Belfast Telegraph

For a real holiday you need to give yourself a break

By Nuala McKeever

At a Zen Buddhist event the teacher finished off a session by wishing us all to, "Have an ordinary day!" It was said with a warm smile. Everyone smiled back and laughed appreciatively at the "in" joke. I laughed too, but I didn't get the joke.

Who'd want an ordinary day? Ordinary? Wouldn't that be just the worst thing you could think of?

It's taken me months of thinking and, more crucially, NOT thinking, to come to an understanding of the word. I took ordinary to mean dull. It doesn't. It doesn't actually mean anything about what happens in a day. It's more to do with how you respond to the things that happen or don't happen in your day.

I had a dream last night where I was in a beautiful place, somewhere warm and sunny, Mediterranean maybe, with lots of food growing on a well-tended, terraced hillside. There was a luxury spa and, in the dream, I knew I could have anything I wanted. I could be pampered, massaged, wined and dined and tucked up in a huge bed between soft, blissfully expensive sheets.

I set out on foot and found a man working in an olive grove. He was older, wiser, calm and pretty much silent. He didn't speak but sat me down in the shade and gave me a bottle of cold water and left his elderly dog at my feet and said he'd be back in about 20 to 30 minutes. All I had to do was sit there.

And in this dream, in this paradise, I was unhappy. I was churned up, unsure, guilty, sad, unbelievably sad, tearful and altogether miserable.

Because even in the dream I realised that I was bringing the sadness with me. It was inside me. It didn't matter how much luxury or how many wise men or how much gentle shade or warm sun or pure water or decadent wine I had, I would be sad because I was sad inside.

How many of us have been on a holiday this summer and have experienced the disappointment of it not changing us into happy people? All year we've held out for those two weeks in paradise. And then we got to paradise and found out that it was paradise but we weren't the person we wanted to be, in paradise?

If I break it all down into small parts, I end up with the sense that paradise is contentment and contentment is being ok with things just the way they are.

And that doesn't mean you necessarily LIKE things as they are. You might be trudging in cold, pouring rain up a hill in the dark, which is not pleasant, but when you give up resisting what's happening, when you say, "Yes, this is happening", there is a subtle shift in everything.

To watch someone you love in pain, in hospital, in grief; to see a child lose his sense of wonder and innocence through the cruelty of those who were supposed to love him; to look at people around the world fighting and killing each other over things that really don't matter, it's so hard.

Accepting it's happening doesn't mean you like it, it just means you allow that this is how it is right now.

Take your hands off the controls. Suddenly you realise you weren't controlling things anyway. Give yourself a break. Rest your frenzy. Just be here in this ordinary moment. This is where the holiday really is. Right here, in this moment.

And you don't even need to get Euros.

Why it's good to be in the know

There was a documentary on TV last Thursday called the Dark Web about how much we are all being tracked and spied on by "them" every time we use our computers and phones.

They know where we are, what we buy and what we look up. This info is sold to advertisers who then bombard us with ads for stuff. Outrageous! I get the fear. I see how it's invasive. But part of me thinks if it gets so extreme there'll be a certain freedom in everyone being able to know everything about everyone.

We might even start to realise that our so-called differences are just an illusion.

Go meditate on this one

I've noticed when I tell people I meditate, as in, sit down on a cushion in silence, they invariably respond with a "I walk, that's my meditation" or "Cycling – that's my meditation" or gardening or knitting or wallpapering.

And yet, I doubt if anyone who says, "I cook" is ever greeted with, "Oh, I love walking, that's MY cooking", or "Cooking? Yeah, I find cycling a great way to cook" or "Wallpapering, now that's like cycling to me." "Oh yeah, two hours knitting in the garden, that's like wallpapering for me."

Funny that ...

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