The to do list never ends. Family, work, social obligations and more consume our time and energy. Even our “fun” activities can leave us dazed and tired. Yet as a culture, we keep this pace going. I’m as guilty as any for this lifestyle. During my recent vacation, I had to walk my walk and not just talk the talk.
Of course, the week before vacation felt like a whirlwind. I had to tie up many loose ends, prepare the business to be closed for a week and pay bills for both work and home. I had to ensure that we had clean clothes to wear, empty out the refrigerator, throw out all trash so we didn’t come back to a smelly home, pack clothes, all kid essentials and much more. My spouse took care of a host of other things. All of this with two kiddos in tow.
But we did it. Eagerly, we drove up to New York and took a boat ride to an island off the coast of Long Island to spend a week at the beach. The vistas and weather were beautiful. The sun shone brightly and felt inviting. Yet, I found my mind still going, despite my relaxed surroundings.
Habitually, I checked my cell phone for texts, messages and emails – even though I knew I changed all outgoing messages to reflect my absence. I attended to two business issues that I did not get to complete while at home. After that, I had nothing else to do yet I kept thinking about work.
Our minds create their own momentum. Momentum is the product of mass x velocity. Think of a large truck moving at high speed. It cannot just stop. It requires a significant force to slow it down. My constant thoughts about work combined with my on-the-go lifestyle felt like that large truck. I could not easily slow my thoughts down just because I was on vacation. I had to create a resistant force to counter the ruminations.
Once I realized this, I began to take conscious steps to bring my mind to rest. First, I put the phone down and away. I still felt the need to go back to it now and again but the frequency decreased significantly. With our rental home three houses from the beach, I focused on the constant sound of the ocean waves. I sat in the sun and felt it’s warmth on my skin. I read the novel I brought with me or focused on play with my kids. I consciously reached out and held hands with my spouse.
To help me slow down, I focused on sensation. Sensation helped me get out of my head and into my body. The sound of the ocean, the heat of the sun, the touch of my spouse, the joy of laughter with my kids – these began to help me unwind. I finally became fully present to my vacation.
This experience reminded me that being away from our stressors does not necessarily take away our stress. I was physically away from work but mentally still there. While “getting away” certainly has it’s value, true rest has less to do with your surroundings and more to do with your application of mindfulness. I take comfort knowing that I can clear out my internal haste and thought ruminations anywhere (including at work and home) through conscious awareness and focus.
Getting away from my familiar surroundings offered me the opportunity to smell the ocean air, hear the seagulls, see the abundant deer and gaze up at a vast array of stars unobstructed by light. This experience brought me back to nature and grounded me in my spirit. When the week ended, I felt ready to return home – evidence to me that I truly let go while I was away.
If you have the opportunity to get away, go for it, make it happen. But if not, remember that mindfully slowing down over a weekend or a day, or even an hour can have a powerful effect. Make the effort to help your mind and body rest.
As my wise yoga mentor, Rhonda Clarke, says, “Rest is as vital to your health as the the air that you breathe and the food that you eat”.