April 29, 2011

To Heck With A Souvenir! I Want To Stay On Vacation!

If That’s Not Possible, Read On To Learn How To Bring A Vacation State Of Mind Home With You.

What is it about going on vacation that cleans your slate so thoroughly? My family and I are settling back in from spending the kids’ spring break on the beach in Florida. The difference in the energy around here is remarkable. In the weeks leading up to our trip, we were all dragging. It was difficult to get the kids motivated to practice their music and go to their games. It was impossible to get them to do their homework. My husband was having trouble getting himself out of bed at his normal wake-up time. I was feeling it too. Even teaching yoga classes was beginning to feel a lot more like work than it ever does.

This week, however, we’re all shining a lot brighter. The kids are smiling. They’re zipping (OK, they’re doing) through their homework. They’re excited to go to their lessons and sports. Mornings around here are peppier and evenings are notably nicer. I can’t speak for my husband, but I couldn’t wait to get back to my classes this week. While absolutely fabulous, it’s hard to believe warm weather, bright sunshine and turquoise blue waters could be the sole cause of shift as dramatic as this. There must be something more going on. Something we could return to when our energy flags again.

Which leads me back to my opening question. What is it about going on vacation?

I think there are a few things going on. Obviously, one is the change of location. When we go on vacation, we literally step out of our home and into a new place. When we arrived in Florida, this was immediately evident. There are simply no palm trees where we live in Pennsylvania. Nor do we have flocks of pelicans or manatees in our backyard. On vacation, it seemed like everything surrounding us was something to see, something to point out, something to capture our attention. When you’re paying this much attention to everything around you, you are truly in the moment.

Not only do we step into a new place on vacation, but we also step out of the rhythms of our daily life. Personally, when I’m at home, my days tend to be pretty structured. The classes I teach provide the skeleton for my days. I work in time to write, practice, cook, shuttle the kids around, and see my friends around this framework. Upon reflection, I think the structure gives me a degree of comfort that what needs to get done each day will get done.

When I’m on vacation, without my class schedule or even much of a “To Do” list, it is much easier to go with the flow. I take my watch off, freeing myself from that little tyrant. I go to bed early if I’m tired. I stay up late if I’m having fun. Letting my days unfold as they will feels good. A day without “have-to’s” and “shoulds” is softer and easier.

Days lived in this easy-going way both create and require a “vacation” mindset. A beautiful location, fun activities, and fewer demands can certainly inspire us to let go and relax into our days. All the same, we still have to decide to shift gears. We still have to choose to allow each day to unfold. We may even have to resist the impulse to add structure to our vacation days. (“So much fun to be had, so little time!” barks my inner drill sergeant.) While it can take some effort, once made, the choice to relax into our vacation is not typically a hard one to maintain.

As I returned to my regularly scheduled life, I realized that practicing yoga is actually a great way to recreate some of the sense of being on vacation. When we step onto our yoga mats, we step out of our daily life and into a new “place.” Rather than allowing our surroundings to capture our attention, we turn our awareness inward. We get absorbed in the physical sensations of the postures. We notice our feelings, our energy, and our thoughts with the same keen attention to detail we gave to the scenery on vacation.

We leave the rhythms of our day behind when we step onto our yoga mat. When we set aside time for practice, we are, in essence, setting aside “vacation” time. We are creating time away from “have-to’s” and “shoulds.” We are giving ourselves a little space from the demands of life. When we sit up from savasana and roll up our mats (in other words, when we come home), we find we’re shining a little brighter. Just as my family’s energy shifted after our trip, after practicing yoga, we find our energy, enthusiasm and creativity restored.

This week I’ve deliberately tried to hold onto some vacation “habits.” I’m allowing the blooming trees and flowers everywhere I look to capture my attention. This is a nice reminder of how good it is to stay focused and aware. While there was nothing I could do about the re-birth of my “To-Do” list and the fact that my class schedule (and my watch) are again dictating my comings and goings, I’m trying to allow the in-between times to unfold as they will. While day-to-day life will never be as easy-breezy as a day at the beach, it turns out that, with a little effort, it is possible to bring a little of that vacation state of mind home with you.

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Amy Nobles Dolan  |  Contribution: 9,100