It's a treasured tradition to take some time off during the summer. Whether a long weekend or an extended vacation, you probably have some days marked off over the next three months. Getting a break from work is something you look forward to and need. But, to be honest, did your plans last year pan out? Was the promise of time to recharge and decompress fulfilled? Did you get a real vacation or just time away from the work place? It's not just you. We all wonder what happened to those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer.
In the past twenty years, the convenience and appeal of digital technology has changed the way we take time off. It's not unusual for people to telecommute or remain on call even during their vacation. You've probably stumbled upon this scenario (if not been a primary suspect yourself): Surrounded by breathtaking beauty, you turn the corner on a mountain trail to hear the animated conversation of a fellow vacationer- gripping a smart phone, body tense, voice contracted, attention riveted and ...totally missing the point of being away! A real vacation isn't about dovetailing work-play-rest.
Derived from the Latin word 'vacatio' meaning to be exempt or free, taking a vacation implies getting away from the activities of work & study. It's a time to leave behind the intensity and demands of your busy-ness. It's an opportunity to attend to your body-self. It's an invitation to do something different- pursue a hobby, travel, have an adventure, hang out with loved ones, and be creative without needing to be productive. It's a chance to experience unstructured time and open-ended rest. Unfortunately, the pervasive state of over-connectivity can undermine the best intentions to get away from it all. As Arianna Huffington laments in her book Thrive, with "the ever-increasing creep of technology into our lives, our families, our bedrooms, our brains- it's much harder to renew ourselves."
Perhaps this year, you can set it up to take a real vacation-a break from work that is both meaningful and replenishing. It's not so complicated or difficult. All you need to do is let your digitally driven, over-connected mental state give way to the ebb & flow of the natural world. You could go camping or find a cabin in the woods. I often go to a friend's "ohana" guesthouse in Hawaii where nature is huge and omnipresent. But, the backyard or a park will do. Being in synch with the natural world helps you hear the nuances of inner truth and connect the dots between body & soul. Here are some suggestions to help you design your real vacation:
• Be physical. Your body is nature. If you listen, it will tell you when to rest, when to move, when to eat and how much. It can show you where you're tense and how you're feeling. It knows how to relax and when to emote. Just get real with your body.
• Be outdoors. Find a space & place surrounded by nature to distance your self from human concerns. Slow down and orient your awareness to the pulse and flow of nature. Get real with your connection to all life.
• Pursue recreation (play, re-creation) and relationships that naturally celebrate the joy of being alive. Get real with what brings you pleasure.
• Quiet your mind. Limit phone use to once a day. Listen to a deeper wisdom. Observe your body, soul, and all life as natural phenomena. Get real with spirit.
Dropping down to a slower, nature-centered pace may land you way out of your comfort zone. Just notice this and breathe. Let go of the nagging feeling that you're slacking, missing out, left out. Move beyond the assumption that doing nothing is boring. Find the magic in the simplicity of the moment. Observe the face of a person you love, feel your heart beat, hear the crickets, be in the flow. Let restoration be your big activity of the day. In the words of 19th century philosopher Sir John Lubbock: "Rest is not idleness, and to lie on the grass under trees on a summer's day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time."
Being in nature makes it so apparent that you are much more than work or social activity. Leaving the predictability of work life and taking time away to slow down can be a link to the wisdom of the gurus. Indeed, you just might get a glimpse of your spiritual being having a human experience. No matter what else you do this summer, carve out some time to slip away for a bit and find the place where your mind quiets down and your body aligns with spirit. As author Thomas Moore says in his book Care of the Soul: " It is important to be taken out of the rush of practical life for the contemplation of timeless and eternal realities."
This summer, I hope you'll find the peace that comes when body, mind, and spirit are in harmony with the natural world. Although it can't be posted on Facebook, this is a real vacation.