Have you ever experienced a time when the battery on your phone was dead? I mean stone-cold dead. Not only would it not turn on, but it was so depleted that even after you plugged it in, you still couldn’t use it for several minutes, despite the fact it was directly connected to a power source.
Life is like that sometimes.
Kim and I recently took an anniversary trip to Mackinac Island in Michigan. I bought a new journal, expecting to have a bunch of time to fill it with brilliant brainstorms and insights. Alas, when we made the return trip on the ferry, only four pages were filled.
And trust me, they contained very little insight.
When I did have quiet time, I spent most of it in a near-comatose state, just staring at the water and listening to the clip-clop of the horses marching up and down the street. We also took in the beauty of the island and the charming homes. I savored every bite of the wonderful meals we enjoyed and loved breathing in the fresh air as we pedaled the 8.2 miles around the island on rented bicycles. It was an amazing opportunity to just be.
But as far as exciting new ideas? Flatline.
I was like a dead phone, needing to be plugged into a power source for a bit, doing nothing before I could have any chance of experiencing any “productivity.”
The difference between me now and me 10 or 15 years ago is that I was OK with it. As I’ve gotten older, and presumably more wiser, I’ve become more in tune with what my body, mind, and soul need. I am less likely to let my hopes and expectations drive the car because I have enough experience with those expectations driving me right off a cliff.
It didn’t surprise me that on the drive home, new ideas began to bubble up and Kim and I had some pretty enlightened discussions about our future after my battery had been recharged.
Vacations are a great opportunity to explore new environments and experience new activities. And there is extreme value in taking a break from our routine. But it shouldn’t be more of the same striving and busyness of our normal life, merely shifting to a new location. We should be mindful of setting aside time in every vacation for slowing down. Heck, make that every day.
Our culture doesn’t value stopping. We are uncomfortable with silence. We are conditioned to go, go, go, and do, do, do. And because of that, our body is forced to revolt, shutting us down with a sickness, injury, or other malady. Sometimes the universe conspires to slow us down with some other upheaval to our status quo.
If this is where you find yourself right now, accept it as the gift it is.
When we are in a harried state, we are inclined to sense that something is wrong and double down our brain power to search for answers. But the output that comes from a cluttered mind often only makes our situation worse.
As Alan Watts wrote in The Way of Zen: “As muddy water is best cleared by leaving it alone, it could be argued that those who sit quietly and do nothing are making one of the best possible contributions to a world in turmoil.”
That world in turmoil might be our own.
We all want more clarity, more peace, and more success. The secret to getting those things isn’t with more, but less. Instead of hustling more, thinking harder, or working longer, we need less noise, less activity, and fewer thoughts.
I had certain expectations of what I wanted out of our vacation to Mackinac Island.
Fortunately, I got exactly what I needed.
Sometimes what we need most is to do nothing but plug into a higher power and just…be.