Bodies and Voices
BY MAGAZINE COLUMNIST CARYN MIRRIAM-GOLDBERG
No matter what went wrong on that trip with five friends to Vancouver, we yelled, “We’re on vacation,” then burst out laughing because when you’re on vacation, everything is an adventure.
Eating at the wrong restaurant? We’re on vacation! Trying to camp in the totem pole park only to have the police come up behind our half-unloaded car to remind us camping isn’t allowed there? We’re on vacation! Sleeping in the basement of a friend of a friend where fleas are attacking us awake all night? We’re on vacation!
This approach worked so well for us that years later, when we took our kids on family vacations, we told them the story, and how any of us could yell out cheerfully, “We’re on vacation!” if anything unexpected (and unwelcome) happened. This quickly turned into all three kids calling out “We’re on vacation” while rolling their eyes. In time, they sang it in lower death dirge tones frequently, making fun of me. Eventually, like all objects of sarcasm, their interest in kicking it around died.
Anything can be a vacation when you know how
Yet for me the phrase “We’re on vacation” is unsullied. I think of it when taking little or big excursions, and sometimes while not going anywhere at all.
“What would I do right now if I were on vacation?” I ask myself during a dismal winter afternoon at home. “I would take a bath with eucalyptus and sweet orange essential oils, put on a lot of flannel, light a candle, play some Aaron Copland music and curl up with a good memoir. I wouldn’t be bothered by the ice outside or the lack of sunlight because I would be on vacation,” I answer myself. Then I act as if I’m on vacation.
When I’m driving 450 miles to present some readings and workshops, I sometimes try to leave an evening early to stay in a bed and breakfast, read a book, and explore the town on foot. When I’m at a conference that is boring me to tears, I cut out and wander the city as if I’m there for vacation.
When bad news comes and I can’t concentrate, I pick up some gourmet take-out and drive to a park, sit on a bench and watch the blossoming world come into focus.
Developing the gift – and the skill – of appreciation
Of course, I do tend to sometimes take it too far, thinking I’m on vacation when I’m not (“Okay, so I’ll be working long hours for eight days, but the plane ride will be like a vacation,” I tell a friend, who rightly corrects us to face reality).
The trick is to actually cultivate that sense of being on vacation while actually on vacation, keeping my eyes open to all the new curves in the land, sudden waterfalls around the bend, the taste of butternut squash bisque in a little cafe and smiles from strangers.
But then the trick is to do this even when not on vacation, to remember that if we approach the world as it really is – mysterious, intriguing, wild and alive – with both curiosity and compassion, we can vacation from our habitual responses.
We can respond as if whatever we encounter is as magical and new, happening right now in just this specific way for the first and last time.
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© 2011, The Magazine of Yoga, LLC.