Recently, my friend and her family travelled from the U.S. to visit us in Switzerland. They saved for two years and booked their tickets one year in advance. For the 12 months leading up to their vacation, all we could talk about was how we were going to spend their annual two weeks of vacation together. Anticipation ran high. My friend’s Facebook page became a New Year’s Eve Times Square count-down; “156 more days!” “One week!” etc…their whole year spent in anticipation of their 14 days vacation. It struck me how common it has become for us to wait to live for the weekends, vacation, retirement (aka, the perceived next moment of bliss).
We’ve become a culture of people waiting for a future moment to fulfill us or longing for a past moment (but I’ll save that for another post). Garfield the cat taught us to dread Mondays and “TGIF” has become a common expression in corporate jargon and even a 1978 film starring Donna Summer (must put this on my list of films to rent).
Like many busy American families, my friend’s family doesn’t eat together, nor explore new things together and they have a few moments of just being with each other while removed from their distractions. The moment my friend and her family arrived and were removed from their daily distractions of stressful jobs, play stations, computers and big screen TVs, their eyes became wide open. They were present and fully aware of their surroundings – like you’d imagine aliens arriving on the planet earth for the first time.
During their vacation, the newness of the surroundings, the sounds of the different languages, the aromas of bakeries and the stench of the metro station were enough to put them into an awakened state and feeling more alive. Gone was the mental chatter of bills to pay, laundry and home repairs. They moved into awareness.
At the end of their vacation, they resolved to cancel their cable subscription, take French lessons and just spend more quality time together. I know how hard it can be to shake things up when we plug back into our normal routines. So, with compassion, I say that this did not come to fruition.
So, how do we bring these moments of heightened awareness, awakened energy and “life” into our daily lives, without having to take a two week, debt-inducing, vacation? First, notice the things that cause you the most distractions. Do you tend to waste time on your computer? Zone out in front of the TV? Throw back a few glasses of wine? Or perhaps all three simultaneously? Without judging or labeling (and creating another layer of suffering for yourself), just notice these moments of wanting to be distracted. You can choose to not do the distracting habit and just notice the wanting or craving and watch it pass. It will pass, I promise. Or, you can choose to do the distracting behaviour, while keeping the state of presence near. For example, if I am really wanting to check my Facebook page (again!) while trying to finish this article, I can choose to do this, but try to be present by noticing my breath or how my body is feeling from time to time. Chances are, the distracting behaviour will pass more quickly. Second, find more moments to actively align yourself in presence. Pick the small things that seem routine. Can you clean your kitchen with presence? Can you drink your tea with presence? Can you shampoo your hair with presence? Find the small things in your daily life that you can turn into opportunities for presence practice.
A vacation is a wonderful way to bring ourselves into heightened awareness and move away from our busy thinking minds, but instead of waiting for that next trip, make a commitment to giving your mind daily mini vacations. Not only is it beneficial for your health, but it’s less expensive, doesn’t require packing, long flights, or even a passport. Bon Voyage!