It’s summertime and that means millions of us are thronging to resorts and getaways in search of the Perfect Vacation. But many of us come home needing a vacation from our vacation!
What are we really searching for when we take to the road or the skies? And how can we get what we most deeply need? We suspect that what we’re really looking for–without always consciously knowing it–is a way to tune into nature’s harmony. If we return home without having done this, we feel disappointed.
Here, then, are the simple secrets to help you find a vacation that recharges and balances rather than depletes you, so your experience can be a source of wonder, pleasure, and the fondest of memories for years to come.
Underneath our cultural imperative to have more fun, fun, fun! is a deeper desire: to leave behind our everyday stress and the often brutal demands of our working lives to simply take time–to feel the sun on our bare skin, splash in the water, share quiet moments with our families. A good vacation recharges us by connecting with what really, deeply matters.
1. The idea of vacation is to just be for once. The real longing for most of us is to simply unwind and be soothed. Just listen, look, feel, absorb, notice: sharpen your senses to merge with nature, with its energy flow, in whatever the form is that surrounds you.
2. Think Elementally.
Rocks and Stones: Take time to just hang out beside them; they are such solid, grounding presences. We could all use some help slowing down, and rocks are very, very slow.
Dirt and Mud: Remember the slippery, gritty, sensual pleasure of making mud pies? It’s never too late to experience Earth with the same immediacy we knew as children. Get your hands dirty!
Wildlife: Almost nothing makes us feel more awed and connected to the life on this planet than a direct experience of wild animals. When Annie went to the Cape last week, she saw whales feeding just off shore. What a rush! Another friend recently saw her first moose, just a few hundred feet away. And another is eager to see the baby eagles that have hatched near her vacation home. When we go to a place in nature and allow ourselves to be still and quiet, we may notice extraordinary things.
Trees: I’ve never met a tree I didn’t like. Benign, exuding the precious oxygen we need, sturdy and graceful, lush with green–trees are the best. Spend time with one: sit with your back against it, lie down at its feet and look up at its branches. Feel its strong green energy flowing inside you.
Ocean: Doctors used to order two or three-month “sea cures” for their patients, since just being by the ocean was healing on all levels. After all, the salinity of our blood, of our tears is correlated to the salt content of the sea, and the rhythmic rocking makes us feel like we are being held in the Great Mother’s arms. Allow yourself to soak up the sounds of waves lapping, the bitter-sweet salty smells, the sight of clean blues and greens.
Rivers, lakes, ponds: Actually, any body of pure, natural water, when we experience it mindfully, can cleanse, renew, and refresh us. One busy friend is getting ready for her summer trek to Maine where she wants to “just sit in a kayak in the middle of the lake and do nothing.” Others may prefer to dive in and splash.
Sun: Okay, we all know that too much sun can be dangerous, but we need at least 15 to 20 minutes of unprotected sunlight a day for optimum health and well-being. See our article for some fun ideas of things to do in those precious sun-worshipping minutes.
Campfires: As Annie told me recently, “All my best memories of family take place sitting around a fire.” It beats television for sure, bringing us together rather than isolating us. And woodsmoke is such a wonderful smell, summoning up deep ancestral memories of safety and security. Fires are alive, filled with radiance and light. They take us to a place inside us that is vitally awake but also deeply relaxed. Being sure to follow the proper safety precautions (see our article!), make a campfire and simply enjoy it.
Smells: Nature is filled with rich scents. Take time to notice the way a woods smells after a rain, or the difference in scent between a lake ringed with trees and a pool left by the ebbing tide. Our sense of smell is an ancient one. Allow yourself to experience it fully.
Sounds: What do you hear when you are in a wild place? Open to the symphony of sounds: bird calls, wind in trees, the rhythmic slapping of waves on the shore.
3. Nurture Relationships
People are nature, too, and our relationships are often what anchor and define and challenge us to live more authentically. Take time to just be with the people you love and are committed to. And one way to strengthen bonds of affection is to make sounds together: singing or sounding (especially around a campfire) are time-honored ways to connect and to have some real, deep fun–and you don’t have to be a Pavarotti! Just see what sounds want to come through you.