Vacation from and to self


During the summer most people take a vacation. It’s warm, the sun shines late into the evening, school is out and, let’s face it, most everyone is indulging in the reverie of green landscapes and blue green bodies of water. Come summer, although we visit cities, for the most part we are drawn to nature.

Vacation to self

I went on a road trip many years ago in the American southwest. I really had never imagined how incredible the landscape could be. Visiting the Native American ruins and being in the presence of the culture were incredibly transformative for me. Traveling allowed me to let go of my fears and anxieties and move in a more positive direction. I felt that I had left myself behind and entered a totally new phase of life. The canyons and rock formations starkly revealed how permanence is the illusion and constant change the reality. This permitted me to more readily accept that I had built a life that no longer suited me. To change I had to break down the barriers to my happiness which I, and only I, had erected and maintained. What a transformational experience! As a result I made major changes in my life when I returned.

Vacation from routine

I’ve written about contemplation, reflection, sanctuary and affirmation. I’ve found that all these things enable us to look inward and see how we might move forward on our path. A vacation can also provide us with a different perspective and lead to positive practical and attitudinal changes.

It’s funny how we use words all the time and don’t examine their meaning. To me, the word vacation really does mean vacating the usual daily routine to enter the spontaneous world. The days are unstructured. I decide what I want to do each day and may or may not get around to it. Whatever I thought was important to do suddenly isn’t. Things are unpredictable. I am able to discover things about myself that I can’t in everyday life. I take risks that I ordinarily wouldn’t. I find out how I am strong and weak. I build relationships with those I travel with, visit or meet. The constant chattering in my head is turned down from a roar to a whisper. There are so many benefits to taking time off.

Vacation as good fortune

I would be remiss if I assumed that everyone has the benefit of taking a vacation. Some people are working hard to make ends meet. Other people may have deadlines to meet or a project to complete that can’t wait. Many others are not working due to illness or prolonged unemployment. So, for those of us who have the privilege of taking time off, we might want to make good use of it. We can learn, stretch, give, relax, exercise, observe and socialize. We can vacate the old to bring in the new. Let’s not take this opportunity for granted.

Sanctuary as self-practice


noun \ˈsaŋ(k)-chə-ˌwer-ē\
: a place where someone or something is protected or given shelter
: the protection that is provided by a safe place
: the room inside a church, synagogue, etc., where religious services are held
From the Mirriam-Webster online dictionary

Life can be rough. There are a lot of demands on us from day-to-day. That’s why it is so important to have a place to go where we feel safe, unharried and comfortable. This is our sanctuary.

My sanctuary

For many years I found sanctuary on my perch on the sea wall near Municipal Pier in San Francisco. (It is said that Otis Redding wrote “The Dock of the Bay” while sitting on this pier. If you spend time there you will understand how inspirational a place this can be.) I started going there regularly when my mother died. I had a conflicted relationship with her but a parent’s death is always a milestone no matter how good or bad the relationship was. I felt I needed to sort things out.

I was stuck in a dead end job that I could do with my eyes closed. I was bored and frustrated and grieving. When I had a day off I would walk the couple of miles down and back to the bay and sit in the same place looking out at the Golden Gate bridge and the Marin Headlands. The walk and the sitting became a kind of ritual for me, a pilgrimage of sorts. It chipped away at my sadness and boredom. I began to see a way out of the trap I felt I was in. Gradually I came to a decision to make a major change in my life. And I did.

Sanctuary in 3 steps

Do not look for a sanctuary in anyone except your self.
Gautama Buddha

If you are not indulging yourself in sanctuary on a regular basis then you may be using up all your reserves. A sure sign of this is a lack of enthusiasm at best and feeling burned out at worst. Life doesn’t sparkle and shine. You go through the motions without being connected to a sense of purpose. This is not a good state of affairs yet many of us are stuck in this way of being.

Yes, you have to make a living and take care of business at home. But how can you regain and maintain your enthusiasm for all the little things that you choose to do each day? It’s a three step process:

1.) Acknowledge that your life is your own and you have made all the small decisions which have brought you to where you are at this point. If you are dissatisfied with things as they are you can choose to do things differently.

2.) Set aside time at least once a week to be alone in a place that you feel comfortable. This will be your sanctuary, a place which is sacred to you. It could be your bedroom, garage, car, deck, patio, place of worship or outdoor setting.

3.) Decide upon an activity which you can pursue in this space that will help you to feel more contemplative and reflective. It could be a physical activity such as hiking or a creative pursuit like writing. The important thing is to give yourself unstructured time to mull things over without your everyday routine interfering.


We can miss the sacredness of life if we don’t slow down to see where we’re going. Pretty soon we end up somewhere we don’t want to be. Finding sanctuary can be a way to rediscover what we really want and the path we need to take to get there.