you see, I know Easwaran is my teacher when I read things like this in
Easwaran’s The Mantram Handbook, and have a little chuckle:
“With vacations, for example, we work for 50 weeks at our
jobs looking forward to two exciting weeks in Acapulco or Bahamas. All our
expectations are on those two weeks, so our job seems like drudgery; our home
life is humdrum. Expectation mounts as the vacation draws near: we plan, we
pack, we talk. Then for two frantic weeks, we are determined to have a good
time, even if it kills us. When we get back, there should be an ambulance
waiting to take us to the intensive care unit. All we have to show for this is
a few slides, a bad sunburn, and a towel from the Hotel Ritz. We go back to our
same old routine, which seems duller than ever, and soon we are looking forward
to next year’s vacation.”
But the neat part is, Easwaran has some recommendations, written just for me:
“I respond much more to Mahatma Gandhi’s idea of a vacation.
He was asked by a Western journalist, 'Mr. Gandhi, you have been working
fifteen hours a day, seven days a week, for fifty years. Why don’t you take a
vacation?' Gandhi’s reply was, 'I am always on vacation.' We can make
every day a vacation by getting away from preoccupation with ourselves, and our
own personal satisfactions. We learn to do this by thinking more of the needs
of others, and by repeating the mantram in order to keep our mind even, to shed
our likes and dislikes, and to drop our problems at will.”
Of course there are times when this kind of work life requires fitting things in where I can – an hour there, an hour here. And as you can imagine, sometimes those little windows don’t feel long enough, and create a kind of building pressure, or rushed attitude toward the job – the opposite of vacation-ville. One pointed attention can work absolute magic for my mind when it wants to speed up, and forget that we are on holiday. Some days I can actually feel something egging my mind on, “Faster, faster, FASTER!” Over time, I’ve learned to stop, take a few mantram breaths, and give more one-pointed attention to the task at hand, and make a conscious effort to increase concentration. I also remind myself that the people who I’m working with need my careful, measured attention, so slowing up the pace is actually serving them better. Usually, I feel an immediate kind of relief, and a measure of relaxation return. When I feel my eyes darting towards the time again, I repeat the exercise. Sometimes, there’s an awful lot of mantrams going on, and other days, much more concentrated work.
Interestingly, I find that spiritual reading often really helps with remembering that always being “on vacation” is a goal that we can all aspire to and attain. Included in that is reading about lives of the mystics (including Easwaran), and reading about their day-to-day lives, and how they describe them. Their stories are anything but banal – which is so inspiring to me, as some of them lived in convents and monasteries, with regular and undoubtedly rigorous schedules. (My current nightstand book is Take Your Time!)
May we all enjoy the best of both worlds through our eight-point program – the rest and relaxation of a vacation alongside the satisfaction and fascination of an engaging work life!