A Whimsical Vacation

I woke up in my own bed this morning after a week at the beach, wondering: What is a vacation, really?

Is it breaking the habitual patterns, and living pattern-less for a while?

(I almost wrote: Living a more “natural” pattern.)

Maybe. Let me just explore it here for a bit.

I consider myself very lucky because I get to determine my life’s pattern to an extraordinary degree.

By that I mean that everything I do is something that I like to do, and choose to do. I don’t have distasteful things thrust on me as a result of the vicarious whim of some other being (like a boss or a superior) who may, (misguidedly) think that I ought to do something other than what I like or choose to do. But even the things I like and choose sometimes feel like they OWN me.

I love to teach yoga, for instance, and I have made a deep commitment to teaching yoga in the form of a lease agreement, a website, and ongoing classes.  It’s what I DO and I love it, but it shapes my day in a very particular way.  (I am thinking of this “shaping” the way a jello-mold shapes jello.)

I have made a yoga-shaped dent in this mold and into this dent I pour my time and energy.  There are other things that “dent my mold,” too, things I have made commitments to such as meditation, a writing practice, dog-ownership, house ownership, and a particular geographical location.

All these things shape my days.  For instance, I have to make sure I get to bed at a particular hour every night because I teach an early morning yoga class.  I have to walk my dog, because I have chosen to share my life with a pet.  I have a deep need to shape the floating contents of my brain once a day (at least) so I have a writing practice.  I need a certain period of quiet and introspection each day to insure balance and happiness.  I live in a particular geographical locale that demands adjustments from season to season: snow shoveling and leaf raking and plant watering–to name a few.  So this is the “mold” I have made.  I made it, but it also makes me.

For instance, today I will go to the studio and mop it, and clean mats, and vacuum, not because I necessarily want to do those things, but because I want to practice in a clean, dust-free space in the morning.

For most weeks and months of my year, I operate within this pattern. It makes me and I make it.  But when I go on vacation, I do not have this mold, this pattern.  I float free and fluid.

On vacation, I don’t have a business, or a dog, or students. I don’t have a lawn to mow or plants to water or even reliable food “staples” in the fridge with which to cobble together a dinner, or even a breakfast.  There is no mold, so I am free in a most peculiar and exciting and wondrous way.  “Wondrous” because I am constantly asking: I wonder what I will do today? The whole day is entirely up to me.  I can be completely whimsical.

I love the word “whimsy.”  It’s often used to condemn irresponsible, thoughtless behavior, and adults who are described as “whimsical” are often thought to be childish or wishy-washy, or un-count-on-able.

But that is precisely how I want to feel on vacation.  If I feel like reading all day?  I read all day. If I feel like taking a nap? I take a nap. If I feel like eating ice cream, drinking beer, going for a walk, riding a bike, taking a photograph, dancing to loud music, pounding a half-dozen crabs with a wooden mallet, taking a yoga class, sipping some Perrier, watching people walk the boardwalk, I do it.  There is no pre-set mold I have to conform to.  I have no commitments. I do what I feel like doing in the moment.  I am totally and unabashedly, whimsical.

I learn a lot about myself whenever I take a vacation. (And my vacations are not all of the purely whimsical variety.)

Last year I spent a vacation climbing mountains in Yosemite.  There was very little “whimsy” in that vacation.  There was a lot of planning, and thinking and strategizing.  There was a beginning, a middle, and an end to each hike, (as well as mile-markers), and these hikes required determination, and persistence and sometimes even “gutting-it-out” moments.  And that too, felt like breaking the mold, freeing myself from some pre-determined formula of living.  Each hike had a very definite shape (geographically as well as psychologically) that demanded a commitment.  But it still felt like a true vacation because it smashed to smithereens the usual jello-mold that shapes the majority of my days, weeks and months.

