Canyon Ranch Lessons: Mind
Welcome to post one in the three-post Canyon Ranch Lessons series here on The Suitcase Scholar. I’ve divided the many lessons I learned during my five days at Canyon Ranch into three categories: mind, body, and spirit. We begin today with mind-lessons. The first thing I should probably address is: what is a mind-lesson?
Lessons of the mind are things that changed my way of thinking and/or simply made me think deeply about the way I live my life, the way I approach the world, and the way I interact with those around me.
It should be noted that it is not easy to change my way of thinking. But I went into this experience with an open mind–which is absolutely required for any sort of change–and I’m pretty pleased with the results. I can honestly say that after five short days at Canyon Ranch, I occasionally do think differently and I have a much more positive outlook on life in general. Here’s what I learned:
Advice on Stability
For those of you who do not already know, I’m going through a huge transition in my life right now–having been a classroom teacher for the past decade, I recently left my (secure, tenured–but entirely stagnant) position to become an independent professional development consultant and freelance writer. I’ve never felt less stable. But I got some advice at Canyon Ranch–in a NIA (Non-Impact Aerobics) class of all places, from the lovely and vivacious Diane Firtell–and that advice is:
You can’t always be stable. If you are, you’re dead. And that’s not a goal.
I cannot tell you how much better this made me feel about my recent life choices. For a long time, I viewed leaving the classroom as a step onto unstable ground, and for that same long time I wondered: who chooses instability? But I realize now, it was never even a choice. I am alive, and thus I am unstable. So I may as well stop pretending to stand still. And anyway–I was beyond tired of stillness.
Blogging and Mindfulness
It became immediately apparent that my goal of ‘come to Canyon Ranch, experience it, and then write all about it’ was going to be a challenge. You see, blogging and mindfulness do not mix. By day two of a five-day visit, I had stopped taking notes all together. In fact, my last Evernote entry reads:
I must stop taking notes. I can’t do it. No one here has their phone out all the time, and I feel like a jerk typing away on mine all the time. And quite frankly, I don’t really want to be taking notes all the time. Not here. Not now.
By nature, the job of travel blogger requires one to step out of the present. Constantly taking notes and snapping photos–well, it’s just not zen. I’m always trying to capture a moment, an idea, an image–for use in the future. I needed to learn to let some of that go. And I did. Yet I still came home with enough ideas for a three-part blog series. Perhaps mindfulness and blogging can coexist happily.
Living in the Moment
There is, however, one thing about travel blogging that does encourage living-in-the-moment: the travel part. This realization came once again from Diane the NIA instructor.
At the beginning of class, Diane directed us to find a different spot in the room–somewhere we are not typically comfortable standing in (I moved myself front and center, a place I despise during any sort of fitness class.) Her justification for doing this was–when you move yourself into a slightly unfamiliar, even slightly uncomfortable space, you immediately become more in-the-moment. And I thought: huh–that is very true. And that is why I love traveling.
Because when I’m at home, I’m comfortable. Nothing is challenging. I can exist on auto-pilot. And where’s the fun in that?
I travel to step out of my comfort zone. When I’m somewhere unfamiliar, the world looks different. Shifted, somehow. Everything is new and interesting–even the stuff that isn’t, like street signs and abandoned factories. The challenge, it seems to me, is to maintain that same kind of awareness even when I’m in my local park, or driving down my street to the store to buy dog food. Fortunately, I have the opportunity to practice moment-living while on the road. I hope some day to be able to bring it home with me.
Stay tuned for next Monday’s post, Canyon Ranch Lessons: Body–which will focus on the more physical lessons I learned during my time there. (Spoiler alert: one of them is ‘man, I look terrible while wearing spandex and attempting to do Pilates’.)
Disclosure: Canyon Ranch hosted me for the majority of my stay, and I paid a reduced media rate for the remainder of my visit. However, as always, all thoughts, opinions, and stories are my own. I was under no obligation to produce anything specific; that which I share is that which I want to share.