To follow on the theme of the
, this bench reminds me of taking the time to stop for even just a few minutes. I often feel that through my formal education (academic and professional), I've never been taught to stop and think. I've never been told that when a problem or a situation happens, I don't have to react straight away. I've never been taught that not only it's acceptable to take the time to think, but most often it gives the best results.
I've always been pushed to do more and faster. Increasing productivity and profitability seemed to be the most important things in life, and I put all my attention into being as productive as possible. For a good couple of years, I worked easily 70 hours a week and rarely took any holidays because I was running my own business. I had to do as much as possible with the little time I had... and great things have come out of this frantic lifestyle: I gave my first training to middle managers of a multinational corporation by age 19 (Tata Consultancy Service), I started doing executive coaching by the age of 20, I've invested in a tech start-up, I was the first person I knew to be invited to give a TEDx talk, then a year later to give a second one (
watch them here
), I had published my first book by age 25 and I could list more of these "bragging statements".
All these achievements have earned me the approval of "serious people". I subconsciously hoped that by achieving all these, I would feel more confident, earn enough money to be independant from others' judgements and that I would have gained the freedom to do what I wanted to do without facing critics and nay-sayers.
One of the most profound experiences this year involved living in the country side and joining a silent meditation retreat. I had wanted to take some time to myself for a long time, but never found the time to do it (ironic, isn't it?!). I had done meditation since the age of 15 but never thought a retreat like that was for me: it had to be for "serious" meditators, not wannabes' like me.
I finally took 10 days for this Vipassana retreat. I can't believe it's not something we all do in school because I realized it was actually the first time in my life that I had spent 10 days with myself. For 10 days, I didn't talk to anyone, I didn't have any responsibilities nor duties others than be with myself. I discovered that I had spent a whole life living for others... and this photo taken in Brussels reminds me of the beauty of a bench: the opportunity to stop, sit and breathe.
If you don't have the time to stop, sit and breathe, it may be the sign you need it.