In a recent article in the Calgary Herald from Saturday, July 30 titled “Workplace Stress is on the Rise”, the article notes that many working people are choosing to do without their allotted vacations. It goes on to suggest that the vacation is a time to disconnect and to de-stress and without this break, it contributes to greater numbers of individuals seeking help with coping with stress. I agree with this completely.
At the same time, disconnecting from work may involve more than taking a vacation, as many of you will know the feeling of the physical body in one place while the mind is somewhere else, often working on a problem at work. This experience is not limited to vacations as you can come home from work and have difficulty finding down time from the day’s challenges, whether it is a weekday, a weekend, or in the midst of a 2 week sojourn. Mindfulness meditation offers an opportunity to learn how to “let go”. This seems straight forward, however, when one tries it, exactly how does one “let go”. I agree with Jon Kabat-Zinn who says that “letting go” is a powerful inner move. In my own practice of meditation, I sense that “letting go” is a potent force to understand and implement, as the mind loves to hold on, to stick, and attach to ideas, thoughts, and emotions.
Mindfulness meditation can help you learn to disconnect and “let go”. Mindfulness meditation involves sustaining one’s attention over a period of time to an object of meditation. When the mind becomes distracted, the instruction is to “let go” of the distraction and return the attention to the object. To “let go” is to disconnect and find some freedom from our thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations. Learning how to disconnect in meditation can be applied to learning to disconnect from work whether on vacation or simply at the end of the workday.
One way of “letting go” informally is to purposefully pay attention to what is happening in the present moment. One of the most accessible ways to do this is to simply pay attention to a specific part of your experience. For example, you could turn your attention to your ears and concentrate on what you can hear from moment to moment for a specific period of time. By paying attention to what is happening now, the mind gets a rest from other concerns. You can try this for yourself right now. Experiment with stopping what you are doing and focusing all of your attention on what you can hear and try to sustain this effort over a minute and see what happens. How easy is it to do this?
A second way would be to investigate “letting go” by turning your attention to its opposite sense. If “letting go” is a release or freedom from something, the opposite may be a feeling of holding on, being stuck or glued to something. In mindful meditation, one can turn your attention to this felt sense and bring mindfulness to the experience of holding and how you are doing this. It takes courage, compassion, and patience to do this as the pattern of holding on may be felt quite deeply in the mind and body. Mindfulness provides the vehicle for understanding these forces and can provide a clue how to release them.