Unfurling the Spirit

Last Sunday I flew to Ireland to teach at a writing retreat in Hedford, County Galway, with Ireland Writer Tours. I flew in a couple of days before the retreat officially started (that was yesterday) in order to make sure my lecture notes and–more importantly–my psyche were prepared.

I’ve spent the last two days roaming the shores of Lough Corrib, the largest freshwater lake  in the Republic of Ireland, enjoying the sights, sounds, and smells.

The wildflowers are lovely,

15H14 Lough Corrib Flowers

and the lough (pronounced “lock”) is wild and soothing by turns.

15H04 Lighthouse Lough Corrib

Stepping away from the usual crush and stress of daily life never fails to remind me how important it is to take the time to silence the constant stream of noise and let your spirit breathe. Creative people, like writers, often work multiple jobs to make ends meet. We work long hours, balancing family, jobs, and creative endeavors. We love each one of our obligations, but sometimes they combine to give us terrible tunnel vision.

When that happens, we lose perspective.

We judge our success or failure by the standard of others’ achievements.

We cease to appreciate the gifts we have.

We feel boxed in, restrained by our various limitations, and less inclined to stretch ourselves to grow as artists and as people.

It’s important for everyone to find the time to step away from those daily pressures and constraints, into whatever environment allows your spirit to unfurl. Your “unfurling” location may not be the same as mine..some people find themselves expanding in the presence of city lights, or mountains, or the sea. The key is that you find that location–the one that melts away your stress, opens your heart, and lets your mind expand and grow.

05H16 Tree

It doesn’t take long to unfurl yourself–a day or two can do it, if you truly step away from the things that bind you. Most of us don’t realize how tightly daily life can bind us, or how much we need to step away, until we do it.

Modern society praises those who “never take vacation”–who have the alleged “strength” to carry on without a break. This custom serves us ill. We weren’t made to slave before the plow until we fall in the traces–no matter how much we love to pull its weight. We need the mental space a break from other activities gives us. Take it, and we return refreshed, expanded, and renewed.

It doesn’t take a lot of money, or even a lot of time, to unfurl your spirit and renew your strength. Even a daily walk in a quiet place can help the process.

Wherever you are, and whatever state you’re in, I hope you’ll take the time to renew and recharge yourself on a regular basis. Your writing, your work, and your life will be stronger for it.

15H16 Lough Corrib Stone

Where do you feel your spirit unfurl?