This blog is the sixth part in the series “Demystifying Mindfulness.” I’m hoping I can help us all understand a little bit more about the practice of mindfulness, how it can be helpful and how we can integrate it into our lives.
Cairn I built along Lake Michigan
I just returned from a week long trip to Michigan. I visited my sister and we took a road trip to the Upper Peninsula, Mackinac Island and “up north” in the lower peninsula. We hiked over 20 miles. We biked, took photos, saw two national seashore parks and spent some quality sister time together. The thing we couldn’t do: unplug. Even though we both made a conscious decision NOT to bring our laptops with us, we still needed to maintain some level of digital connection.
Don’t get me wrong, we tried. In many places, there was no cell access so we had no choice but to be present in the moment. But seriously, its hard to unplug when your go to camera is part of YOUR PHONE. It’s always there. My sister found herself needing to reply to some work emails when we were “on the grid.” I was luckier—pretty much able to step away from work for the week. But there were other emails and texts that needed attention—despite being away. Life goes on even if you are in another place. And sometimes, life needs you.
But, I desperately wanted to experience this trip with a mindful presence-given my recent dive into mindfulness and meditation. I made an effort to meditate everyday; despite my sister thinking it was silly. I tried different times and places for meditating. I meditated with my feet in the sand and the Lake Michigan waves washing up around me. I mediated while building cairns (rock piles) on the beach. I meditated as we walked through a nature preserve. I meditated while I ate ice cream. I mediated while on the ferry to Mackinac Island. It was an amazing and accessible way to be in the moment, to take it all in, and to be aware of myself in the world.
But it didn’t necessarily take away from the frustrations of vacation: the crowds, the traffic, the lost hotel reservation. But perhaps meditating turned down the volume on these hiccups and helped me to re-center myself and remember that I was on vacation.
- Give yourself a break. Trying to totally detox from our digital lives is a tall order. Find balance with you phone, tablet, computer and your time away.
- Make an effort to be aware of things around you and how they differ from your everyday life-the sights, the smells, the tastes, the noises. Yes, you CAN do this while you eat ice cream, or walk through the woods, or sit on the beach. This is mindful practice.
- When you are feeling stress on vacation, take a moment to breathe, to contemplate and perhaps maybe, just to be. There will be another hotel room. There will be another ferry. You can always get the next one.
- Try new things. No, I’m never jumping out of a plane or going zip-lining. We all have a comfort zone with trying new experiences. For me, it was that bike ride around Mackinac Island. I hadn’t ridden a bike in years and I’m far from in shape. But I did it: 8.2 miles. As a result, I saw things I wouldn’t have otherwise. I was proud of my self. And I felt good. This is mindfulness.
Mindfulness is a process of finding balance, reducing stress and living wholly. But, it also can bring up some hard spots-things that we struggle with. This has been a recurring theme for me in my mindfulness practice: that I’m struggling, a great deal, with grief and loss. This came up for me—even while I was away on vacation. My next blog entry will focus on mindfulness and coping with grief and loss. Thanks for continuing on my mindful journey with me.
Christina is a clinical oncology social worker who joined the OncoLink team in 2014. Christina blogs about resources available to the cancer community, as well as general information about coping with cancer practically, emotionally, and spiritually. Christina is an avid knitter and spends a great deal of time posting pictures and stories about her three beagles, Linus, Maggie and Huckleberry. She also loves to travel, cook and is an avid Philly sports fan.