On a walk during a recent vacation to the beautiful and peaceful northwest, I thought---how beautiful! I walked, and looked, and sat, and smelled and relished. When I reflected on my daily walk at home I realized that really, my walk at home is quite nice too. In fact, some of the people who live here on Bainbridge Island WA, come out to our Washington (DC) for THEIR vacations! So, then what exactly is it about vacations we seek? And instead of desperately waiting for the annual event, might there be a way to sneak “vacation” into our daily, even our minute by minute lives, such that we replenish ourselves more continuously?
Here is a partial list of some of what I seek on vacation:
A sigh of release and deep breath of freshness
No agenda, no pressure to do anything in particular
Savoring food, sights, smells, people, everything
Just the right amount of sun, sky and clouds
Could it be possible throughout a regular day to create a moment for a vacation? On your commute to work by foot, by train by auto---what can you notice you hadn’t noticed before? If you were on vacation and negotiating your way around a bustling Hong Kong, you would think you were on a grand adventure and your eyes would be wide open and your senses primed. What if we allowed ourselves to be fully present like this every day?
Intentionally immersing ourselves in our senses helps turn off the overactive chatter in our minds that cause inner stress. With mindful attention, hear the crickets chirping and the breeze in the trees. Feel the breeze on your arms and the cool or heat or damp of the air, really notice the supple warmth of holding someone's hand. Smell the subtle blooms of summer hovering in the evening air or the dry leaves of autumn. With quiet reflection, See the faded green of the end of summer, the vibrant oranges and reds of autumn. Notice and see life around you, the children jumping in the playground and lovers holding hands, or a beautiful sunset.
Take an extra 5 minutes in the morning, during the day or after work and just stroll down the block or on a path you haven’t taken before. Put your timer on if you must, but even for these 5 minutes----have no agenda but being present. In these minutes, there are no demands except what you wish to do. Look at the sky and the clouds and breathe in deeply. Even while walking from one office to another at work, can you carve out those two minutes to slow down your pace, take a deep breath, and smile and say a cheery hello to a colleague?
The practice for the week: See how you can carve out minute-long mini-vacations! See how many ways you can do those things you cherish and be fully mindful of them.