Written by Michelle O’Rourke
We try to be more laid back and outdoors more often, and hopefully, our schedules are a little less frantic. Ideally, we create time for relaxation and reflection, so as to build our self-awareness and strengthen our resilience for when we return to our regular lives.
One way I have added time for reflection and mindfulness into my life is through my travels. For example, in June, I travelled from southwestern Ontario to Prince Edward Island (PEI) alone by car – a three-day trek each way. I love driving, sometimes in silence as I enjoy the views, sometimes with music or podcasts to keep me company.
I find that my focus in all of this is to be more mindful – to enjoy each day and each moment for what it is. Making each moment matter. I really try to concentrate on where I am and what I am seeing, enjoying the views and the rest stops, and not being worried about the time, or where I will be tomorrow. Focusing on today helps me to take little detours when I see signs for a bistro, a boutique, or a waterfall I might like to visit. It is both rewarding and comforting to plan my day so that I can drive across a covered bridge and capture a few photos in the sunshine. As I continue my own healing journey after years of caregiving and overextending myself, I find comfort and solace in nature’s beauty.
In PEI, I facilitated a quiet retreat for twenty lovely women at a beautiful retreat house, where the theme was “My Life – My Gift. I tried to focus on the moments such as time spent with the retreat participants, the views, the little excursions, and the lobster rolls! Over eight days, we walked through various aspects of gifts, including reflecting on the gift of life itself; the gift of the earth and creation; the gifts of our own lives and how we have used our gifts in the service of others. Those are themes that I believe are helpful for all of us to reflect on and to appreciate. We did some legacy work as well, and it was wonderful to see how reflecting on our lives and our gifts – seeing our fruitfulness and recognizing our legacy – helps all of us as we age. This work can help us to be grateful for our journeys, and to be better prepared for the inevitable final chapter of our lives – whenever that will be.
Sometimes in palliative care, we focus on putting the medical and financial pieces in place, to the detriment of our emotional and spiritual needs and reflections. Taking time while we are well to reflect and think through these gifts and to have gratitude for them can support us later when we might be facing serious illness or death.
In September, three of us embark on another cross-country trek, as we drive to British Columbia to spend a month with family. Again, as I did last year when I made the drive to BC alone, I hope to do so mindfully – enjoying each moment I am living in and trusting that tomorrow will bring more beauty and joy. I have learned to cherish each opportunity and experience with great gratitude, since, as we know in palliative care, you never know what tomorrow will bring. Living richly each day is freeing and healing. My hope for you in the remaining weeks of summer is that you will consider creating opportunities for being reflective, expanding your mindfulness and enjoying each moment.
Explore Ways to Build in Reflecting
Consider your current life practices that fill your energy bank and help to build your resilience. Write and describe what is it about these practices that fill you with energy. Be specific as possible. Is reflecting one of those activities? What are your thoughts about building a reflective practice?
Write about how you might adapt your practices to be outdoors more often. To be able to be reflective while travelling? To find time for reflection when away from home?
Consider these options – do any resonate with you?
- Participate in an outdoor meditative class
- Walk in a different place in your own location, or where you have travelled to
- Rise early to watch the sun come up
- Stay up late to watch the stars
- Walk the beach (easy to do here on the far west coast of Canada!)
It’s likely you have many more ideas. Please do share your ideas for recharging and re-energizing in the summer in the comments section.