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Holidays or High Holy Days

by Cynthia Alves(more info)

listed in retreats and travel, originally published in issue 25 - February 1998

Reasons for holidays vary: perhaps for change – of scene and surroundings, routine, culture, weather, company and care; or a rare opportunity to pursue a particular interest, hobby or sport. Or, perhaps the 'no – reason' of habit, "We always go. . . need a break. . ."

Starting The Plans (or dreams!) with some introspective questioning may prove to be enlightening. Why am I imagining this holiday? What am I wanting (lacking?) and expecting? Where do I want to go – and why there or that kind of place? When you reckon you've got all the answers, ponder them and check for hidden assumptions. . . then brainstorm again: ask deeper. Am I willing to change inside as well as outside; to really let go of what I'm wanting to get away from? Who and what will this holiday serve? What is my attitude toward holiday – and toward not-holiday time? Do I believe life to be a heavy labour camp? A fearful and dangerous place? A bad joke of which I'm a victim? Does holiday mean grabbing an occasional parole, or a couple weeks deserved / earned furlough? The only time in which I believe I can experience freedom, ease, peace of mind, a big buzz of wonder, enjoyment, excitement. . .

Where am I going – why there? Perhaps the place suits the bill for my leisure or social relationships. Beyond that, will it really offer a change, a fresh outlook for 'getting away', or is it actually the same sort of place as home-ground with different make-up, for merely shifting from one hyper gear to another? An urge for different or greater stimulation may indicate the need for just the opposite: slowing down, quietening, pausing, clearance, breathing space for body, mind, and soul.

Modern city life – where an increasingly vast proportion of humanity abides – is charging heavy tolls on people and the whole planet. Urban and suburban environments are human-centred, with relatively little animated life; Life of the Nature which sustains us, and informs us of our nature too. It is no longer so easy to see, hear, touch, smell or taste the fullness of Life's vitality, abundance, and diversity – or, "elementary, dear Dr. Watson". With such deprivation it becomes easy to forget that 'living' is utterly dependent on that of our planet which is not human, nor person-centred; and oblivious to inter-connectivity and greater-than-human relationships. Further, with (stressful!) urban over-stimulation of all physical senses, those of our more subtle senses become de-sensitised, and close down or revolt under the pressure. No wonder so many of us have become ill, lonely, and utterly unfamiliar with subtitles and inner tranquillity – and so often manic–busy seeking and trying to get peace of mind from 'out there' and 'those things'.

Composure and inner peace are among the many treasures that a 'holy-day' can help us re-discover and remember back into daily living.

Underneath the various whys and wherefores of holiday dreams flow common yearnings to recall one's best self – feeling relaxed, happy, alive, refreshed and re-created. Or is it wanting to get away from – from what? Stress? Daily grind, boredom or lacklustre, perhaps painful situations? Unfortunately, what we may be wanting to get away from is probably brought along – packed in the tape-loop mind-sets that contributed so much to the situations and experiences we want to leave behind. Set attitudes, judgements, preconceptions, negativities such as fears and worries are among the unwholesome tape-loops, undetectable at customs barriers.

Then, maybe buttons get pushed when things aren't as expected. Upsets snowball when, having gone away to feel good, instead the body erupts with uncomfortable, disgusting symptoms, and tender, previously suppressed emotions. We didn't get what we came for, nor away from what we wanted to leave behind.

Try even harder next year?

Sometimes the holiday seems to have 'worked'. We consumed what we paid for (slavishly scrimped and saved for?). But. Then the loveliness and wonder is left at the airport, or fades soon after, except for a few photographic echoes, neither brought home and into our daily occupations, nor into the other weeks of the year.

New 'holiday' input can divert attention away from warning signals and aches; increased stimulation can further de-sensitise. The break may only be superficial, and no lasting change at all, or a prelude to a break-down. The internal springs unwind a bit, temporarily, only to recoil in shock of getting back: all the bogeys left at home are still there to be faced.

There is a new uprising of 'spiritual holidays' – not religious, nor about some big Guy in the sky. They are enlivening, refreshing and empowering opportunities to help us find the treasures within that our tired, hard hearts are longing for. The best 'retreat' isn't for getting away, rather going toward or getting into being with the LIFE of ourselves; time for nurturing knowledge of divine Self, our ever-lasting light. So we can shine when back at the occupation, the house, the bedroom.

Imagine a holiday of being what you are most deeply wanting in life, from which you can bring all the goodies back with you (not just the duty free!) – for you, your partner, children, workmates and clients – for every day, every activity. What would it be like to – instead of vacating (which is what most of us are mostly doing most of the time anyway) – Be With, fully present in LIFE, and wholly exploring, enjoying, enlivening all of life? And to come home to a real fire of love, with recreated senses of trust, ease, fun, self-empowerment?

'To be present' includes sometimes living through various pains and discomforts which we can't really get away from. We can ignore and suppress them or we can acknowledge them, learn from and let them go. Like spring cleaning, many of the common holiday "lurgees" – the dire trots, sneezes and streaming nose, the emotional outbursts and so on – may be clearance of what's been patiently waiting for a little space to be released, cleaned out, re-balanced. With guidance and non-suppressive care, body-mind-spirit cleansings can be easier, quicker, and less temporary or superficial. And past the muck is shining the gold of lightness, clarity, 'with-it', vitality, strength. . . peace.

Imagine you and your lover and your children seeing enough stars for the wonder of cosmic 3-dimensional depth.. . . where the lungs are filled every day with fragrant, vibrant air, and the soul nourished by symphonies of bird song . . . stooping at a stream to drink delicious fresh water from cupped hands . . . standing in the rain, bared to creation, delighting and singing . . . tending a fire, reverently and responsibly . . . playing in rich earth that is safe, clean dirt. . . . Whatever the weather: en-joy-ing the elements that are the basis of our worldly life and cosmic context; enjoying wholesome experiences of sensual nourishment and self knowledge. . . becoming familiar with and developing a deepening relationship with subtleties of inner space and divine Soul. Perhaps even inspired and encouraged to learn how to bring Life of Nature back into our cities.

A facilitated holiday – rural or urban – can guide adjustment to outer and inner environments that have been neglected, forgotten, or perhaps even feared, and help us find and explore psychospiritual treasures. Avoiding the time-wasting groping of D.I.Y. trial and error, we can be here-now every precious day of the holiday, alive and very well, holy. At best, such aid will also enable integration, to help us continue being here now, wherever and whenever, after the holiday. 'High and holy' can then be for more than that place and time, with enduring insights and meaningful changes, fresh and wholesome views on life. Glorious ebb and flow of activity and rest, accomplishment and Sabbath could develop beyond a separated-off chunk of this new year – into a life of holy days.

As Christopher Fry put it in "A Sleep of Prisoners", ". . . Affairs are now soul size. The enterprise is exploration into God. Where are you making for? It takes so many years to wake, but will you wake for pity's sake?"


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About Cynthia Alves

Cynthia Alves is a qualified flower essence practitioner and has been teaching flower essences for 15 years. She is also secretary to Peter Russell, international philosopher and futurist who writes about healing the spiritual roots of our global crises. Cynthia is based in Somerset and is passionate about her allotment garden. She is developing her vibrational essence, co-creative and energetic work in cleansing workplaces and homes. She can be contacted at e-mail:

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