What I did on my summer vacation.
As the children return back to school and write the summer essay, What I did on my Summer Vacation, it kind of reminds me of the well meaning questions directed to children and teens that go like this: ‘What did you do today’? ‘Nothing’. ‘What did you do all summer’? ‘Stuff’.
I’d love to say I did nothing on my summer vacation. My single goal was to experience the dog days of summer past when it was so lazy that you actually groaned with boredom. I always hated those days! Now just like everything that sounds better back when, I longed for them. As adults, doing nothing is actually one of the most difficult things you can do. Being, without doing, is a struggle for most people. Over the years I taught a lot of yoga that required a modest amount of stillness, breath awareness and learning to let go and let be. So how did I do with two months of doing nothing? Eh, not bad for a beginner.
It’s not easy to spend two months with the goal of doing nothing. My mind would play tricks and tell me it was important to get something done with all this free time. It was like someone sitting on my shoulder whispering to my devilish self , “Go ahead, no one will know”. Doing work has been my drug of choice. “Psst, go ahead and revise that website now, you’ll be so much more ahead when you get back”. “When you finish that, set up the scheduling software you’ve been thinking about using and while you’re at it write those emails too”. Ooh, how I resisted and failed and tried again.
Eventually I realized it was the scolding, guilty mind that was filled with shoulds that needed a reset. So I sat quietly until I could hear only my breath. Sometimes that took a while to find that sound. My days began slowly with meditation, journaling and yoga. It was a sacred time to connect and set up the day. Every morning I took a walk to the beach to feel the sand and see the blue water and sky. It was a beautiful gift to have the space and time to be in nature and watch children playing and digging in the sand at the Cape Cod beach. Finding the pace of slowing down, sensing, feeling has added to my being. Getting out of my thought filled head gave me freedom to feel what I actually wanted to do at this moment- not what I should.
And I played! Just like a kid. I made choices of how I was feeling at the moment. If my body said move, I went on a hike or bike ride. If it said read a book on the beach, I sunk into my chair with the wind in my hair. If it said you need an adventure, we headed out on a boat to a place we haven’t seen. Everyday I stepped into the cold, shark infested ocean waters (I’ve seen Jaws) for a truly breath taking plunge; the water temps averaged around 58 degrees all summer, so breathtaking is literal.
Sometimes when you haven’t done this in a while your body reacts to this freedom with at first a bit of recoiled tension. It slaps you back like an overstretched rubber band, so you become a bit tentative and the only course is to slow down even more. It is like a crab reaching a claw from under its shell to check if its ok to move across space. I too reached out to test these emotions that have not been felt in a while. I longed to move quickly, get the to-do list done, because that was easier than coping with my mind telling me I was lazy. Those fears of not being enough tucked tight into my hips and shoulders and slowly began to release with some groans. With courage to feel and a gentleness to let it be, I began to transform. I reminded myself often my summer mantra ‘just be, not do’. I encouraged myself to be gentle after all I was a beginner at all of this. And so I did ‘stuff’ and ‘nothing happened’ but my summer of doing nothing will be an experience I will always remember.
Actual photo from a drone off the beach in Orleans, MA this summer. What lies beneath...