Mindfulness and Wellbeing Holidays. Does travel make us more mindful?
Traveling in unfamiliar places means you’re less likely to get exposed to identity cues than you would do while at home. Identity cues (such as familiar people or places) give you a sense of self and remind you of your past experiences. Being away from them can liberate a person from their prior perspective on life and themselves.
Once travelling and at large you are liberated from labels such as retired, student, accountant, widower, or green grocer, labels that may have fallen upon you in your home village or city, for example. You are no longer being reminded of who you are in the world by familiar day to day objects you are used to seeing back at home.
You’re fabulously free, and you’ve room to see yourself in a new light.
Once liberated from the usual labels you’re more likely to recognise the unqualified self, that is the say, the self that you are when you aren’t being someone in particular.
Unconsciously, or consciously, you recognise your beingness.
but you don’t always need to travel far away to loose yourself. It can happen when we move to a different area or school, get a haircut, get a divorce or change jobs.
Being mindful makes it easier to see things with fresh eyes. Even every day things! As a way to practice, we might decide to have a proper look at a tree we pass every day on the way to work. Or carefully look at the phone on our desk. In this re-looking we have time to see the thing as it is now. To see its reality.
Most often when we see a tree, we think ‘Oh, a tree’ and we don’t investigate further. We assume there is nothing more to know. If we live a life of routine then perhaps there are many which we don’t see with fresh eyes. Instead, perhaps, we breeze past them in search of novelty.
With mindfulness, or heightened awareness, we give ourselves a chance to see common things with fresh eyes and in order to do this well we need to be patient.
For example, let’s say you look at your office phone, and then re-look at it. the usual reactive mind may think ‘Well, this is rubbish, it looks exactly the same!’ This is where you have to be patient. Sit with the phone (or the tree) and give it a moment.
Look at it. Don’t say ‘phone’ or ‘tree’ just sit with it and let it reveal itself. This is, I think, what Kafka meant when he said
“You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.”
The beauty of mindfulness doesn’t lie in going off and discovering new lands, it is to be found by discovering this land right here. And of course, what is here changes all the time so there is always something new to discover.
For many of us, it is not always easy to see everyday life with fresh eyes, maybe we haven’t thought of it, or maybe we haven’t learned it or just got out of the habit. One of the main reasons that we love to travel and visit new unseen lands, is that it enlivens the seeing with fresh eyes experience –without us necessarily having to be mindful on purpose.
As you cultivate this ability to see freshly, you become better able to feel free and see the beauty and wonder of life every day, not just on your travels. The new experience enables us to enjoy being in the moment, being here and now and seeing things with wonder, as we would have as children.