Can we be on holiday all the time?

This week Kate, a YA living in Aldergrove, Canada, shares her thoughts on how to approach work and daily life to try to be on holiday all the time.

Upon reflection, it appears that I’ve worked hard to build a life that is seemingly fresh, all the time. I enjoy contract, project-based work, so I spend time stringing different kinds of work together. Winter contracts strung together, and glued in the middle with summer work on a farm. I live on a cooperative farm with 14 people so there’s things constantly happening, meetings being held, and work to be done. Things are busy, and changing and shifting, and this seems to be the life I’m drawn to, going on 6 years now. It’s really rewarding – as I think the life I chose is rather idealistic to some extent and intentionally (or perhaps circumstantially) departs from the 9 to 5 office job. This kind of working life also affords for travel excursions to California between contracts, or seasons, or whatever the latest is.

When I think back, I began to choose this kind of a working life because of a real aversion to what I considered “drudgery” associated with “office work” – also known as regular, consistent work. I was afraid that if I took up regular work, I would spend each day working towards my next 2 week vacation – only to spend the 2 week vacation longing for more time to spend “away from it all”. I deeply desired to never have to experience this kind of roller coaster, because I sensed that I was likely to.  

So 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.”

Gulp. 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.”

And while I would say I don’t experience much drudgery in my patchwork of contracts, I still find a yawning margin for improvement and desire to be on holiday all the time, like Gandhi: at ease, and free in all my words, acts and deeds – all the time. I have drawn real inspiration from Easwaran’s story about Gandhi, and apply it to my gnawing aversion to the “banal”. Just imagine – feeling unpressured, while still effective, being relaxed, yet alert.  And never bored! In other words, on holiday all the time. It sounds wonderful to me.


Kate practices "being on holiday," celebrating her various work projects with some fresh juice!

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 8 point program – the rest and relaxation of a vacation alongside the satisfaction and fascination of an engaging work life!