I’ve been pondering lately the benefits to my mental health of a ‘Great Escape’ – to have some time alone away from normal life, from the responsibilities and expectations of my family. Interestingly, for a woman to leave her family just to please herself can raise some eyebrows. My partner understands the importance of the great escape for my mental health…but not everyone does. He was accosted in a semi-joking way by other husbands worried about the precedent it was setting for their own wives: how could you let Sara go away by herself? Alex just laughs. “Let her? Do you know Sara?” Ah, I love my husband :).
I experienced this recently when I went away without my family to see Ash Grunwald in Byron Bay. I stood there in the pub and let the sound and the vibrations wash over and through me, pulsing through my muscles, sinews and bones. It was like a wall of sound massage. Awesome!
The next two days were spent in a blissful state of what I call ‘no-mind’, where there are no thoughts, no expectations, just presence. I had left home exhausted, stressed and frustrated, with a cluttered mind and a diminished perspective. I felt claustrophobic in my small community, under attack and unsupported. When I arrived back home after two days and nights away, I felt as though I had been scrubbed clean, in the way that a blackboard is cleaned of several lessons of notes and scribble. Since then, I have been able to maintain that sense of clarity and calmness in my normal life.
Being away from home, picked up and transported away from normal life is something that is essential for my spirit. I do it at least once a year. The year before last I went to the Promised Land, near Bellingen for two nights in mid-summer. Alone. I swam, read, listened to music, did yoga, walked, absorbed beauty, talked and listened to all of the invisible beings around me who normally can’t get a word in edgeways. I discovered things about myself: like being disconnected from my family and community is frightening as well as liberating; like that I am actually quite a tidy, organised person when I am just looking after myself; and that when I value myself enough to give myself that time out, my spirit is renewed and recharged for months afterward.
Which brings me back to what I was saying about the experience of having my mind clutter erased. Sometimes regular life gets too much and an escape, either literal or metaphysical is needed to gain perspective. It occurs to me that any escape from normality is beneficial and it could come in a myriad of forms – a meditation retreat, travel, an adventure, even a picnic in the forest.