This summer, I spent the last 2 weeks of August in Glacier, hiking many vertical feet up and down 11 of our 13 days in that stunning National Park.  I hadn’t been on a road-trip vacation like this in years. We spent two weeks dreaming up the structure of our days one at a time.  We car-camped and hiked in four different sections of the park.  We meandered beside mountain meadows, grazed on wild Saskatoon and huckle berries, witnessed large animals inspiring awe and respectful reverence, took invigorating plunges in many an alpine lake, and braced ourselves against 50 mph winds atop Dawson Pass.  What did I learn or relearn on my summer vacation?

  • Open skies, mountains, and time outside nourish the soul in a way that little else can.
  • Our bodies were designed and love to move.
  • It’s good to have a plan. The plan may have to change.
  • Sometimes, the most amazing things are right in front of us, as was the bull moose on the left, maybe 20 feet off trail.
  • Simplicity is itself nourishing. We benefit from occasionally doing nothing.
  • Circumstances change quickly.  This pertains to the exterior environment (ex. sweeping thunderstorms in the mountains) as well as the interior terrain of our own bodies and minds (ex. feeling elation and delight in early morning to an end of the day  ‘phew, glad we’re on the last 2 miles.’).
  • We do pretty well when we really listen to our own body, heart and mind and concurrently those of our companion(s). Sometimes translation on all sides is required.
  • When we really show up right where we are and take it all in, concrete souvenirs are not really required.

We live in a country in which fewer vacation days are routinely provided than anywhere else in the industrialized world.  And of the average 13 days of paid vacation provided, Americans routinely leave vacation time unutilized.  Finances and other logistical concerns can play a very real and limiting role in vacation decisions. However, it can be beneficial to consider a broader cost-benefit analysis of taking a break. When we temporarily step away from the routine of our work lives, we do better.  There can be elements of travel which are stressful. Yet overall, our stress level decreases with time off. And, as I’ve outlined in past writings, the relationship between stress and our health is unequivocal. With increased stress we experience more headaches, digestive problems, skin problems, fatigue, anxiety, depression, high blood pressure and the list goes on and on.  After time away, we return with a fresh perspective.  We bring new eyes to old dynamics and projects.  Our physical health improves. Our productivity increases.  We shake up habits which may or may not serve us.

We are heading into autumn: a time of settling, of consolidation, of soup making and tea drinking.  So why am I writing about vacation. On the heels of such an amazing ‘Indian summer’ we are heading into the darkest time of the year. It is a time when those suffering with respiratory and sinus issues arrive on my clinic doorstep more often and in more distress. For others, arthritic pain that evaporates all summer long reappears. And it is a natural time for us to turn interior and devote good energy to our work. My humble encouragement is for you to consider balance and the benefit of rest as we look into the dark and soggy months ahead. For simple suggestions about finding Pause in your days, please enjoy a previous newsletter Our Hunger for Pause. In addition to daily opportunities for Pause, most of us do better when we have things to look toward on the horizon.  Consider the autumn and winter ahead.

  • Honor weekends as opportunities for rest.
  • Schedule a weekend getaway.
  • Consider how the period of time between late November and the New Year can incorporate both social revelry and nourishing Pause.

For me, going away is a healthy anti-dote to the occupational hazard of thinking that everyone won’t get along just fine without me. Over my years in practice, I’ve learned the necessity of balance, sometimes not too gracefully. I’ve learned that when I don’t take care of myself, with different forms of Pause in my days and taking periodic time off, that I have no grounds to stand on in supporting the health and well-being of my patients. There are still times when I don’t get enough sleep or get a cold or have too many projects going on. And yet over time I have learned to how to honor and care for myself as well as patients.

New Writing & Activities

It would have been wonderful to share this newsletter in early September.  However, my writing energy in the early autumn was focused in two directions: first a new article “Why Meditate: An Action of Compassion,” and second the rebirth of my website. My previous article Why Meditate:  The Science of Slowing Down,” outlines the research supporting meditation’s positive effects on physical and mental health.  In “Why Meditate: An Action of Compassion,” I address some of the ways meditation benefits or improves our emotional intelligence and offer simple suggestions for how to incorporate meditation in our more public lives: the workplace, group or community meetings, and our own families.

This article emerged from dialogue begun with Seattle City Council member Richard Conlin in early summer about the potential role of meditation in the civic sphere and further from collaborative work begun with Compassionate Seattle’s Jon Ramer in this vein.  Beginning on 9/11, Jon and I have been meeting with a small group of professionals who incorporate meditation or contemplative practice in their work and who believe in the benefits of contemplative practice for our entire community.

Monday November 12th 6-9pm we, as a group, are hosting a community wide Contemplative Professionals Gathering.  Our overarching desire is to support a healthier urban-life path and promote the benefits of mindfulness, meditation and other contemplative practices in our community. Please share the above flyer and this information via Facebook and other social media to those you believe would be interested to attend.

New Website

My previous website, while filled with rich content, had begun to feel like a bad house remodel with extension after extension tacked on. I have finally rebirthed the  website, with the help of many skilled individuals {professional and those dear to me}. Articles and resources previously found on the Educational Links page  can now be found in two areas.  First under ‘Amy’s Clinic’ you will find links for Meditation & Stress Management, and Comprehensive Nutritional Consultation with associated articles and MP3s.  Additionally, on the bottom left corner of each page you’ll find a button titled Resources which has all pdfs and MP3s on the site in one place. Patient Stories have been updated with new testimonials  and formatting for easier reading.  All testimonials now have pseudonyms attributed to protect patient confidentiality.

The new site will be a better platform for announcing ongoing events such as the Downtown Lunch Hour Meditation and upcoming talks and events. In addition to my quarterly newsletters, I will also periodically post shorter writings here on my blog and I encourage you to check in from time to time.  If you are reading this newsletter via the website blog, do not currently receive my quarterly newsletter and would like to, scroll to the bottom of the page to sign up.

May you find time in your days to delight in the autumn leaves and savor a hot drink that probably hasn’t tasted this good in months. Warmest regards as always for your vital health and well-being.

Header and all other photographs taken in Glacier National Park, August 2012.