“Summertime, and the livin’s easy.” ~ Sublime
Or at least it used to be. Lately it seems like everything is well, busy—all the time. Summer used to mean lazy afternoons, pool days and barbecues. Now however, there’s always too much to do to even consider a lazy afternoon. Whenever I have some downtime I have an overwhelming need to fill it, because whatever needs to get done isn’t going to do itself.
I realized how out of balance I was over Memorial Day weekend, when I went to visit some friends in Arizona. On Sunday afternoon I found myself floating in my friend’s backyard pool with sangria in one hand and a magazine in the other.
Oh yeah. This is what it’s like to play.
Once I was away from my responsibilities and my laundry, I was finally able to relax without guilt and to live in the moments as they came, without worry. Without the monotony of my day-to-day routine and the distraction of my to-do lists, I was one happy lady.
But that’s something I would never do at home—have a cocktail before 5 p.m., or spend a Sunday reading magazines—especially when there is so much to get done.
But vacation allows us the opportunity to do what we feel like—to follow our hearts—rather than our brains. It has a way of jolting us into the present moment.
More importantly, vacation allows us the opportunity to have what Zen Buddhism calls “Beginner’s Mind.”
Beginner’s Mind is that quality of mind that is awake and open to new possibilities. It’s the opposite of habit, monotony and our day-to-day routines.
When we do the same things over and over we lose something. We become closed to new moments, new opportunities and new ways of seeing the world. Our minds shrink and deaden. But according to Shunryu Suzuki, “If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything; it is open to everything.”
Some of us have ways in which we “empty our minds.” It could be yoga, meditation, cooking, running or gardening.
But what do you do when your trusted method stops working, or you’re just not able to connect to the present moment?
Vacationing, or “getting away from it all” can help. It reminds us to be here now. It snaps us out of our daily trance. It’s a change of routine, scenery, people and food. When we leave our familiar surroundings, we see the world and ourselves in new ways. This helps wake us up.
But what if travel isn’t available to us? For many it’s not—financially or otherwise. Instead, we can work to bring a vacation state of mind to our everyday routines.
Travel and vacation help jolt us into the present moment because they take away the familiar—the things we take for granted every day, our comfort zones.
So incorporating small changes into our lives can help bring about this state of mind. Whether that’s leaving the laundry for next weekend or trying a new restaurant, mixing things up can help us see things differently.
It’s also helpful to think about the things you love about vacation and work on incorporating them into the everyday. Ask yourself what it is that frees you up on vacation and work on finding ways to include it your life. Is it not worrying about your diet? Having more time to read? Leaving the Internet behind?
The big one for many of us is spending more time in leisure and play.
As kids we spend most of our time playing, then somewhere along the line the balance shifts, and we find ourselves mostly working. As adults it’s easy to feel guilty when we play.
You might be one of the lucky ones who thinks their work is play. But if you’re like many of us, your work isn’t much fun at all. Or maybe you’ve found work that is fun, but haven’t found a way to pay the bills with it yet.
That’s why we allow ourselves breaks, vacations—ways to leave the monotony behind. There, we find new moments full of possibility.
The point is to do something different. Without change we are stagnant. And stagnant does not leave room for the empty mind that is open to everything—the one Suzuki was talking about.
Here are some other ways to bring vacation to the everyday:
Eat outside more often.
Take a walk. Don’t bring your phone or iPod.
Try new foods.
Talk to strangers.
Try a new hobby.
Get away from your things.
Unplug—from TV, cell phones, etc.
Spend one day not worrying about what you eat or drink.
Drive a different way to work.
Listen to music.
Take a bath.
Go on a picnic.
Play a board game.
Browse a bookstore.
Take a hike.
Take a day trip somewhere new.
Spend a night in a hotel.
Connect with nature.
Bonus: More on Beginner’s Mind.
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Ed: Brianna Bemel