sunrise at the beach on the water

As I set up my calendar for the month, I select a quote I’ve found that speaks to me. I write it in my planner and leave space below it to capture phrases I hear or read that speak to me and relate to the quote. I found this practice centers me throughout the month, and helps me be more present in my conversations, meetings, and readings. For July 2023 my quote was simply one word:  refresh.  

Typically, the quotes for each month find me. I see something, take a photo, and when the new month starts, I scroll through them, and one causes me to linger. That’s it. For August, I didn’t look for a quote but rather set an intention. I wanted refresh at the center of my month in every way. Here are the quotes, lyrics, and phrases that that caught my attention during the month:

  • Don’t just do something, stand there
  • Sacred practices
  • Worry was the mental echo of fear
  • With gratitude, optimism is sustainable
  • Seeing and letting go… seeing and letting be
  • Your absence has gone through me like thread through a needed – everything I do is stitched with it’s color
  • Life is now
  • Don’t just follow something, advance it
  • Touching bliss
  • Habit energy
  • Focus on what matters and motivates you
  • Don’t talk about it, be about it
  • Hyper distraction
  • Productive activity not productivity
  • Less candy, more nourishment
  • A created future holds more possibility than a default future
  • Faith lived in the darkest rooms
  • Run with a relaxed mind
  • Without great solitude, no serious work is possible
  • The world is full of magic things patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper

I spent three weeks of August at the beach in a cottage we’ve rented for 20 years for our family vacation. It feels like a second home with the bonus of a massive front porch with rocking chairs that face the sunset. Obviously, a great place to focus on refresh, along with the red beach umbrella where I observe, read, and nap for hours protected from the aggressive sun I crave but fries me to a pink crisp in just a few minutes.

I tried something new for vacation this year. Two weeks working half-days and one week off. This helped me ease into vacation, be present for my family, and be fully unplugged. When the sunny and sand-filled time was over, here are the nine things I learned:

1. Words matter … checking emails on vacation means you’re at work, not on vacation. Working part time (with a precise out of office message) set clear boundaries for team, clients, and myself. This model also helped me close out a few key things important to me and be fully present on vacation.

2. Being gone and offline is good for my team. It showed me where to stay out of their way when I returned cause things progressed fine in my absence and where to mentor staff a bit more.

3. A lot of meetings don’t matter because they are simply habitual exchanges of information without intention. Working 50% made me very intentional about what I attended and attended to. I got a lot done with 70% fewer meetings.

4. Quiet time (in large chunks) generates all kinds of fresh thoughts and ideas. A mindful walk on the beach. Sunrises and sunsets. Cloud gazing. Open time = open mind.

5. Reading books – any kind – on a porch should be required each day … and every office and school should have a reading room with rocking chairs.

6. A large puzzle is an intense mindfulness practice. It’s like yoga … I can’t focus on anything else when doing one.

7. Naps are delightful… as is daily ice cream.

8. Nature is a powerful muscle relaxer.

9. Doing nothing is everything.

I also realized how hard wired I was “to do.” Upon reflection there was a bit of “habit energy” detox that occurred as I stayed offline, didn’t do the “should a” things, and was just in the present moment. I think this extended separation in a relaxing place gave me time and space to reset. To find refresh in my sense of time (less frantic, more calm). To find refresh in my choices (less must do, more here and now). To find refresh in my body (less tense energy, more big easy breaths).

After coming back to reality and working for the last week of August in the city, I found this vacation model has the lasting benefit of what I call “beach brain.” Thinking that is more breezy. Laughter that sits at the surface. Worries that wash away more quickly. A calm I carry with me.

A calm put to the test the day after getting home with a water leak in the kitchen… which led to removal of everything under the sink… which led to five repairman visits… which led to no cooking for a week… which led to removing everything out of our refrigerator/freezer to move it… which led to me be more at ease with it, rather than against it in search of control.

Ahhhh yes…. lasting refreshment of my soul.

August 2023 Quote: Refresh

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