take a vacation from yourself

How does this idea hit you?

  • yes, please!
  • what the %*&# are you talking about?
  • sounds creepy, no thanks
  • ooooo! tell me more…
  • think I’ll jump to another blog
  • when can I start?

Personally, I love the phrase…and just like my little get-away to Brittany last week, I’ve found it quite helpful to take a brief vacation from myself every now and then.

Ok, you’re asking, how does this work, this vacation from yourself? Well, it’s an interior thing…an inner journey, so to speak…it’s how Father Thomas Keating describes meditation. (1)

Suppose you found out that, due to some weird turn of events, you are (and have been) the owner of a seaside property but didn’t know it. They tell you that your ocean-front home has a beautiful veranda that overlooks the sea. And on the veranda there’s a big comfortable chair. A cool, refreshing breeze from the sea constantly blows. What you would do? My first questions would be, where is it? and how do I get there?  At the same time I would be checking my agenda.

There IS an inner space within you. (2) The Creator created you with this sacred space. It’s a place of peace and tranquility. A place that has never, ever been messed up by all the other stuff that has happened in your life. A place where no other person has been before you to screw it up. A place that is for you…just as you need it to be…that fits you…because it is yours…only yours.

Your challenge is to figure out where this place is and how to get there. For starters, if you take a vacation, it usually means leaving one place behind and going to another place. So to find your inner vacation villa, you first need to leave behind, let go of, cease the activity of your normal, everyday life. This is usually done by carving out some time in your schedule to be quiet and alone for a few minutes. Put everything else on hold and just relax.

Once you do this, however, you will quickly find out that your everyday, ho-hum life doesn’t want you to go on vacation and immediately assaults you with a barrage of thoughts, concerns, plans, worries, dreams, etc, etc, etc….to let you know, in no uncertain terms, that you are very much needed and a vacation is NOT an option. So the more you try to relax, to be quiet and to let go, the more vicious the attack.

This is where I really appreciate Cynthia Bourgeault’s and Thomas Keating’s style of meditation, called centering prayer. It accepts the  onslaught as normal. “If you find yourself tangled up with a thought – no matter what kind of thought – you simply, gently let that thought go. You release it, thus bringing yourself back into alignment with your original intention“…to find your inner vacation villa.

Of course, the next thought may be right back, reducing the duration of your bare, formless openness to not much more than a nanosecond. But that’s not the point.” (3) The point is that with each thought you practice releasing it, letting go of it and returning to your focused inner journey. And each time you do this, you are marking the trail, creating a rut or training your brain (and your soul) to no longer be at the beck and call of your everyday, active life. Much like closing your office door with open files on the desk. Or turning off your cell phone and leaving it in a drawer for a few days. Like many things in life, this takes practice….don’t expect to figure it out the first time you try it. But DO try it for the first time. It is counter-intuitive. Trust yourself. Inner the labyrinth. Learn to listen to subtle cues. You are capable of finding your way. Like a long, tiring journey toward your vacation destination is well worth it once you are there…so is this one, and much more. You’ve got the rest of your life to work on it. Bon voyage!

AFTER THOUGHT: Some of you may have questions, or need some help to get started, or simply prefer to have a companion on the journey….I would be willing to help in any way I can whether it is virtual or face to face over a café crème.

(1) from Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening by Cynthia Bourgeault p. 19 “Thomas Keating rather humorously describes the process as ‘taking a brief vacation from yourself.'”

(2) This concept is from John O’Donohue whom I quote at length in another post.

(3) also from Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening p. 23