Really, when was the last time you stopped to watch the world go by, to wonder at the beauty of a sunset, a flower, a bird, another person, yourself? These hand cut metal balloons, by the artist David Kracov, made me stop in my tracks.
My usual way of being is to keep busy, get lots done and play full out.
When asked to speak at a conference in the USA in 2014, I added a few days on to see as much as possible of San Francisco. To 'see as much as possible' meant going at a fast pace and planning where and when.
However, my husband had other ideas and likes to wander - which infuriates me. He ambled into an art gallery and, realising we would be there some time, I took a breath and looked around properly.
The balloons caught my eye and made me smile. The colours fascinated me, how it was made and the feeling of joy that oozed from it. Then I read the artists story behind their creation.
David Kracov, well know in his field, was out driving one day and saw a hot air balloon on the horizon. Normally he would just observe as he drove. This time he stopped, got out of his car and realised there were lots of balloons. He watched them rising and moving across the sky. He finished the story by saying that had he not stopped, he would have missed it all.
As I read the last words tears came to my eyes, I felt a slight tightening of my chest and a lump in my throat - all very alien feelings for me. The balloons and David's words really hit home.
How much was I missing out on by rushing around, failing to enjoy the moment? How much was I fooling myself that packing lots in meant I was having it all and living the dream? I saw in that moment that I was fooling no one but myself. I needed to stop occasionally, enjoy the here and now and live more in the present rather than always focussing on tomorrow, next week, next year.
Needless to say, the rest of our time in San Francisco was different and I actually saw far more than I would have done had I not stopped or slowed down.
The balloons stayed with me, as did the lesson behind them. A couple of years ago my daughter arranged a balloon flight for me in Taunton, which was magical. This year my husband bought me a flight for my birthday.
On Thursday, as we lifted off from Canterbury, and were about to fly over the Cathedral (apparently something not often done), the pilot suddenly said 'look geese'. Sure enough there was a small flock flying in formation. A rare sight according to the pilot. I was thrilled - Wildgeese Leadership has pictures of geese and balloons for a reason!
We were meant to have flown on Monday but the weather got in the way. Thursday wasn’t really convenient for me and so, whilst excited, I was in a a rush and had to focus on being present. But, in the hot air balloon rising up above the historic buildings, geese flying overhead and my husband next to me I realised how blessed I was in that very moment. I felt two reminders had come together for me.
It is not only beneficial for our health and wellbeing to stop more, it is also an opportunity to count our blessings, and recognise something that we may otherwise have missed.