2003-08-08 / Columnists

Health & Harmony

Virtual Vacation
By Dr. Nancy Gahles
Health & Harmony

Health & Harmony

nancy gahlesnancy gahles

By Dr. Nancy Gahles

Virtual Vacation

We are well into the month of July. Already I’m hearing the laments that the summer is almost over. "Once July is finished, there is only one more month", goes the anguished cry. This, mostly from those who are still working. Those who have to keep working. Those who are thankful that they have a job to work at.

I find myself in a different position. I’m the mother of teenagers. They wouldn’t take a vacation with me if it were the last option on earth. "You want to do what? Museums? Art? Architecture? Antiquity? No way!"

Well, maybe, if I took some of their friends along. To the Greek Isles? I don’t think so! I was considering it until my son asked if there were any amusement parks there. Somehow I knew that even with the best laid plans I would not find myself basking on the terrace of a Mediterranean villa gazing at the Adriatic Sea with a cool drink in my hand, the wind on my face, and peace and quiet abounding with everyone’s needs being met. Not to mention the grueling airplane flight; the backaches and cramped legs; the rental car that’s not "cool" enough; the over packed bags that somehow I have to carry even though I told them to bring mix and match clothing and NOT 10 pairs of shoes; and the inevitable ear pain on landing. I thought about it long and hard. Is this a vacation?

What is a vacation? To vacate generally means to leave a place in which you are living. We have colloquialized this to mean that we are leaving all our cares and responsibilities behind and going to another location to have fun. Rest and relaxation. Ah, but what is relaxation?

To my son, it’s an amusement park. To my daughter it’s being with her friends. To my husband it’s being with me. And to me, it’s being. Simply being.

Being in a simple, quiet environment where I can hear the song of my soul without interruption.

Virtual vacation became the absolute choice for me. The guarantee that I could have the place and the space that I needed for my specific relaxation needs. And , it fit into my budget perfectly! I glanced at the Sunday New York Times travel section and the front page was advertising Corfu, in the Greek Isles. Exactly where I wanted to be. I read all about it, drank in the geography and settled myself into the virtual Hotel Cavalieri overlooking the Adriatic Sea.

The warm sunshine and the beautiful breeze off Rockaway beach helped to transport me to the virtual Mediterranean. I breathed deeply and used the same techniques that I use in my meditation practice. Deep, focused breathing. Breathing with intent. This brought me to a place of stillness in my mind and in my body. I traveled through the Greek Isles like Homer on an Odyssey.

I breathed my way to Santorini, the alleged site of the lost continent of Atlantis. I visited the Oracle at Adelphi and imagined the journey up to the top of Mount Olympus to consult the oracle. I have great regard for the intuitive wisdom of our women elders and so this was one of the highlights of my trip. From the top of the mountain I looked down on the whitewashed village houses and rejoiced in their simplicity. My next stop was a walk through the famed Labyrinth. A classic in Greek mythology replete with the rich symbolism of doing battle with a minotaur in a maze. An analogy to life.

The path to the center of the labyrinth symbolizes the journey to the heart, to our own center place of peace and stillness. Labyrinthine pathways have been part of healing processes since ancient times. It is a body prayer. The journey in is about grounding in the present and letting go as you approach the center where you stand in stillness and deep peaceful reflection. As you journey out, you begin the passage to a new life preparing to re-enter the outside world with a new sense of purpose. This is what a true vacation should bring to you.

Renewed and recharged, I began my journey back when I heard a telephone ring. Well, not a ring but one of those enigmatic songs that are unique to cell phones. In the labyrinth? I wanted to scream, "No! I’m in the Greek Isles, I can’t get to the phone right now."

Fearing an emergency, I breathed myself back to the porch and answered the call. It was an emergency. "Mom, Can you pick me up and take me to the mall, I need gel for my hair." "Honey, we have hair gel." "Mom, that is the one you use. It’s so gross!" A virtual emergency.

As my father used to say when we returned from vacation, "It’s nice to get away, but it’s nice to come home."

Feeling very refreshed from my virtual vacation, I stepped off my porch and walked to my car/teenage transport vehicle. I smelt the salty ocean air, heard the waves crashing, felt the warm summer sun and the breeze on my face and rejoiced in the simplicity.

As soon as I get home from the mall, I’m going to Machu Pichu.

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