Her snow-white robes, and now no more the frost
Candies the grass, or casts an icy cream
Upon the silver lake or crystal stream; --Thomas Carew, 16th century poet
Well, I don't know that winter is done with us yet, but though it is chilly, I'm looking at a bright, clear blue sky and seeing the sun shining. And, yes, I'm on "spring break". Because I work at a school, we do get some days off in March--and because I work at a boarding school, we get two weeks off so that students can travel back to their families. This sounds like a good deal, and in many ways it is, except that we end a marking period before the break and thus have mounds of grading and computation to complete. Most of my spring breaks, I also have rough drafts of research papers to read and produce feedback on, and so over the past twenty years I have usually spent my spring vacation mostly working. This year I decided no way. I still had students hand in their drafts, but I graded them and handed them back before we left. This was not easy, but I pushed myself hard, really hard, to get everything done so that I could have a true break (as opposed to a working one where I resented having to work the whole time).
I have made many mis-steps with spring breaks due to poor engineering or simply being overwhelmed. Let's take for example last year, when I started my spring break with a weekend ayurveda intensive. The weekend would involve yoga, ayurvedic foods, and various activities related to self-discovery. I was running at full-tilt before heading out to the camp and was worried all afternoon that I was going to be late because I had so much to see to before I left. As I'm sure many of you can identify with, leaving your family and household and job, even for a weekend, often involves so much prior planning that you feel like you're launching a military operation. At some point, most of us must say to ourselves, "so, how is this worth it?" I was at that point but threw together a bag, loaded up the car, and headed out determined (yes, I know, determined) to go relax. I get out to the camp and discover that I've forgotten my toothbrush, my deodorant, and extra underwear. Well, thank goodness I didn't forget anything essential!
Because it really would have been too far and long to leave to go buy these items somewhere, I decided to "make do." Let me tell you, despite the fact that I had toothpaste, a tongue scraper and floss, nothing beats a toothbrush. My teeth felt scummy all weekend long and I could hardly wait to brush them when I returned home. Deodorant? Well, I"m not really the kind that can go without--no hippy, dippy crystal for me. I tried making do with my lavender essential oil (yes, THAT non-essential I remembered). I washed my armpits several times a day, kept them shaved but I could still barely stand the sticky feeling and the smell of myself. The underwear: I had one extra pair and had to do the old "inside-out" trick favored by college students around the world.
All those inconveniences aside, did I have a good time? Not really. The main course at all meals, kitchari (a lentil stew that is supposed to be the easiest thing in the world to digest) gave me horrendous gas. Just two meals and my intestines were sounding like their were doing a balloon-tying act of some sort. Then there was my walk in the woods. I went for an afternoon walk by myself figuring that since I'd been to this camp a number of times I'd have no problem finding my way. I managed to lose the trail deep in the woods and had no idea how to get out. After pausing to pee, then gather my wits and take a few deep breathes, I tracked my way back, found a part of a trail and hoped for the best. I had my cell phone, but no idea who I'd call. I could have used a compass on it except I had no idea what direction the lodge was so that wouldn't have helped at all. And then there was the dancing--this primal dancing where we were supposed to "feel our power." I didn't feel it (though I love to dance).
There was very little on ayurveda and I'm not a fan of "rock star" style yogis who want to look exotic and act a bit wingy and toss out some vague advice and think that cuts it. I know, critical on my part, but the camp wasn't free so I feel I have the right to be honest. I did manage to leave the weekend with a couple of good bits of learning--I'm a firm believer that no matter how insufficient the teacher or trying the circumstances, there is SOMETHING always to be learned. I appreciated an exercise where we stated our goals for the next year in the present tense (This year, I save money so that I can take a trip to England--as opposed to I WILL save money for a trip to England). The future tense allows one to put things off indefintely whereas the present tense signals doing. And I learned to breathe before starting a yoga movement in a flow. I know, not huge takeaways, but something.
So this spring I decided to make this a more relaxed break. I have several books on my to read list, all lighthearted. I have my yoga mat and meditation cushion at the ready. I printed out my study materials for things I'm trying to learn about currently. And my only real commitment is a nightly soak in the tub. Too often we try to cram too much into a short window that is supposed to be for relaxation and ramp up our stress all the more. I know that not everyone gets a long break, but most people can take a weekend to relax and rejuvenate at home. Here's a "game plan" that I think can work for anyone if you clear your plate and plan a break for spring renewal:
- Eat good healthy food. Lots of green things and lemon!
- Drink extra water and herbal teas.
- Take long hot baths with baking soda for detoxing (about 1/2 cup). You can also add some essential oil (like lavender, ha ha)
- Some aromatherapy--a scented candle or incense. A fresh, springy scent. A beautiful fragrance can do so much to pick up your mood.
- Attend a floral display (I went to a small, but charming, greenhouse show of spring bulbs). If there aren't any around, then go to a nursery!
- Listen to some good music. (I started my break taking my dad to a Celtic folk band concert at a local venue)
- Read for pleasure, nothing too heavy
- Go to bed early
- Take a yoga class, gentle is fine, do what your body tells you.
- Walk, outdoors if possible. If not then find a walking instruction video (Leslie Sansone is peppy and motivating)
That's it. No beaches, no wet tee-shirt contests, no St. Patrick's Day debauchery, no racing-around-Europe tours, no indoor waterparks with screaming kids, no packed movie theaters, no all-you-can-eat buffets, no casinos or race tracks or outlet malls. Just quiet, calm, simple rejuvenation.
Give it try and see what this spring may bring!
p.s. Through Spring Equinox, March 21st, I'm offering the 10-week Healing Traditions Course for $125. Give yourself the gift of healing knowledge at a good price!