I’m feeling the need for some ‘slow train therapy’ right now! (You haven’t heard of it? Not surprising – I’ve only just now invented it). It’s been a busy year, and becoming busier, and as the year draws to it’s end, I’m getting tired. I’m feeling like I’m on the bullet train, speeding through the year, with everything just flashing by in a blur. And I’m a little worried that the train is going to go too fast, fly right off the rails, and it’ll all end up one giant train wreck. Anyone else feeling that?
Playback to just over a year ago, when my husband and I took a day trip on a steam train, up the range to Toowoomba to see the Spring Flower Festival. Early in the morning we gathered with all the other day-trippers on the historic platform at Roma Street Station. There was a great feeling of excitement in the air, with the prospect of a wonderful, leisurely day out ahead of us. As the gorgeous old train pulled in, highly polished and blowing it’s whistle, we were the envy of all the commuters.
Exploring the train was wonderful, with every carriage different. So many little details -decorative panelling, window ledges for vases of flowers, fancy light fittings and fans, lovely upholstery – all built in a time when beauty and craftsmanship had a place, and efficiency and cost were not the only criteria.
The trip took us through the Brisbane suburbs and the beautiful farmland of the Lockyer valley. At many spots along the way, people had gathered to photograph the train, to wave, and to simply enjoy the sight, sounds and smell of the old steam train. Then we began our ascent up the range, through open bushland.
Unfortunately we didn’t ascend very far, before the poor old engines decided that it was all too much, and we came to a shuddering stop! Three hours we waited, until a diesel engine could be sent from Toowoomba to get us to the top.
And no-one cared! it was so pleasant just chilling, enjoying the warm sunshine and the surrounding bushland, chatting to fellow passengers, reading, napping or visiting the refreshment car. We had nowhere else we had to be, nothing we had to do – it was wonderfully relaxing. And when we finally made it to the top, a delicious, albeit very late lunch was ready for us in the beautifully restored station refreshment rooms – as well as a good friend who had waited three hours to see us.
There’s a lot to be said for taking the slow train sometimes. Even when lots of waiting is involved! Compared to the feeling many people have now, with lives so full of activity and speed that everything rushes past in a blur and we can hardly remember what we did yesterday (let alone last week), taking the slow train forces us to take things at a more leisurely pace. There is plenty of time to enjoy the scenery, to relax, to chat to other passengers, to notice small and intricate details, to nap a little, and to dream. I’ll have more of that, please!
So, what does my new ‘slow train therapy’ involve? I haven’t worked out all the details yet, but here’s some starters…
1/ Go ahead and buy the ticket! Before the train wreck happens, take some time for you. The world will not fall apart if you do. Granted, some things may have to be done by someone else, or may not get done at all, but unless they are essential to life, you’ll get by, and so will the rest of the world. And you’ll come back happier, healthier and saner.
2/ Become aware of the landscape through which you’re travelling. Don’t be cocooned in a bullet train, so focussed on the destination that everything else is just a blur. Look around, expand your view. Stop and ask yourself what you are experiencing with your senses, right at this moment. What can you touch, smell, hear, see, taste, feel? As the saying goes, wherever you are, be there.
3/ Turn a pause into a rest-stop. Trains often have to wait – for other trains to pass, for signals to change, for water and coal to be loaded. Instead of fretting at wait spots (supermarket queues, ticket lines, on the phone) we can use the time to take a mini-pause. Or just take one because you can! Try it now. Breathe deep. Close your eyes for a moment. Feel your feet firmly on the ground. Shrug your shoulders up and down. Relax your facial muscles. It’s surprising how tensely we usually hold ourselves, and we don’t realize until we consciously relax the muscles. Give yourself permission to rest deeply in that space.
4/ Appreciate the small details. Like the craftsmen of old, don’t let efficiency be the only thing that determines how you craft your one precious life. Our lives can feel more spacious and a little slower when we focus on the details that make them beautiful as well as efficient. Maybe we want to stop and notice the butterfly, or the sun shining through the frosted glass, or put some flowers or a beautiful picture where we can enjoy them. Remind yourself that these little details matter.
5/ Make the timetable realistic. Don’t fill it up with more than you can do. Have you ever tried writing a ‘to don’t’ list? (This is something else I just invented now). A ‘To don’t’ list looks a lot like your ‘to do’ list, but you go through and cross out at least one thing each day that you are not going to do. More if needed! When it’s manageable by a normal human being (not those superhumans that we imagine everybody else is), then you’re done.
6/ Pull the emergency chain if the train wreck is imminent! Tell the world you are sick, and go to bed for the day. Hide under the covers and sleep or read, or sneak out and walk by the ocean or lie in the shade and watch clouds go by…
PS: What therapy would you invent? We’d love to hear your ideas in the comments below – or write an article about it!