In summertime we are reminded of childhood vacations: no school, playing in the yard, games with friends, nature, camp...... or maybe not. As adults, we may still be the people who take summer vacations, packing up the kids and going to the beach... or single, off with friends... or lone adventurers tackling the mystery of travel. We may be those folks who travel to concerts, tribal gatherings, go to high school or college reunions, and otherwise celebrate the season.
For those in the middle class, these themes are likely quite familiar. It's important to note, however, that there are large segments of our society (and certainly of every other society) that don't think this way, don't have this experience, can't contemplate VACATION as a viable concept.
For every adult who struggles daily to put food on the table, summer is just another time of year to work hard. For every child whose parents just get by, summertime is a time to help the family out. For many families, on the Gulf coast, in impoverished areas, where jobs have been hit hard, belts are tightening, food is lessening, work is dwindling and risks are increasing. And, truth be told, these folks are the larger proportion of people in this world. Even the middle class has been hit hard enough that vacations start to be less frequent, less likely or just plain impossible. Thus the new popularized concept of "Stay-cation", a nice way to say We can't afford a vacation!
So, what the heck is a vacation all about anyway? If we move beyond the most superficial (and sometimes most obscene) level of vacations, we touch a place that each and every one of us is invited to visit. Often the biggest, most elaborate, expensive vacations miss this piece. The pictures we may bring back -even the memories-from Disney World or Europe or trekking the Himalayas, may be precious, but if we missed the piece where we settled into our own skin, breathed slowly and deeply, and saw other human beings as kindred spirits, then we missed the real vacation.
And luckily for all of us, this is a vacation we can afford to take. In fact, it is a vacation we can't afford NOT to take. This is the vacation from the busy mind, from anxiety, from the illusion that the "real world" is all there is. This is an escape from the dominant paradigm, the eternal search for a "better" life, the call of bills and "shoulds" and constant internal dialogue. It is the trip to Quietville: a small 3 pound town (our brain) in a perfectly unique state (our body) in an infinitely large, unfathomably big country (our Universe). And this vacation is at a spa with all the treatments included.
The treatments are more essential than mud baths, massages and facials. These are the treatments that keep us alive, in the deepest way. They include kindness to self and others, acceptance, forgiveness, play, spontaneity, love and the will to be who we are meant to be. This vacation takes only a minute to get to and we can visit over and over. It is simpler than we think. While we see many invitations to train, to study, to meditate, to do therapy...(and all of these are important, when the time is right), they aren't the only way to get to your destination. We can also do it simply. Most of us will likely never learn to live there, in Quietville, but all of us can visit and the more often we visit, the longer we can stay.
How do we take this vacation? You already know more than anyone else can about your path to this destination. It is the Call of Self, the still quiet voice, the softened heart, the kind world, the momentary pause to see a flower, a child, another Soul walking through their own world. It is hard work, done for a purpose. It is love felt and expressed. It is the choices we make for a better world for all. It is the smile we share, the hand we reach out, the firmness of our step as we move towards our own truth.
Summertime's a great time to visit your Self. And when you return to the workaday world, the too-fast, 24/7 world, bring home a souvenir to remember your trip. Here are a few ideas of souvenirs that may remind you of your wonderful vacation... and they cost nothing... and leave no carbon footprint.
- Wake up and take a moment to feel gratitude for someone or something. Include yourself in the list of people for whom you are grateful.
- Take one minute to breathe before you get into your day.
- Follow the impulse you have to do something different, even for a few minutes.
- Always trust your Self when you have the urge to reach out to someone who is in need.
- Find things that make you laugh... and then laugh.
There are a million ways to vacation, a million ways to find the peace or adventure that a vacation promises. All of them are right here, right now. Have a great summer!