I recently returned from a totally-for-pleasure trip to Portland, OR (big shout out and appreciation to Delta, The Heathman, Alchemy Jewelers, Foot Bar, and Hotel Monaco -- all made my trip both enjoyable and memorable). As someone who was raised and spent much of her life in the Northeast, I find the Pacific Northwest totally intriguing. Portland was on my must-visit-because-I-can-easily-see-myself-living-there list. I made every moment of my trip count -- I spent all my time immersed in the experience that is Portland. Needless to say, the trip was magical (and that whole no tax thing inspired a mini buying spree). I explored. I ate. I shopped. I browsed. I walked (and walked, and walked, and walked, and...). I took lots of pictures (you can see a small snippet of my trip here). And, yes, I could definitely picture myself living there.
I tend to thrill at exploring new places so it's no surprise that I felt blissed out for much of my trip. Yet I've never been a believer in the whole must-trek-to-distant-lands-to-experience-enlightenment-and-bliss thing. Yes, I've read all of the travel adventure/epiphany books and enjoyed them, but I've always felt that you don't have to leave home in order to have a deep experience. Granted, Portland isn't halfway around the world for me (just across the country), but I did feel that whoa-I'm-learning-a-lot-about-myself-and-am-having-a-profound-experience feeling. Was it the chocolate high from eating/drinking too many goodies from Cacao? Not exactly.
Yes, I was away from my normal routine. Yes, I was seeing new things, having new experiences. All of it very exciting. But it wasn't the differences, the newness that was affecting me so deeply. It was the fact that I was totally in the moment. Without old habits and surroundings to fall into and go unconscious, I was fully in the moment. I soaked up every experience, appreciating the heck out of it before moving onto the next. Sometimes I forget that I can do that right here at home. I don't need to go someplace new to fully embrace the moment. It was the little reminder that I needed to remember that every day can be an adventure. Luckily, I've managed to retain that vacation frame of mind and bring myself back to the moment when I find myself zoning out. It's sort of like living meditation, bringing myself back after wandering out of the present.
One thing that I did keep up for much of my trip was my yoga practice. The Hotel Monaco made my yoga heart swell with joy by providing yoga mats in every room along with a yoga channel that offered yoga, pilates, and meditation practices (Kimpton Hotels has partnered with Gaiam in their push to cater to the yoga-loving crowd). If you ever have the pleasure of staying at Kimpton Hotel, be sure to take advantage of their rocking (and funky) ammenities, one of which being free loaner yoga mats (of course you can take it home with you...for a price).
I don't bring a yoga mat with me when I travel, usually making do with the ole hotel carpet, so I was thrilled to find a mat sitting in the closet just waiting for me to stretch and unwind after a long day of walking and exploring.
So the lesson for the day is this -- you don't have to get away from your daily life in order to experience bliss or have a deep experience. You only have to dive into the present moment. It doesn't matter where you are. You don't need an exotic location or be in the presence of a guru. Right here, right where you are you have a chance to experience the bliss, the aliveness that comes with being fully present in the moment.
Yes, going to a new place can be fun and exciting. Yes, breaking out of your regular routine can wake you up and jar you into presence. Neither, however, are necessary. If you stop running on autopilot and engage all of your senses here in this exact moment, you'll have that vacation feeling. No travel necessary.
This morning I was back on my regular ole mat (which isn't as brightly colored as this nifty one provided by Hotel Monaco) yet the practice felt just as good as it did while I was away. I was engaged, feeling my body in the movements, present in the moment rather than thinking about the past or the future. It felt a little like I had brought Portland home with me when all I really did was come home to myself.