We walked the path toward the ocean. I lingered behind while the girls were skipped ahead, chasing seagulls.
Although I carried more towels and toys, I wasn't weighed down. My mind was light and alert, taking in the long pine needles, the feel of the breeze on my arms, and the fresh smell in the air.
I was on vacation... unstressed, and fully present to enjoy the moment.
Picture yourself during your vacation: You're relaxed and more available for your family. You're alert for what you experience. You're taking in the scene, attentive. You simply enjoy as much of each moment that you can. After all, you're on vacation and without the to-dos of regular life.
We love our vacations because of this mindful quality they naturally bring us. We've let go of our list. Without our mental tally of responsibilities hanging over us we can see with fresh eyes. Often we're in a new place. The novelty helps be awake and alert to take it in. Finally, we are usually expecting enjoyment on vacation.
Contrast that with a busy week day at home. You may be stressed. Your mind is achievement oriented as you think of things that have to get done. That mom to-do list never gives you a break. You are NOT primed for enjoyment. In fact, you're primed for busyness, stress, and irritation.
Let me take a step back.
Earlier this summer we went on a family mindfulness retreat. There I realized that you CAN simply enjoy walking from one place to another. It is possible to have deep appreciation of the feeling of the breeze or the sun on our arms. It's just not what we're usually doing.
I bring up this possibility because while we are primed for this kind of enjoyment during our vacations, we don't expect it or practice to have it once we get home.
But we could.
How? It's all about mindset and mindfulness. And I'm resolving to bring that mindset into my daily life.
Leo Babuta of Zen Habits presents this idea masterfully, calling it "vacation mind." What if we could have the same quality of mind that we have on vacation during our busy weekdays?
How do we do it?
1. Focus fully on what you are doing. Much of our daily stress and anxiety comes from our brain's constant focus on the future. Worry and anxiety happen when we're not in the present, but in our thoughts about the future. Instead, focus fully on what you are doing. Turn off other distractions. Vow to do one thing at a time. Then, give yourself permission to enjoy your immersion.
2. Take care of anxieties. Approach worry and anxieties as old friends. They are there because your brain wants to keep you safe, so have a friendly attitude toward them. When to-dos pop up, write them down, so you can re-focus on what you are doing. Instead of pushing anxieties away, feel what it feels like in your body. Say hello to your worries, acknowledging their presence. Then breathe and practice to release it, re-focusing on the present moment.
3. Don't squeeze stuff in. My personal commandment here is "Thou shalt not squeeze." Our accomplishment, to-do checking part of our mind wants to do this, but it only leads to stress and anxiety. Besides, there's never a magic moment when that to-do list is done. And if it ever came? You'd be too keyed-up to even enjoy it! Slow down and be present for what you are doing. One thing at a time.
4. Practice to enjoy the neutral moments. It really is possible to bring more enjoyment into every day. On vacation we're enjoying the walk to and from places. Why not enjoy that at home too? See the beautiful greenery around you. Notice the quality of the sky. Feel the breeze on your arms and say a little blessing to it. Give yourself permission to enjoy these moments. With practice, it comes more easily and more often!
5. Practice meditation. Meditation helps us with all of the above. It is training to increase our ability to re-focus on the present moment and enjoy all that is around us. As we practice meditation, anxiety fades and happiness increases.
When parents practice vacation mind in daily life, we be more present for our children as well. Instead of an example of a stressed and anxious parent, We show them how to enjoy each day of a full life. And isn't that what we want most for our children?
You can do it too. I'm leading a free virtual mindfulness retreat soon. In it, I teach parents how to practice mindfulness in daily life. Click here to join us and practice being more present in your life.
Now it' your turn.
Do you want to take home vacation mind? How will you bring it into your own life? Start the conversation in the comments below!