The last time that I was "there" was on the beach in Prince Edward Island. Our daughter Sarah was sleeping in a makeshift cot her dad had dug in the sand. As she slept in cool comfort, Brian and the two boys played in a warm stream that meandered next to our spot on the beach. I lay down beside Sarah on a beach towel, my eyes partially shaded by a baseball cap that I had pulled down over my forehead to cut the glare of the early afternoon sun. Off in the distance, several young people were playing beach volleyball, their laughter and happy chatter blending with the screech of the seagulls overhead and the roar of the waves as they crashed onto the beach.
It was perfect. I sighed and thought of nothing. No worries or cares interrupted the simple pleasure of just being there.
What makes this simple story so unusual was that it happened more than a dozen years ago. What makes it so sad is that this is the last time I can honestly remember being consciously devoid of thoughts or concerns. I was completely at peace, totally at rest and yet fully alert and alive.
I am not alone. We live in a world where everyone is on all of the time. What makes this so tragic is that we are so busy multi-tasking that we rarely capture the complete and utter joy of the single moment. Look around. Parents push their children on the swings with one hand while they hold the cell phone to their ear with the other. Glance around the dining room in any fine restaurant and I'll guarantee that you'll see as many Blackberries as you do bottles of wine. Even when we gather on the family couch to snuggle, chances are we're not looking at each other, but rather the television sitting in front of us. We bathe ourselves in the media and in doing so wash away the gift of simply being alive and in the moment.
Small wonder we're so stressed. The planet isn't doing so hot, either. All of the energy that we're burning has to come from somewhere. What we all need is a day on the beach, a time to simply stop long enough to quiet the voices in our heads. We need to schedule our time off, mark it on the calendar, send ourselves an email and then turn everything off, including our very busy little brains.
As luck would have it, we don't even have to organize our escape from chaos. Candle Night is a unique way to mark the Summer Solstice (a few days late) by unplugging from the world. From 8:00 pm to 10:00 pm on June 24th, join celebrations in Tokyo and Seoul by turning off the lights, unplugging the phone, muting the Blackberry and celebrating Candle Night. According to the Japanese website, Candle-Night.org:
"Pulling the plug opens the window to a new world. Awakens as to human freedom and diversity. It is a process, finding a larger possibility of the human civilization. By turning off lights for only two hours, we will be all loosely connected. Let's make a 'wave of darkness' spread over the globe together."
While some of the English gets lost in translation, the idea is a clear as a bell. Unplug your life for two whole hours and see what happens. Make love, lie on the grass, the beach, or the roof and watch the world slowly darken without the jarring aggravation of artificial light. Instead, watch the stars come out, one by one. Sit quietly and listen to the sounds of the evening as the bugs begin to hum in the trees, dogs bark off in the distance, leaves rustle on the trees overhead. Take off your shoes and wiggle your toes in the grass, the sand or the mud. Hug your children, the dog, your grumpy neighbor. If the night begins to get chilly, enjoy the luscious coolness of the evening. If it's hot and sticky, revel in the warmth and joy of summer. If it's raining, soak in the magical power of water to renew and refresh both body and soul. Enjoy!
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