
When you’re stressed or overwhelmed, some of the best things you can do for yourself is take things one step at a time. This can be difficult when you’re on your own; even during meditation it’s easy for your mind to crawl back to something you have to do, or something you’re regretting. It’s hard to distract yourself without it feeling like wasted time. Socialization, however, might be the cure.
I recently had a day where I felt as though the entire morning was wasted, setting me up for an afternoon of chaotic catching up and fretting over the fact that I didn’t get as much done as I would have liked. By 7 p.m., I was burnt out, struggling with the anxiety, and starting to realize I could no longer produce high quality work with my current state of mind. My friend and I had plans to go try some of Portland’s infamous Thai street food, and I was wondering if I should bail and stay in. That’s how cranky I was.
But I am a woman of my word and Thai food sounded amazing so it was buh-bye computer and hello real world. My friend and I met, sitting under the tea lights with cold water glasses sitting a tropical-print tablecloth. I found the thoughts still swirling in my mind, but then he began to talk.
Drew relayed me his stories of Portland, what he liked about the city, and what it was like to spend a few weeks backpacking. I soaked in every word, relishing the stories. When I wanted to know more, I asked, like a child being told her a brand-new bedtime tale. When he asked me questions, I thought briefly and answered with instinct. Though I was surrounded by so much stimulation, so many things to trigger thoughts, my brain seemed to have taking a nap, leaving my senses in charge of the evening. Within twenty minutes, I was healed.
When we’re alone, it’s easy to disappear into the playland of our head, but with a fellow human, you have something to focus on. You can listen.
In a world that is full of distractions and priorities, it’s easy for us to tune out our buddies and focus on our own selves. But, let’s be real: This isn’t healthy and it sure doesn’t feel good. We don’t need more time obsessing over ourselves, we need one another. We need community and open hearts and the ability to stop thinking about ourselves and relish the gift that is our neighbor.
Satsang is the Sanskirt word that means “gathering together for the truth.” We may all have our definition of truth; I myself have spent a couple of years grappling over what it means. Feel free to take my opinion with a grain of pink Himalayan salt, but I think we are living in truth when we are calmest, most compassionate selves. We are able to enjoy the present because we recognize that the moment is all we have. I like to visualize my truth as the sacred memory of my grandmother, lounging in a fluffy white bathrobe while drinking a glass of champagne and saying, “It’s going to be OK.”
Truth is what is real, what exists. Endless Satsang discusses the relationship between truth and anxiety, saying, “Whenever something increases your experience of the truth, it opens your heart and quiets your mind. Conversely, whenever something, such as a thought, fear, or judgment, limits or narrows your experience of the truth, the heart contracts and the mind gets busier.”
And so when we dine with a friend, absorb her stories, or ask her questions, we are not just living in our truth, but encouraging another to be living in hers. The end result is two people bathing in satsang.
Community is then one of the most important things we can participate in. When we develop a present group discourse, we are inviting our brothers and sisters to hear one another’s words, to share their own thoughts, and to communicate freely and instinctively.
The next time you need to chill out, remember that you may not be the only one. Use this time to connect with a friend, knowing that you are as much a blessing to them as they are to you. Together you will fall into satsang, enjoying mutual truth and the small pleasures of your present moment. And that, my friends, is never wasted time.
Amanda Kohr is a 25-year-old writer and photographer with a penchant for yoga, food, and travel. She prefers to bathe in the moonlight rather than the sun, and enjoys living in a state of the three C’s: cozy, creative, and curious. When she’s not writing, you can find her driving her VW Bug, looking for the next roadside attraction or family diner. She also roams the internet at amandakohr.com.