Today is Easter Sunday, the king daddy of celebrations in the Christian faith.
For me, it's the first Easter in nearly 18 years that I haven't spent hiding eggs for my sugar-crazed children on their search for spiritual enlightenment in the form of milk chocolate bunnies and jelly beans. This egg ritual is usually followed by a morning church service and a yummy Easter brunch.
This year, however, Easter Sunday coincides with the first official day of Spring Break, and I am at the beach with one of my daughters, her friend, and her friend's mom Jodi. Jodi is off to celebrate Easter in the way that feels meaningful and peaceful to her. She has found a church here in Seagrove, Florida, and right now she's probably listening to the familiar story of rebirth and renewal while I sit here writing this blog post.
I am not generally a churchy type, but I have always enjoyed the Easter service. Especially if it falls on a beautiful spring day, Easter Sunday can be a glorious celebration.
The symbolic notion of pushing the stone away from our former selves and coming back to life renewed and reborn is deeply moving and uplifting to me.
Here are some ways to use vacation as spiritual growth time:
I chose not to go to the Easter service today. Instead I took a long walk on the beach and then sat in my beach chair and read, with the sound of the ocean and the gulls and the chatter of happy people as the background music for my peaceful reverie.
I was feeling a bit guilty for sending Jodi off on her own. After all, I have had the same Easter tradition for many years, and it feels a wee bit strange to be slathering myself with suntan lotion on today of all days. But I have come to the realization that everything around me, my entire experience at the beach this morning, could be interpreted from a spiritual perspective. I have had a paradigm shift about my vacation.
I know everyone reading this post comes from a different religious background and has a variety of spiritual beliefs.
However, most of us probably agree that we share a common desire to connect at a spirit level with something deeper and divine. We all long for the “peace that surpasses understanding” and the sense that we are connected with something bigger than ourselves. We want to push away the stones of our past hurts and failures and regrets and rise again as new and whole beings.
I believe the gift of spiritual renewal is available to us all the time. With awareness and an open heart, we can receive this gift in church or in a synagogue or even sitting in a beach chair.
In fact, I submit that vacations are a time when we have a unique opportunity for spiritual growth and renewal. For many of us, Spring Break marks the beginning of the end of the harried school year. The days are getting longer and summer is just a few weeks away. We are getting in the vacation mode.
Today I have realized that a vacation can be an unexpected opportunity to deepen my connection with divine intelligence. Here's what I've discovered that I hope you can apply to your next holiday:
1. Let your old self die. Slip out of the clothes of your everyday life. Let go of the hurry and the schedules and the stress of the real world. Let yourself transcend the real world for a few days and just be in the moment. Shift your thinking to view this letting go as a time of reconnecting with yourself, your family, and with whatever higher power you acknowledge. Letting go is not an indulgence or a weakness. It's a blessing.
2. Consider your connection to the bigger world. As you leave your home, your work and the small universe of your day-to-day life, be aware of the larger world around you. Your problems and worries are so insignificant in the scheme of things. Look around at all of the people you encounter and the varieties of the human experience and the beauty that surrounds you. I find this thought especially poignant and resounding when I am at the beach, staring out at the seeming infinity of the ocean. We are part of larger picture in an ever-expanding universe. It puts our lives in perspective and can make us feel very tiny but very connected at the same time.
3. Seek restoration. Vacations can be about fun and excitement, but try to seek out opportunities for peace and restoration. For me this means a walk on the beach, watching the sun set, listening to ocean waves, reading, and talking with my friend. Restorative activities shoud fill your soul with the healing energy of calm and simple living. Letting go of the need to schedule and plan every moment of a vacation is restorative in itself.
4. Stop thinking. Just look and listen. Sit in the moment of whatever you are doing. Listen to the sounds around you. Watch people and see them as members of a divine community sharing this time with you. Appreciate and savor the moments you are experiencing, the tastes, the smells and all of the glorious ways your senses are enlivened. Get out of your head and let your soul and senses take over.
5. Seek guidance and inspiration. If you are able to shift your perspective to focus on the spiritual benefits of your vacation, take advantage of this unique opportunity to tap in to your relaxed state of mind and your expanded awareness. This is a great time to ask for guidance about a problem or decision or to look for inspiration for a goal or endeavor. Bring a journal or notebook with you on vacation, and ask God or the universe or your own inner wisdom for the answers. Write down your thoughts and ideas and refer back to them when you return to your everyday life. You will be happily surprised at the creative resources that seem to flow when you remain open to inspiration.