Like many, I am always a bit too aspirational about doing work on vacation. I bring my yoga mat and I weigh my carry on bag down with academic books, starter syllabi, chapters in need of editing.
And, to be fair, I often accomplish something: I get a yoga practice in on my hotel porch; I am very good at grading papers during part of the flight when you have to power off your electronic devices.
That said, I am often disappointed when I pack up at the end of the trip, as I realize that I only did one yoga practice and that there was a book I never opened.
Over this 4th of July weekend, I spent my time in Key West at the wedding of my sister-in-law. I had been experiencing some anxiety about not getting work on my book done--anxiety that's been plaguing me all summer. I considered sneaking away and getting a day of writing in while wedding rehearsal activities were taking place, but I eventually thought better of this, and instead spent the day at a silly and raucous pool party with some of my sisters-in-law and my mother-in-law.
As academics, I think we often have trouble taking a proper "break;" in yoga terms, this may mean that we struggle to be fully "present" in the non-work aspects of our lives--class prep and writing pressures are always dragging us back into the fray.
Ideally, this is why daily writing practice is so important. It gives us a trajectory of work that should allow us to truly vacation when on vacation; to attend to family when with family.
Additionally, truly embracing non-work (oh yeah, it's called play) re-energizes, re-charges our batteries so that we have the strength to continue our practice during regular work time.
I have been watching and working with David Robson's Learn to Float videos (they focus on the jumping back and through aspects of the Ashtanga yoga practice and can be ordered here: http://learntofloat.com/
). In addition to being inspiring, these videos also offer a nice correction.
In the video, he offers the old pearl of wisdom that the shortest distance between any two points is a straight line. Applied to the traditional sun salutations, he means that the basic postures are all that are needed, and that excessive flourishes, adjustments, dare I say, fidgets, aren't helpful. In fact, they may be harmful over the long run.
I think we've all seen (or done!) what he's talking about. Entering into a yoga pose by way of fancy-dancy leg extensions and/or swirly twists of the wrists, or the very dramatic shoulder rolls and adjustments that many of us do when moving from Chautaranga to Upward Dog in Vinyasa.
These are our ticks, and they take energy and focus away from the task at hand. Rather than simply entering the pose, and I use the word "simple" advisedly here, we spill out our attention by developing and attending to excessive habits.
This seems applicable to other arenas in life as well. How do we spend time fidgeting rather than cleanly doing what is called for?
For example, I've been thinking about multiple kinds of fidgets involved in my writing. It strikes me that there are at least two kinds:
1. Fidgets/habits around the act of writing: checking email, looking back over notes, running spell check, etc.
2. Fidgets/habits within the piece of writing: My "tells" include "That is to say," "However," the word "too," and other signs that indicate I need to write a clearer account of my argument at that moment and/or a stronger transition.
I think for me anyway, the reason I develop and expend energy on the fidgets is that thought they take energy away from the main practice, they are easier than the real thing.
Ironically, though, they do zap the energy/stability necessary for my real task (spell checking takes away from writing, all that shoulder rolling can't be healthy, etc.).
Again, not easy, but a beautiful thought, to focus on stripping down to the strong, clean lines of our true practice.
Get a Life, PhD
The Professor is In
The Thesis Whisperer
Tenure, She Wrote