This time last week, I was on vacation in Sayulita, Mexico.
Sleeping in a cabana by the ocean, rising before the sun to meditate and do yoga, and spending my days with the most beautiful group of women.
By Thursday, I had fully arrived. I was relaxed. Settled in to the ebb and flow of days, the moon, and the ocean.
But let’s rewind a few days, to the previous Saturday.
My first full day at Haramara. The night before, I fell asleep at 8:45 pm and slept for almost 10 hours. Upon waking, I wandered up the mountain to breakfast, absorbing the sights and sounds of the jungle.
And after breakfast I grabbed a book and a beach towel and settled in at the beach.
At which point I started to twitch…
The severed connection
This is what poured forth, sitting there at the edge of the Pacific Ocean on a gorgeous morning, staring out across the waves to the horizon:
We don’t know how to relax.
It’s like we’ve forgotten.
Plunk me down by myself in the middle of paradise, and I start to physically itch because I don’t know what to do with myself.
My brain spins, my introvert self wants to go home, my inner entrepreneur wants her laptop and the internet (stat) because there’s work to be done, dammit.
We push ourselves so hard when we’re working that when we try to stop, to disconnect, it’s like a heroin addict who needs just one more hit. Just one more blog post. One more hit of device-delivered dopamine.
Then we can relax.
Then we can enjoy the moment.
Human Doing or Human Being?
There is something inherently messed up when we can sit with a view like this…
and still not be able to relax.
Yet, our society and lifestyles have engrained this response into us. We have become Human Doings instead of Human Beings.
During any moment of down time, of pause, guilt begins to creep in. We feel like there must be something else we can accomplish. Some task we can cross off our never-ending to do lists.
So what’s a human (being) to do?
Practice and all is coming
It comes down to the balance between the body’s limbic system and the neocortex.
We “do” in an effort to defend and protect ourselves (limbic). And we neglect the relaxation response that originates from the neocortex.
The root of the solution lies here: we can’t think our way through it. We have to live it, practice it.
The answers will come when we put what we think we know to the test.
We’ll be able to relax when we practice relaxing.
So back to the beach in Sayulita, a few days into the retreat. I had arrived. Enough time passed, yoga sessions moved through my body, breaths through my lungs, that I could be fully present. That I could finally relax.
Practice doesn’t make perfect. But it does bring us closer to that point in time where we have quicker access to the relaxation response.
And you are the only one who has the power to turn on your relaxation response. You can bring practices into your life that allow you to tap into the neocortex. To practice self care. To decide to be a Human Being.
You have the power.