aching for a break? how to take a vacation when you can’t take a vacation. hint: zen mind and beginner’s mind is big here
April 6, 2011
THE TRAVELLING HIGH Travelling is addicting. I think probably a lot of Joy for Life readers feel this way. I recently read that serotinin—that’s the happy brain chemical—is released when we experience something new. Even receiving new emails is apparently enough to kick it into gear. No wonder we love being on vacation! New-ness around ever corner! Serotonin overload!
This week I realized that I was in desparate need of some new territory, a change of scenery, But I’ve got a feeling that there’ll be some other unplanned trips coming up sometime soonish, and since I’m also saving for India (spoiler alert: I’m 99% confirmed co-hosting a retreat in February 2012 with my friend and mentor Swami Maheshananda Saraswati) and Hawaii I’ve simply gotta save my funds. Since I’m damned if I can’t prove that yoga and other ancient spiritual practices can be useful and helpful in nearly any modern-day situation, I challenged myself to find a way to solve this conundrum using my yogi powers.
THE YOGA HIGH Here’s my solution: mindfulness. Yup, mindfulness. When we travel we’re more mindful. We’re more present. Because when things are new, we don’t skip past them, caught up in the whirl and wind of our monkey mind. Instead, we are fully aware of our surroundings. Which is actually something we teach in mindfulness-based practices: Using our senses is one of the easiest, most effective practices we can adopt to help us drop out of our planning, rehashing, and worrying mind.
So here I am: planted in my regular spot in the café I regularly hang out in that I arrived at the way I always do, strolling down the streets I always walk. BUT, here’s what I did differently. I pretended I was seeing it all for the first time. Okay, I know I sound a bit like a kids’ book writer here (I can’t help it, I’m hoping to get some published.) I know this sounds like something you and I have heard before. But it really hit home. All I did was drop out of my head, all I did was drop into a somewhat light version of zen mind, or beginner’s mind. I stopped letting my mind convince me I knew it all, had seen it all. And the florist shop was bursting with blooms I’d never registered. The linen shop had sheets and duvet covers that were shockingly fresh and new. The Greek bakery offered treats labeled with names I’d never heard of. Signs were written in a language I took time to comprehend.
THE BEGINNER’S MIND VACATION Abracadabra mindfulness shaboom: I am on vacation, baby! Who are all these fascinating people? Check out this group meeting for somebody’s birthday—look at the men’s style: all cardigans and skinny jeans and slouchy toques. And the women! Long-sleeve button-ups with high-waisted pants. They’re kinda preppy in a hipster kind of way in this town. Ooops, I just saw someone I know. How did they get here? Wow, we’re on vacation in the same place at the same time! Okay, that may be taking it a bit far.
The point is it was so simple. And so powerful. Mindfulness is mad! It’s incredible! I’ve just taken a leap of faith out of my mind and into the moment and once again the rewards are endless.
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