joanne sales



A Vacation from What?
Go Sit by Another Stream of Consciousness

Joanne Sales / July 6, 2008

The word “vacation” comes from the Latin (1350-1400) “vacatio”, meaning “freedom from something.” Seeing vacation as “freedom from” opens the door to many more vacations.

Once, I took a vacation from talking to my husband. We’d already been married for 20 years. I had by that time accumulated a whole closet full of pushable buttons, dead end rants and circular complaints. One day, I realized, I am so sick and tired of hearing myself talk. What a nag! Ugh. So I followed the advice of one of the very first gurus of the Boomer generation, Thumper, from Bambi. The feisty rabbit with a loose cannon mouth was corrected by his mother. Scratching his animated itches, Thumper responded, “If you can’t say nothin’ nice, don’t say anything at all.”
So I didn’t . For 21 days, I didn’t speak to my husband. At the dinner table, I might tell the kids, “Please tell you dad bla bla bla.” (He was sitting right there.) My husband says it was 21 of happiest days of his life. And to be quite honest, I had fun to.

That was a vacation. It might be called a “pattern interrupt.” I didn’t like the way the stream was flowing, so I built a temporary dam to give it an opportunity to find a new course. And it did. Changing patterns is one of the great gifts of vacations. No petrol needed - no carbon footprint.

“How could you take a vacation without going anywhere?”

A 21-year-old answered: Hide your cellphone, Blackberry and computer; read for two hours a day; do a lot of nothing. A 30-year-old answered: Unplug. A 60-year-old answered: Spend whole days doing what you never find time to do. Read, draw, meditate, write, or sit in the woods.

A 100-year-old woman was asked how she had lived through the tumultuous 20th century so happily. “I would have been a fool not to worry. So I worried hard every day, for 20 minutes. After that, I was done.”

These are vacations that celebrate “freedom from.” Freedom from intrusions, expectations, limitations, worries, and of course, freedom from habits. Oh those habits! We do something once, time passes, and next thing we know, we’ve done it for the millionth time. Unfortunately, we often think “habits-r-us.” We identity with the things we do and think and rant about.

I grew up next to three radio towers. In the 50s, I watched over the towers for the invasion of the Russians and the arrival of Santa Claus. But really what was coming from that direction were radio waves. Songs in, songs out. Babble in, babble out. No filters. That’s how most opinions come to us. We hear them, adopt them, cling to them. A fine bumper sticker reads: “Don’t believe everything you think.” Some thoughts are just passing through, like radio waves. Some habits are just as arbitrary, but they cling to us like wet bluejeans and are sometimes hard to change!

Consider this. For 21 days, do everything differently. Get up two hours earlier - or later. Change your food, hair style, and color of your socks. Answer the phone in a new way. Sing on the stairs. Move furniture. Walk somewhere else. Call your siblings. Write with a pencil.

We often try to change habits that we judge as “bad.” But here, we are just shaking the box. No judgment. Superficial changes. But superficial changes can have profound consequences. As we loosen our identification with and attachment to how we do things, we become aware that those patterns are not “us.” This awareness opens up all sorts of new choices and freedoms. At this point, we can ask with sincerity, how ELSE could I be living this life?

It is really fascinating to meet truly alternative humans, who live life in a radically different way from the rest of us. I took a short vacation recently. One of the humans we met in our travels was a Indian yogi who roams the world in a pink sheet, similar to Gandhi. Quiet, simple, kind, profound. A truly alternative human.*

His message resonates with most spiritual traditions. We’re already on a journey. Planet Earth is a vacation destination. No need to go someplace else; we are someplace else. And the greatest realm for adventure is right here, right now - and in the vast frontier of mind and heart.

Quite often, it’s our own rattling minds that we want to take a vacation from, but when we get in the car, our minds go with us! Actually, it’s only the left side of the brain that gets miserable and bossy. The right brain is blissed out anywhere. It’s unlikely that the right brain will become one of the top ten vacation destination spots anytime soon, but when we think of that perfect peaceful place, it’s most likely the perfect peace and not the place that we want. And perfect peace is here, there and nowhere in particular.

Sometimes all we really want is to sit by another stream of consciousness.

Even though we have a long spiral staircase to climb, we get high with every step in the right direction. And none of this requires even a single litre of gas!

Happy trails.
*Shivarudra Balayogi