As we enter the depths of July and with August looming, it feels like everywhere I turn summer holidays are mentioned! And what a relief that is. This pandemic has turned everything upside down. However, it has not stopped the annual call to slow down, smell the flowers and perhaps turn our faces to whatever the weather throws our way. Indeed, here at The Sanctuary, I am just back from a week of forest bathing .
One of the things that I noticed during my time away was how quickly the break could slip by without fully experiencing it. In fact, it took great determination to make sure I built in ‘fallow’ time and avoid giving in to an overly populated holiday. This became especially apparent on a family walk.
When we began our holiday, I made sure to let everyone know that the one place I wanted to go was to my favourite forest. I had spent time there in the past, walking, reading along the banks of the river that runs through it and even sitting in stillness on a special rock surrounded by trees. I could hardly wait for the day that we would return.
However, what I wasn’t expecting was the busy of conversations along our walk. I hadn’t taken it into consideration that I should probably have returned to the forest on my own and not in a group. Instead of quiet moments, I watched the scenery pass by as I divided my attention between family I had not seen since Lockdown and the sun-dappled pines that were calling my name. I could feel the pull, the longing and the disappointment rising in my body. I could feel fractured distraction. I decided then and there that I would surrender the experience and just be with my family; however, I would return on my own and I would set the intention to be more mindful for the rest of my time away. With this awareness, the inner struggle faded and I could enjoy the conversations knowing that I would be making space for stillness in the coming days.
And stillness came- moments of silence and ease were strategically placed throughout the holiday. Two days later, I found myself in a forest, on a rock soaking in the beauty all around me. This space made it so much easier to really be present for those important visits of reconnection that followed.
So how do we maintain a practice or even reduce some of the stress we might have around travelling during this Covid moment?
There are a number of ways the practice of mindfulness can help. What is more, it is the simple and small practices that can really make a difference. Here are a few for those of you who are about to embark on your holidays or even just taking a few days off.
Taking Time: Give yourself enough space and timeto travel and arrive without fluster. This has been a lesson that I have learned time and time again. If you know that you have to check in to a holiday home or a ferry or a train journey, make sure to set enough time and maybe extra so that you are not cutting it close. This is also important for visiting parks and destinations that have opening and closing hours. Be realistic. If you know that it takes an hour of travel time to and from, build in an extra 30 minutes for the unexpected. Arriving with time to spare can create the space to get your bearings, touch in with how you are feeling, notice the flowers and avoid a sense of haste.
3 Mindful Breaths & Clean Hands: As many of you know, we are huge fans of the simple practice of taking 3 mindful breaths throughout the day. However, as we move about the country during this Covid moment, it can be helpful to take 3 mindful breaths every time that you use hand sanitizer- and there are plenty of opportunities to do so!
All shops, restaurants, petrol stations, ferries, etc… have hand sanitizer ready for use. In fact, you cannot enter a shop without sanitizing your hands. This is a great opportunity to stop and drop into the body through touching in with the sensation of your feet on the floor, the coolness and moisture of the sanitizer on the skin, while taking 3 mindful breaths as you clean your hands.
Build Mindfulness into Your Day: Once you’ve arrived, it can be helpful to set an intention to build mindfulness into your day in small ways. Travelling and holidays can be a wonderful opportunity to move away from a heavily scheduled routine. However, it can be quite nice to schedule in some space for stillness.
This might mean setting an intention to drink your first cup of coffee/tea/juice mindfully as you sit outdoors, or choosing some mindfulness reading to bring along with you to start or end your day. One of my favourite things to do was set aside 10 minutes to sit down in silence on every walk that I took to simply watch and observe all that was happening around me.
Take in The Good: Enjoy the trip! When you experience something beautiful, take in the good! Savour the view, taste the food, meet the gaze of those you encounter. When you stumble upon something that you enjoy, acknowledge it, spend time enjoying it and let it in.