A Real Holiday
A famous saying in Alcoholics Anonymous is “wherever you go, there you are.” Highlighting the fact that you cannot just move away from your addiction to another town because you take your mind with you wherever you go, which includes all the mechanisms that create addiction in the first place. It’s the same if you try to take a regular holiday to relax. Sometimes lying by the pool gives you some temporary relief from stress but soon enough you find yourself worrying and ruminating about the usual things that trouble you.
So how can we escape ourselves and truly have a holiday that offers a respite from our normal everyday worries, stress and over thinking? Meditation is the way you can take a real holiday everyday. If you don’t you can easily ‘burn out’ form the endless ‘heat’ of thinking.
It’s being fused or stuck to thoughts that we need to take a break from. Our mind is like an ocean and we usually live on the surface where there are always waves and restlessness but just beneath the surface there is a calm place where the waves do not touch. Dive a bit deeper and you can enter a profound stillness where the turmoil of the surface is but a distant speck.
Detachment from thoughts is not the end of meditation but it’s certainly the beginning. The idea of meditation is not to stop thinking, it’s to stop being controlled by thinking. Detaching from thoughts and becoming the silent witness from a deep restful place of pure observation. As a Zen Master Shunryu Suzuki advises.
“Leave your front door and your back door open. Allow your thoughts to come and go. Just don’t serve them tea.“
Giving yourself some space and freedom from thoughts gives you a holiday from the usual emotions that getting caught up in thinking creates. A real holiday should be deeply relaxing and rejuvenating which is exactly what meditation is.
As Meditation Master Arjahn Chah says:
“If you let go a little you will have a little peace. If you let go a lot you will have a lot of peace. If you let go completely you will be free.”
A Holiday That Heals
There’s nothing wrong with stress but it’s the constant and unrelenting stress that becomes a big problem. A teacher once held up a glass of water in class and instead of asking the classic question is it half full or half empty? She asked is it heavey or light? Most people said it was light but then the teacher asked what if I held it for one hour is it heavey or light? or what about if I held the glass all day? The students soon realised it’s how long you hold the glass for that determines whether it feels heavy or not. Just like holding stress for a little while is ok but holding it all day everyday is a huge burden on your mind and body. Meditation is learning how to put down your stress and rejuvenate.
Being constantly engaged with our thinking mind without any space activates the ‘fight or flight’ mechanism which produces damaging cortisol and other hormones which over time are extremely detrimental to your health and destroy your immune system. When you learn to detach from thoughts and calmly watch your breath you activate what Dr Herbert Benson calls the ‘relaxation response‘ which activates parts of your brain associated with boosting your immune system, encouraging positive emotions and helps heal cells and release toxins. In brief scientific studies have demonstrated that meditation is very good for your health.
Your mind is an instrument, a tool. Thoughts are there to be used for a specific task, and when the task is completed, you lay them down. The mind is a terrible master but it’s a great servant. We need to learn to be in control of our minds instead of letting it control us. If you understand that you are contantly thinking you realise you need a holiday from that everyday, that’s exactly what establishing a daily meditation practice is all about.
Ironically taking a short holiday from thinking and learning to meditate by becoming the silent and non reactionary witness actually gives you more objectivity and your thinking becomes clearer and more affective. You can self regulate thoughts and emotions better, let thoughts go that are not serving you and even become quiet enough to hear that often neglected voice of intuition which is just beneath your usual internal noisy thoughts.
Overall giving yourself a real holiday by meditating is a great idea for your mental and physical health, happiness and productivity. It’s deeply restful and keeps you sane through offering perspective and distance from the endless stream of thoughts, ideas, opinions and judgments we all make thousands of times a day. It’s important to remember not to try and stop your thoughts that’s virtually impossible, it’s being able to find that calm non judmental calm attention that is not easily distracted, as Deepak Chopra says:
“Meditation is not a way of making your mind quiet. It is a way of entering into the quiet that is already there – buried under the 50,000 thoughts the average person thinks every day”
Zen masters call it the hidden treasure-house, some just call it inner peace and in Buddhism it’s called Buddha Nature. Whatever you call it’s a holiday resort always open to you waiting within for you to enjoy some genuine rest and relaxation, a real holiday, a holiday for your mind that also heals the body.
Written by Chad Foreman
Chad’s instructions here for a – daily meditation practice
Try a guided meditation from the 21 Day Meditation Challenge
From day 8 Mindful Breathing –