The operative word here is OFF…turn off your iPhone, agendas, social media, broadcast news, ambition and the non-stop chatter of your mind. In an over stimulated & over connected world, turning it all off may seem more like work than vacation. But, once you set the intention and embrace the challenge, you’ll be rewarded with a softer, subtler, more expansive awareness that, otherwise, you miss.
On vacation, you have the time and space to appreciate the simple joy of being alive. For many people, it’s easier to transit from busyness to being-ness when away from the crowd and out in nature. Here, after a couple of days, it just feels normal to get up with the sun, eat when hungry, sleep when tired, and notice the coming/ going of weather. Body, breath, and the play of light on leaves, the sound of bird song, and the touch of a breeze is the context. The moment to moment experience is the content. When you’re in the flow it’s deeply relaxing; when you’re not, it’s obvious.
My idea of time off isn’t about accomplishing anything. It’s about enjoying what is- the day unfolding, a good meal, an intimate touch, a good laugh. There’s no strict agenda. Even, in the midst of being-here-now, my mind slips in and carries me away… even from the most sensual pleasure. Or, listening to the song of a meadow lark, my hand unconsciously reaches for the mobile to check email or online news. Instead of judging or analyzing, I just notice with amusement.
Let’s face it, in comparison to an over busy, stress laden, adrenalin pumped life, the slower, quieter pace may seem a little boring at first. But, I know from past experience that the momentary discomfort renders tangible rewards. Here are a few:
· A boost of healing energy to help you recover faster from illness/ injury, boost your immune system, and lower your blood pressure.
· Improvement in mood/ ability to focus
· Feeling vitality and sleeping better
· Access to insight/ intuition and spiritual awareness
· A deeper sense of connection to all life.
No matter where you vacation this summer, take some time off to be in nature and be with yourself for a change. Even though it seems you spend every minute of every day with yourself, you really don’t. In truth, you’re mostly somewhere else- thinking, imagining, figuring, worrying, and consuming. Strange as it may sound, being with yourself may be a new and uncertain experience. In my work as a retreat facilitator, I used the following exercises to bridge the gap and help people get there and be there- often for the first time.
Simple sitting…Find a spot outdoors where you can sit comfortably for a bit of time. Start modestly with 5 minutes and build your tolerance for more. Tune in to your body and soften the tension. You don’t need to name it or analyze it, just loosen it up with a bit of movement or breath. Be aware of your senses and watch/ listen to what’s around you. Be in the flow of one sensation to the next without interpreting. Quiet your being and listen to the cadence of life around you. Feel your place in the mix and the space beyond. Linger here in sync with nature for one more birdsong, one more breath.
If your busy mind needs something to do, ask it to simply observe the sensual experience! Notice without naming the chorus of birdsong serenading from the canopy overhead, the freshness of the air after a storm, the smell the sweet perfume of mountain lilac. The intensity of your schedule and obligations mean nothing in this place. Richard Louv, author of The Nature Principle, states that spending time in nature gives us a dose of the wellness elixir- vitamin N. Can you feel it?
Walking by yourself gives you the opportunity to be in your experience without being pulled into conversation or relationship. As you walk along, center your awareness on the natural motion of your legs and arms, your feet on the ground, and your body swaying slightly- the “poetry of motion”. Calibrate the length of your stride and swing of your arms to your body’s structure and design. Find a breathing rhythm that feels easy. As you move forward, let your eyes and ears and senses take in the impressions of the world going by. Notice the configuration of the landscape and all the life therein without naming or analyzing. Simply be with your living/moving body and the life/ pulse of this place.
If your mind wanders off on another path, bring it back to your senses and the movement of your body/ connection to place. You are here, now. This is all there is and you are an integral part. Do this for twenty steps or twenty minutes. Aligning your body with the cadence of the natural world creates a baseline for relaxation. It’s the speed your body knows in its primitive core. In the words of Yoshifumi Miyazaki, Japan’s leading scholar on “forest bathing”: “Humans have lived in nature for 3 million years, We are made to fit a natural environment … when we are exposed to nature, our bodies go back to how they should be.” Can you feel it?
Join me this summer and arrange a chunk of time off to replenish your reserves and reorder your priorities. If a twenty-minute break has a positive effect on energy, intuition, creativity, and sense of wellbeing, imagine what a week or two will do! And, please write to let me know how it goes [email protected].
“A Guide to Body Wisdom is a vital resource for people who hope to live a balanced life and to feel fully alive.”
Richard Louv, author of The Nature Principle and Vitamin N