I arrived back from my break in the Lake District 5 days ago. I had a very pleasant and relaxing time and do indeed feel refreshed and renewed. I didn’t walk every day as I had intended to, in fact I hardly walked at all as the heat and humidity were too much for me. But it was not difficult to find other less energetic ways of enjoying my time.
I continue to ponder the question of the difference we experience between work and leisure. When I was away in the Lakes I felt an increased sense of wellbeing, of peace and contentment and connection. No big surprise there. But I’m interested in looking into that a bit more deeply because Buddhism teaches, and I feel instinctively, that my wellbeing, in the profoundest sense, is not ultimately dependent on circumstances.
The two major factors that appear to make the most difference to the quality of my experience are that being away from my usual surroundings I find it very easy to drop all my everyday concerns and, being on my own, I have no one that I have to fit in with so I can do what I like when I like.
There are others features of course, such as having the opportunity to get more sleep, take more time over meals, and do other things that relax me and give my health a boost. But let’s take a closer look at the big two.
Firstly the ease with which I can drop my usual concerns. I don’t even have to try; the thoughts just aren’t there. My mind finds no reason to engage with, for example, any challenging aspects of particular projects that I am working on. And it is not as if I am brushing it all under the carpet for the time being; there seems to be a genuine trust that I do not need to concern myself with it now. This shows me that I can be relaxed despite there being perhaps some difficult circumstances in my life. It gives me faith that it is possible to touch the peace that I believe is always there inside me. Understanding how to reach this place is still very much work in progress.
The second factor, being able to do what I like when I like, on closer inspection turns out to be a matter of degree. I am still subject to conditions. I had to adapt to the fact that it was too hot to walk. I still had to eat, sleep, wash etc. I was ill for a couple of days. So can I really do what I like when I like, and is that actually what makes the difference? It seems to me it is more a case of being able to flow with conditions, to work with them rather than against them.
I am not attempting here to “solve” anything, just reflecting on experience and seeing what questions are brought to light. At the very least exposing my faulty thinking. And I think that perpetuating faulty thinking is one of the major causes of suffering. A subject to address another time perhaps.