Thich Nhat Hanh discusses throughout his works that we can achieve peace in the world though the practice of mindfulness and achieving peace within ourselves. It is often, he says, about planting the right seeds at the right moment.
I’m currently on an island off the coast of MA where my family and I go every summer looking to get some of that R&R we all cherish. We are just settling into our cabin and shaking off some of the grind that comes with making a long trip and just settling in. It’s funny that no matter how intelligent we all get about “things” no one can be totally free of the stressors of everyday life all the time. I remember writing a line something like that at the very beginning of my new book, Body Intelligence – Harness Your Body’s Energies for Your Best Life. That wouldn’t it be nice to feel spot on 24-7? But who could do that? However, maybe we can get better at getting into that kind of great flow during the important moments of our daily living as well as when we just need or want to.
As I write this post, I realize that when I say “settling in,” the further implication is that I (we) are all “currently” (electrochemically) still somewhat unsettled. And this is a very good thing as long as you don’t let it get to you – as in: as long you ride the wave back to a balanced state.
In my last post, we were talking about how some of those things we all do during the evening hours – during what is supposed to be our “off time” – that affect the way we experience our physical and psychic energy in the morning and throughout the next day.
Getaways, vacations, even daytrips, as well as providing that good R&R we all love, can also help shake you up some by zapping you out of your usual energy patterns – some of which may be traps that drain your higher quality energy resources on a regular basis, throughout your day.
Bear with me for a moment. Getting away, vacationing, can be seen in a similar light to the philosophy behind the architecture of cathedrals. This sounds kind of a stretch and I know this is supposed to be about getaways but I love the story and I think you might like it too.
Traditionally cathedrals provided people with a plethora of sensory experiences ideally intended to alter your consciousness (mind). So part of their purpose is to energetically generate a mind-altering experience – for the better. When you think about it, before you even enter a cathedral, you are visually experiencing detail that is for most of us unusual: flying buttresses, gargoyles, strange symbology, and lots and lots of stone. Then you enter and the idea is that every one of your senses is swept away from the typical daily routine. I’d love to take you through all this sensory detail step-by-step but I’ll leave that for you to check out. Can’t help, however, mentioning the magnitude, artwork, sounds, and even the scent of all that stone and the patches of stained glass light shimmering throughout. You can imagine the rest.
A major reason cathedrals were created this way is that they were supposed to be pretty foolproof in their capability to zap your mind out of the grind, so to speak, and into a more relaxed yet energized place where body, mind, and spirit can unify and you can be more present to the moment. The effect – at least as far as the cathedral was concerned – was usually temporary and you’d need another energy transfusion when it started running low. I wonder how this experience would have been different had the original architects had access to some of today’s technologies for bottling up that energy and dosing it out when needed throughout the week.
The cathedral is one place and its experience one ritual. There are many, many world traditions all over the planet and have been throughout history that show we have had this similar need no matter where we as humans have lived/do live in place or time.
By understanding some of holism behind all this we can enhance the energetic effects, something most of us would like to do.
So back to the island – or any getaway or vacation spot. In many ways, a good hiatus will “unsettle” you and work you back to a balanced state.
I love how much you can discover about those things that imbalance you when you are in this state. I mean can you say “cravings?” These cravings can tell you a lot. Do you crave silence, more community, philosophical or intimate conversation, tranquility, more action? Why do you crave what you crave? How do these make you feel when you now experience them? Consider how you feel physically and also (importantly) psychologically about yourself and spiritually (I use this term nondenominationally). This info illuminates how you feel when you don’t have them (these things you crave, I mean) and so you can consider what that tells you.
So you (I as well) can find energy areas where you are deficient and energetic “things” to deliver. You do have to watch for over compensation – taking some things too far. So for me I think of Universal Values, the Universal Principle of Yin-Yang and weighing those into the mix of trying to cultivate that energy that can potentially bring more balance into my life and trying to help those around me do the same.
On the island here the energy of the ocean is amazing. I try to take it in, like a cathedral experience, and “bottle it up” in memory to last months (could be done to last a year).
But breaking the normal patterns that govern my daily life gives me real opportunity to see what effects those patterns have – both the positive and negative. I also get a chance to develop new energy patterns.
This year we began our first morning here making a family breakfast recipe that the children’s great, great grandmother used to make. We made it together, slowly, taking our time to make it and to also go through the family narrative of where the recipe came from – names, places etc. This created a wonderful bonding energy among us all that calmed and excited the children and my wife and me too. There is some very interesting science behind using food this way to train the mind. In some ways it can work similar to music to help create new pathologies. And it can have incredible staying power, especially by generating it into a new memory.
This year we have already done two family meditations on the themes of energy: our connection to breath, the environment, each other, others, and our personal and human family now, in the past and into the future. We used a wonderful Thich Nhat Hanh CD for a children’s version of this concept, and we also used one of our own. We also emphasized a meditation on the subject “energy continuance” via the energy we transfer and share with to each other in our family – this is where the family recipe comes in and our great, great grandmother – not philosophically but physically – providing us each with nutrition and transforming us with physical, psychological, and spiritual energy to go out and experience things including other people and “continuing” her energy into their experiences – as John Lennon would say: Instant Karma … “on and on and on.” This gave my family an intimate, tribal, yet extended to everyone else, greater appreciation for the energy – the food – of life. On a personal note, these meditations have enhanced our own energy and presence.
There is so much more…hard to believe we have been here just a couple of days.
So here we are with all the water and ourselves, we are/will be finding more new ways to gather and share the good energies and make patterns out of them we can bring back home as new energy patterns for ourselves. All things to look forward to.
Then there will be this year’s memories we can “bottle up” internally and on our technologies and creatively too – one of my children is making a poster right now as I write this and my other child is doing drawings in her sketchbook.
This morning it is my hope that during this stint we can expose more of the patterns that trigger our anxieties and block us from flowing with the best of our lives and that we discover new patterns that will deliver finer days and help us contribute more to our world as well as evolve us some. It doesn’t take much to identify these. Body awareness and mindfulness.
All these energies will nurture each of us separately, as a group, will transform each of us consciously and/or unconsciously as well as the other person, and will “continue” beyond now to fall and winter etc. and beyond the family to those we touch and then those others will touch and beyond this time like great, great grandma’s breakfast recipe and its story.
I’m sure everything won’t be perfect – we’ll have some turbulence – but I have the attitude that this is like a bad moment in the dojo: you get tagged once or twice, maybe wind up flat on the mats, but you figure out what technique failed you, come up with a more effective one, and wind up victorious the next time you see a similar strike coming at you. Enjoy.