This morning I woke up in my own bed for the first time in a week.  “Yes.  Here is my life,” I thought.  “The cat needs her flea meds today, there is a lot of laundry to do, I need to get to the studio and check on things.”

Today I am starting to pour myself back into my mold, but I can still feel that whimsy in my bones.  My skin is browner and warmer than it was a week ago The range of my eyes have still not adjusted back to the near distances, but are still set to the focal distance of a horizon line where the sea and sky meet.

At the beach, I got everywhere I wanted to go on a pink bicycle.  As I pedaled to yoga class, the juice bar, the beach, I found myself thinking, “I really LIKE who I am at the beach. I LIKE living whimsically.  I like this me who gets up before dawn, who sips coffee watching for the reluctant sun to peek its red head out of the sea, who allows herself to drown for days in a long novel, who dances with complete abandon to throbbing, primal beats in a loud crowded bar all night, then staggers home, wet and dizzy with happiness.

I returned home last night from this vacation wondering if there was any possible way I could keep even a little bit of this whimsy in me as my usual life resumes.

I am wondering if there some way I can protect a little part of me from completely jelling into duty and schedule and responsibility.  I am wondering how to keep some of my “jello” liquid and sloppy and drippy, and not have it harden into the mold of the calendar, the season, and the to-do list.

Everyone Is Enlightened But Me

The weekend at the beach was perhaps the best time I ever had there.  The weather was perfect, the water temperature was 70 degrees warm, the surf was amazing–strong and forceful and foamy.

Our place was just “eh” but it was 100 steps from the beach and tucked away behind Rehoboth’s only Juice Bar, so I just walked down the steps to get my juice every morning: carrot, apple, ginger.  Yum.

In the evening I had a blast dancing to great music and met a great crowd of very fun people.

All the beach rituals were observed: sunrise, Starbucks Triple Venti soy lattes meditation, yoga in the afternoon, and dancing at the bar at night.

The beach was its typical “Where’s Waldo” crush of beach towels, umbrellas and dysfunctional families and I loved it all.   Jack Kornfield’s A Path With Heart was my book of the weekend, and at one point he suggested trying this exercise:

Imagine that everyone you see and encounter is enlightened–everyone except YOU. And all those people are buddhas, there to teach you something you need to know.  That would have included, for me, the crying babies, the whining kids, the sullen teens, the overbearing parents, and especially the people with no sense of personal space and boundaries. All of them were buddhas, all of them were enlightened!

It was a great exercise for me because instead of getting peeved at some petty, trivial behavior, I had to adjust my normal, “Oh you are such an A-Hole judgment and think instead: Oh, rude little whipper-snapper, you’re just trying to teach me patience, or, you badly parented little kid having a tantrum, you’re trying to teach me compassion and acceptance.

Try it sometime.  It’s a very cool exercise.  Everybody is Enlightened but you.

What’s a Vacation?

I’m on vacation.  Here’s what my vacation looked like this morning:

sunrise sillouette

Here’s what it looked like a few hours later:

where's waldo

I’m on a crowded beach in Rehoboth, DE.  It’s 100 degrees. It’s “Where’s Waldo?” out here.  Family dysfunction is on full display

It’s probably the last place you’d expect to find me (your yoga teacher) on vacation.  (Okay, maybe Vegas would be the last place, but this is close, no?)

I should be at an ashram or retreat center somewhere, right?

But here’s the thing: I don’t want to do on vacation what I do all the time.  And the fact is, I live a pretty stress-free, serene, low-stim life, which is why this “Where’s Waldo?” vacation works for me.  If I lived in a crowded, rat-racy, traffic-jammy place and had a job where I was underappreciated and underpaid, then I’d get my ass to the ashram for a week.

But this time next week I will be lighting candles and chanting Namaste and leading Sun Salutations.  Which is why it’s kinda cool to have a sunburnt kid kick sand in my face, and the woman next to me talk non-stop on her cell phone while I read Small is the New Big by Seth Godin on my Kindle.