This is my view right now, as I sit sipping coffee in the Cayman islands.
I love vacation, and I’ve noticed that my mindfulness practice is helping me enjoy this one to the fullest.
I’ve been keeping up with the Headspace app, which means that most days, I sit down for 10 minutes and meditate. The guided meditation has me practicing specific mental exercises. I focus and extend my awareness of sounds in the room. I scan my body slowly from head to toe, intently noticing how I’m feeling. I pause to reflect on my underlying emotional state.
Then I focus on the breath, practicing letting thoughts come and go without resistance and without following them. Gently bringing my attention back to the breath as soon as I notice I’ve been distracted. Being aware of the thoughts but not judging them, just noticing them and returning to my focus on the breath as soon as possible.
These skills have all translated to an increased ability to enjoy this vacation.
I’m less distracted. More aware of my surroundings. Able to focus more intently on the feeling of my feet in the sand, the warm breeze, the impeccable view.
I can more easily let go of thoughts that would distract me from enjoyment of the present moment. Out on the paddle board, I can let go of worries about not being with my children right then, or the fact that I haven’t checked my e-mail in six hours. Without resisting the thoughts, I can acknowledge them, let them go, and return to the feeling of the board under my feet and the beauty of the blue sky ahead.
These are things I have always tried to do on vacation, but they’re much easier when you’ve been practicing letting thoughts come and go without resistance or focus.
I’m much more skilled at not worrying about things I have no control over at the present moment, because for 10 minutes a day, I practice letting go.
One of the books I’m reading right now encourages people to find a system of organization that will allow them to keep track of every “open loop” on their to do list so they don’t have to store any of them in their mind. It jokes that your mind is really kind of stupid, because it reminds you that you need batteries for the flashlight when you try to use the flashlight, not when you walk by batteries in the store.
How often do we let our minds do this, remind us of things at the wrong time, when there’s nothing we can do about them? A daily mindfulness practice has helped me not to spend my time on the paddle board worrying about what to feed the kids for snack, and my time making snack for the kids day-dreaming about being back on the paddle board.
I feel like the dog in that Cat Vs. Dog diaries because I’m able to enjoy each moment more while I’m in it. I focus on the calm enjoyment of being with my children and caring for them when we’re together, then fully experience the freedom when I have the chance to be out paddling the Caribbean.
And that’s worth a lot more than 10 minutes a day 🙂