In my last blog, I was on my way to Philadelphia to speak at a national conference. But what was perhaps most important about the conference was the promise I made to my Self and to all of you: to work hard to remain in a vacation state of mind, long after the actual vacation ends.
In other words, how can I maintain a state of blissful, calm, reflective, meditation - despite no longer being in a meditation cave, beautiful cathedral, temple, or place in nature conducive to clarity of vision and thought?
For those of you who might not have read "How To Stay On A Permanent Vacation," you might want to read it first. Here it is.
So did I keep my promise? Yes, I did. Practicing this mantra - "I will remain in a vacation state of mind," has helped me remain in that grateful state.
How does it work? Well here is an overview of my Philly attempt:
- My first flight of the day, at 7:20 AM, was uneventful - it took off on time and arrived early (actually!). The flight attendant was happy to be there, which definitely bolstered my "attitude of gratitude." I told him so when I deplaned (thanks for being so positive and upbeat!) to which he responded, "thank you, you don't know how much that means." Wow, I thought to myself. This "vacation state of mind" is working wonders.
- Then came the connecting flight. Delayed. Two and a half hours. Ugh. What to do? I did not want to risk missing my own presentation (vacation). But, instead of getting stressed, I relaxed. I happily informed my mind, body, and soul that it did not matter that my flight was delayed. I had plenty of time. In fact, that's all I had was time. There was no reason to rush. So, I didn't rush OR stress. I appreciated the extra time to relax, which I also used to prepare final comments for my presentation for the Philadelphia conference.
- I did (finally) get to Philadelphia. I was able to take it all in stride - from the not so stellar hotel room in the less desirable (safe) location to the last minute changes to my presentation to the video production company that was making a live DVD out of my presentation to the anticipation of a job well done. Not to mention the heartache and difficulty that naturally arises when you leave your young family (two toddlers) behind so often to "work." Ahh - that struggle of balancing personal and professional life. That last one is enough difficult to tear down anyone's state of equanimity.
- However, I persisted. I was, after all, doing this for the good of my family and my profession. In fact, the morning of my presentation, at 5:45 AM, the speaker ready room attendant remarked at how bright eyed and positive I was (for that time of day). I guessed my "vacation state of mind" was rubbing off on all those around me.
- Mission accomplished, I told myself. The presentation was well received and attendance was full, standing room only. My journey home was safe and uneventful, and most of all, my contentment did not diminish while I was gone, despite several stellar opportunities for it to be derailed. I had successfully kept my vacation state of mind.
What is the take home message?
You. Can. Do. It. Too.
How To Stay on A Permanent Vacation:
- Don't confuse the impermanent for permanent.
Problem: Your plane is delayed. Again.
Vacation State of Mind Answer: I remind myself in this situation that whether or not my plane leaves on time for a business or vacation destination ultimately has no eternal value.
All ancient religious and spiritual texts of this world agree on this point. Suffering comes from mistaking the temporal for the eternal. During your next stressful situation, ask yourself if the outcome will matter in a year, 5 years, 10 years, and ultimately, eternally. If not - there is no reason to stress over it. Let it go.
- Focus on the permanent.
My 3 year old found me in my office early one morning last year. I was (as usual) feverishly working trying to empty my inbox in the wee hours of the morning (or night?) before he and his brother awoke. He knew where to find me that morning though, like all others. He put his tiny arms on my desk and leaned into me and said, "mommy you wuk (work) too much."
Oh, was I ever convicted. If my son recognizes the signs of "workaholism" at a mere 3 years old, something must change. If he feels neglected or rejected because I am absent too often for work - then I have affected his soul. And a soul has eternal, permanent value. I needed a reordering of priorities, and quick. It is way too easy for all of us, living in this break neck paced world, to get sidetracked and focus on the things which have no permanent value.
Vacation State of Mind Answer: Stop it. Stop working so much.
Make an active decision to be different than everyone else. Americans suffer from more chronic disease than any other industrialized nation. Add to that insult we have the longest work week, the least amount of paid vacation and a maternity leave policy that rivals third world countries. Think there's a connection?
We can change. We can heal our country, our families, and our Self if we choose to work smarter, not longer or harder.
Start by only taking on projects with eternal value or meaning. I am now in the (hard-core and difficult) process of making that seismic shift in work ethic. Yes, it may mean (but not always!) reduced income and learning how to say "No" to people and opportunities.
I am a health care "healer" by profession. A physical therapist, a professional yoga therapist and educator, and a performance artist (music heals perhaps better than PT or yoga!). But as a healer, I have recognized that I am not doing the most permanent good on earth if I am healing others at the expense of my family's (and my own) health. Be the change you want to see, and do it today, in the words of Gandhi.
- Act (and react) Positively.
Problem: Drivers with road rage who won't let you merge, rude clerks (or airline attendants!) who offer poor customer service, children (or adults!) who bully others, coworkers with self-centered ambition, friends or family who have lost their sense of priority in life or have self destructive behaviors...the list goes on. Of course you must realize that these people are not just OTHER people, they are also YOU.
Vacation State of Mind Solution: Choose the proverbial "high road" in stressful situations. It is not just how we act, but also what we say that matters. Both your words and deeds will echo through eternity, to borrow from the words of Russell Crowe in the film Gladiator.
Choose to act and react positively. If you know you have "volcanic tendencies" when pushed into a corner - take a more proactive approach. When stress is "in your face," take 5 (or at least 1!) long, deep breaths before you act.
Think back in your life to hurtful words from others which have settled into your soul like a damaging, deep scar. You don't want to perpetuate those words.
Act wisely by being slow to act and speak. Breathing is key. Poor breathing habits amp up your nervous system, causing the "fight, flight, or freeze" process to take over. Here's a free breathe practice - to get you started on your permanent vacation.
*Second photo: Visiting the Liberty Bell, cognizant of its importance, what it represents, and how it can all help us on our path to peace and self-liberation.