I have just returned from a relaxing break in a woodland lodge. Surrounded by trees, rhododendrons, and wildlife it was easy to switch off. I found myself gazing into space, my mind completely free of thought. A state which normally takes concentrated meditation now felt like a default setting. To be still with no thought can seem counter-productive. No divine inspiration, thunderbolt realisations – not even a new story idea. We drive ourselves in pursuit of achievement, ever faster and more intense, willing our dreams to materialise – believing we have control. Allowing stillness feels counterintuitive – lazy. We are brought up with the belief that hard work brings rewards and success. This is true to a certain extent but it is also important to know when and how to relax and give our minds a break.
With the pandemic, few people have taken a proper holiday and it is something we all need given the stresses of this past year. Escaping to a different setting from our home and familiar environment provides a temporary respite from our worries. We can step off the hamster wheel and take a breath.
Confined to our homes and the same four walls, books have provided an escape for many. Romcoms set in Italy, Greece, and other exotic locations, have been popular with many new publications this year. Last week, I interviewed author Lizzie Chantree for Castaway Books. Lizzie was a successful entrepreneur when her daughter experienced a life-changing illness she had to close her business. Sitting up most nights, she passed the time by writing. The story she wrote enabled her to escape to sunshine, romance, and friendship. This eventually become her debut novel Babe Driven and was the launch of a very successful career as an author. Her readers must have enjoyed the same feelings of escape that Lizzie did in writing this novel.
I am told by fans of fantasy, that the attraction is in escaping from this world. A writer friend explained how she could only write fantasy. To write stories set in the real world would be difficult for her, as it was a place where she had experienced childhood trauma and writing was a means of escape – a place to explore her thoughts and feelings in a different setting.
Whether it is a holiday or a novel that provides a means of escape, when we relax and shift our perspective, we gain new insights on our inner world. Our mind is relaxed and open to inspiration. We return to our daily life and see things a little differently.
It is a bit like being a sculptor. Up close we cannot see what we are creating, we have to stand back and view our work from different angles.
There are other benefits from taking a holiday. My husband and I, like most families, have seen few other people and spent more time in each other’s company that we would in normal times. However, going away together for a few days meant that we spent quality time together. No phones, or social media – there was no signal in our woodland escape so that made it easier. Relaxed and carefree we were kinder, more considerate to one another, and more attentive.
I did have one epiphany during my four-day break. In the scheme of things our little world is a spec in the universe, and our civilisation has been here for a fraction of time. It made me wonder at my significance and the importance of my dreams and wishes. And then I thought about the magnificent feats of nature: sunrise and sunsets, the magnolia in my garden that flowers for a few weeks of the year but is glorious, so many breath-taking creations – each and every one precious. We are equally special, and when our dreams come to fruition we too will blaze in splendid glory. To let go is not to give in or give up, it is to trust the power of creation and to be secure in the knowledge that our life will flow in the magnificent way that is intended.
So, I too returned from my break with a slightly different perspective on my world.