dharma monkey

embrace the monkey

Struggling to unplug

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I turned 40 Monday, and to celebrate this milestone, my spouse and I packed up our Jeep and our two dogs and drove to Maine, where we’re spending a week in Acadia National Park.  We’ve been here four days now, and it wasn’t until last night that I finally felt as if I had settled into this vacation — probably because I was so exhausted from a 24-mile mountain bike ride yesterday on the park’s famed carriage roads.

Reflection of the sunset off the eastern side of Frenchman Bay, Maine, 7/13/2011

It occurred to me that vacations like this one typically follow a routine for me:

  • I’m so knee-deep in work that I don’t think about anything related to the vacation until a couple of days before, which stresses me out once the time to leave arrives because I’m not ready.  My predictable answer to this situation is to pick a fight with my spouse so that he shares in my stress.
  • I stay cranky for the first 36 hours of vacation, often fretting about the two or three items from work that I brought with me (“I’ll get this stuff out of the way first thing,” I tell myself).  My spouse can usually tell the exact moment this phase passes, as I’ll finally start to relax.
  • The next couple of days are spent thinking about everything and anything except what I’m actually doing.  I’m checking the news headlines every few hours, keeping an eye on my e-mail, etc.
  • Finally, after three or four days, I start to really relax and mellow out, like I did last night.

Everyone has their habitual patterns; we’re all stuck in them, especially those of us who live in cities and hold down high-stress careers.  But why does it take so long to shake off the effects of living in that environment?  Why is that, like yesterday, I have to relax myself to the brink of exhaustion (in the form of a grueling bike ride in the mountains of Acadia) in order to unplug?

We’ve spent four nights now in a quaint cottage perched over the edge of Frenchman Bay.  Each night, the sun has set behind us, but with a splendid reflection of oranges, red, blues and violets on the shore of the bay opposite our cottage.  It wasn’t until last night that I took the time to appreciate the beauty of this sight: it was two minutes of absolute serenity.  Toward the end, I stepped inside to grab a camera, realizing that I was letting an un-mindful habit creep into to my evening.  Even so, I hope these two clips of video linked below serve as a future reminder of what I miss when I don’t take the time to pause, relax and be in the present moment.

Relaxing and reconnecting with the natural world around me shouldn’t be so difficult, and even when it is, I want to have the strength and presence of mind to recognize these patterns and take a first step toward breaking them.

Sunset serenity

Sunset rainbow

Author: Sean

I am Sean, a writer/PR guy originally from the Rural South who grew up and settled down in Washington, D.C. My interests include local politics, Eastern philosophy, languages and reality television.

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