How to Give the Soul a Vacation
February and March seem to drive people to counseling. The excitement of the holidays are over and the relief of spring is still months away. Many people proclaim that these last months of winter “drag on.” People seem to feel burdened by responsibilities and weary of the dark days.
When we take a vacation, we intend to “get away from it all.” We leave behind our work and routines that may be stressful or overwhelming. Vacation is a time for rest, renewal and release. We come back feeling energized and ready to engage in our daily lives once more.
The importance of resting from daily work is seen across time and culture. A day of rest is built in to many religious ideologies. Laws mandate days of rest in work weeks. Siestas continue to be a large part of many societies. We seem to understand the importance of rest and relaxation. Yet, how many of us truly allow ourselves to leave everything behind? Weekends and vacations seem to be full of errands, activities, schedules, maps and expectations.
For a vacation to benefit us, it may help for the body to “get away,” but it is essential that the mind does. Our thoughts fuel all of our actions, emotions and decisions. The body may be at rest, but the mind can still be doing summersaults in a vain attempt to “get somewhere” or “solve something.”
In his book, Turning the Mind into an Ally, Sakyong Mipham writes, “We’re accustomed to living a life based on running after our wild mind, a mind that is continually giving birth to thoughts and emotions.” Mipham calls these vacations for the soul, “peaceful abiding.” He suggests, “When we experience a moment of peacefully abiding, it seems far-out. Our mind is no longer drifting, thinking about a million things. The sun comes up or a beautiful breeze comes along – and all of a sudden we feel the breeze and we are completely in tune…before we were so busy and bewildered that we didn’t even notice the breeze.”
This week, try giving your mind a vacation, or several mini vacations. When you notice yourself feeling tired or stressed, take five minutes to let yourself be still. Let your thoughts, perceptions and expectations leak out while you focus on your breath. Better yet, take a five minute mind break every few hours of the day. Let go of everything you think you should do and just be in the moment. If your mind resists, notice and over-ride it.
“This art of resting the mind and the power of dismissing from it all care and worry is probably one of the secrets of energy in our great men.” Captain J.A. Hadfield
Rest brings energy and rejuvenation. There cannot be one without the other. The journey of rejuvenation invites you to feel the breeze.
Conflict is inevitable. Within ourselves, amongst ourselves and even in our environment. Conflict means to “be in opposition.” What could be more natural than pairs of opposites? Even as I sit on this chair, there are opposite forces at work. Gravity pulling me down and the chair holding me up. The “struggle” between opposites creates wondrous things such as; thunder, fire and even balsamic vinaigrette. Our reality is full of friction. It stands to reason, then, that conflict would also be inherent within relationship. After all, we are complex entities.
In my last post, I introduced Jung’s shadow concept; the idea that we suppress the qualities about ourselves that we do not like. This is a prime example of opposing forces at work within the individual. When these forces come into conscious opposition, there is conflict or crisis. We think we should behave one way, but act out something different. We secretly desire something, but do not accept the urge. Conflict.
If such conflict is almost perpetually being played out within each of us, it is no wonder that we project this conflict onto one another. Desires, expectations, behaviors and insecurities collide like a never ending game of bumper cars. Most people who come to my office for help with relationships state conflict as the culprit. We are uncomfortable with conflict. Even those people who seem to generate it are often worn down by it. Conflict gets the better of us.
Nothing that we see as good in our lives is created without opposing forces at work. It can’t be. Opposing force sets everything in motion. I often look back on my life and realize that times of intense conflict served to bring about something that I appreciate or enjoy. In Jungian psychology, paying attention to the conflict within ourselves is the key to unlocking freedom. In other words, addressing the monster may be the only way to obliterate it.
In the recent “fairy tale” stories of Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling, the evil wizard Lord Voldemort cannot be confronted by anyone other than Harry. He is Harry’s evil counterpart, the two joined in a way that makes it impossible for anyone else to intervene. They are opposite forces creating friction and Harry alone must contend with the conflict. Yet, in the end, it is really not Harry who destroys the evil wizard, it is Lord Voldemort himself. Harry’s willingness to confront the evil lord alone allows for his destruction. Harry was always going to win that battle as long as he chose to face it. And don’t forget, it was Lord Voldemort who began the process of making Harry into a hero.
We are all faced with the choice of how to handle conflict every day. Yet, most of us don’t realize that there is energy to harness from conflict. What would be different in your life if you began to take mastery over the energy that conflict creates? How would your perspective change if you began to see the benefit of conflict? This week, in the quiet space you have created for yourself, examine the conflict in your life. Ask yourself what it is trying to teach you.
The Spirit of Therapy
Where psychotherapy interacts with our mental, emotional, spiritual, physical and relational wellbeing.