Last year for my family holiday I went glamping, in a beautiful bell tent with the hubby and kids (then 3&5 so you can imagine there was nothing remotely glamorous about it). It was lovely and testing and different all at once.
Holidays are what get us away from our routine, from the nine to five grind of school runs, doing homework with reluctant jiggling young children and commuting into London. To stand back, take stock and have a rest is so welcome even though with young kids there is no rest, only a change of location in which you perform the never ending round of get up, entertain, cook , cajole to eat veggies, clean teeth and then usher bedwards.
It was hard work being in a tent, losing my space to practice any form of meditation or yoga and then when the children finally did go to sleep it was usually only half an hour later before it got dark.
Talking to someone recently about camping they said ‘It’s the ultimate habit buster, you have to change the way you think and change the way you do everything, from going to the loo in the night to washing the dishes, nothing is how you usually do things when you camp.’ That is so true. The practice was just being there, watching the flames flicker each night by the fire as we had a medicinal glass of wine and talked briefly before crashing out to face another 5am wake up call from our youngest and most excitable child.
This year’s holiday was more civilised – a farm house with my extended family. I had space and time to do Qi Gong everyday and meditate as much as I wanted. It was bliss compared to glamping but I wouldn’t completely rule camping out in the future because there are very few experiences that get you right back to basics, it just might be more rewarding once my son has stopped waking up at 5am.
And for those of us who go away only once or twice a year there are so many ways to shake things up in our daily lives in between holidays, from changing where we sit to watching a random film we know nothing about, little and regular changes to our daily routine can help us recognise and even change our sometimes unhelpful habitual behaviour.
Today’s total practice time: 20 minutes
When trying to meditate daily it’s hard fitting it all in and not feeling like anything else is being squeezed out of your life. Integration is definitely where it’s at if you live in the real world. My aim is to meditate for around 30-40 minutes every day. Often, during term time, I easily manage that, sometimes I fall short but whatever happens I don’t do guilt. I try my best.
When teaching a course I am more likely to be doing 30-40 minutes practice everyday and then when the holidays come I allow myself to just do whatever I can. This works well because ten minutes, it is often argued, is all it takes.
And of course there are those inevitable days or weeks where very little gets done. My son was sick this week, he missed three days from school and wanted to be held all of his waking hours. It’s hard to meditate while holding a crying four year old!
Yesterday, determined to make up my lost sessions I had planned a long session of movement and sitting practice but time ran away with me and soon I found myself heading with the family to the woods and there, as my son played in a stick house, I found the time and space and calm to meditate. The outdoor setting inspired me to do a mountain meditation. Just being in the moment, with my son playing nearby, sunlight making it’s way through the trees. It certainly beat perching on the edge of my bed. Today’s total practice time: 20 minutes
Learning can take place in the most unlikely circumstances. Many a teacher will say ‘when I stop learning from my learners, that is the time to quit’. Often we learn from great teachers other times we go to a training that tells us how not to do something. Either way there has been learning.
Personally I can’t think of a more nourishing way to spend a weekend than on a teacher’s retreat. This weekend was spent learning and practising from fellow practitioners and teachers. Connections were made and best practice was shared. It’s this type of event that keeps mindfulness teachers topped up both in terms of how to teach and in terms of zest and enthusiasm.
On the first night, after a whole day of meditating, guiding meditations and being guided through them myself, I slept so soundly I clocked up ten hours. This is a rarity in a house with small kids. So undisturbed sleep, alongside the course, made me feel fully recharged by Saturday night.
My husband had his best wry smile on when he found me googling for more retreats the next day. Why more, he asked. Because this is my CPD and it certainly beats a dry two-hour session on how better to use interactive white boards, which is the CPD I normally have to endure for my day job! Today’s total practice time: 30 minutes