The solutions all are simple – after you have arrived at them. But they’re simple only when you know already what they are. —–Robert M. Pirsig
In 1974, Robert M. Pirsig published an interesting little book entitled “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.” I am sure you have read it. If you have not, I would encourage you to check it out at the library or on Amazon.
The story’s narrator takes a cross-country motorcycle trip with his son. The maintenance of his bike illustrates how we can rectify and unify the “cold” realm of technology with the warm imaginative realm of artistry (thank you Amazon). But the kicker to all this is that the story is written in the present tense. It shows the reader that the trick, like in the practice of Zen, is to become one with the present moment and become one with the activity – to fully engage and to see and appreciate everything about that moment.
Well, I think I may have learned a little something about Zen and the Art of Vacation.
We started out our vacation with the plan to have “no plans.” We talked about all the things that we could do with our free time to relax, unwind and rejuvenate without running off to some hotel or hopping on a plane. My husband and I are both of the mind that travel is one thing (kind of like work, but with time off) and vacation is not travel, it is relaxing.
So we talked about waking up every morning and doing our yoga routine outside by the lake as the sun came up. We talked about splashing in the lake with inner tubes and sipping pink lemonade. We conspired ways to play Monopoly and Life with Mason and keep him interested so he would actually finish a game. We bought beach towels and books. We marked new recipes we wanted to try. We discussed cookies we could bake and enjoy fresh, hot out of the oven while we tried to find constellations and planets in the summer night sky. We would really soak up our downtime and appreciate every moment. The days would crawl by and we would all reconnect and create moments that we could reflect on with time.
So why then, did I find myself in Pier 1 buying lamps? Why was I at World Market looking at earrings? Why, for heaven’s sake, was I eating lunch at Chili’s?
I don’t remember seeing any of these things on my list – especially Chili’s – do you know how hard it is to eat a vegan meal at Chili’s? Chips and Salsa anyone?
So why were we doing this? Yes, it rained yesterday and yes, we did need a few food items from Earth Fare, but how the heck did this turn into a goose chase for an ice cream maker?!? An ice cream maker?? Really?
Because somehow we honestly thought that if we “just had” an ice cream maker we could make our own coconut milk (non dairy) ice cream and isn’t that what summer is all about – ice cream?
We had time on our hands and we had fallen, rather abruptly and oblivious, into some patterns that we thought we had outgrown. We were running away from our free and relaxing time to shop for lamps and cookie jars and to look for an ice cream maker.
This was not how I wanted to spend my vacation; but I felt like we were on a wierd treadmill and I couldn’t think of how to get off of it. Was I going to return to work on Monday and when asked what I did for vacation I would respond with “I bought lamps” ?????
The sad part about it was that I was not really focusing or in the moment while I was searching for the lamps (or ice cream maker, or cookie jar or sandals or other bright shiny object). I was just randomly filling the days with things to do rather than sit with myself, be with my family and be in THE MOMENT.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I take my camera everywhere. Mason borrowed it from me when we were shopping for the “gotta have” lamps and took pictures. When I downloaded the pictures from the camera, I started laughing hysterically and the reality and absurdity of the last couple of days hit me.
Mason typically does not like Pier 1 but he was going to make the best of it. He was in the moment – fully present. Evidently, he tried on a variety of Mardi Gras masks and photographed himself in a variety of poses. Each of the poses seemed to correspond to the mask he was wearing at the moment the flash popped. It made me laugh and cry at the same time.
Mason was not going to be bothered by the fact that his parents were chasing their tails. He was on vacation and if we took him to Pier 1 than hell, he should be having fun, right? Well he was having fun. But I wasn’t. I was slowly inching into a less than peaceful mood with each passing day.
Observation is the first step to fixing anything. If you can honestly observe yourself in whatever action, element, habit or vice you wish to change, it is possible to transform that part of you into something higher, something cleaner, something saner.
Much of observation is stopping long enough to be in the moment. To breathe in that moment and to honestly see what is happening around you without attachment or judgement or blame.
From there we can heal, we can grow and we can change.
The challenging part is having the courage to slow down long enough and to observe ourselves, our actions and our surroundings. We are so afraid that we won’t like what we see or far worse, we will not like how we respond to what we see. But we do not have to “like” or “dislike,” we need only to embrace it. Embrace it, send it love and blessings, (keep our eye on it) and watch it transform.
As I write this, Mason is laughing hysterically at his mask pictures and he thinks I am in a better mood. Scott is downstairs preparing Tempeh Soy Sausage, Garden Herb Biscuits (which I just tasted and I think this must be what angels eat in heaven) and a huge kitchen sink salad and I heard a rumor that there might be some kind of chocolate cookie on the horizon to enjoy with almond milk while we watch the stars later.
I don’t own a motorcycle. But I am blessed with this life. And I have learned that I must be as diligent with the maintenance and care of my life and of my time as one would be with a motorcycle.
And much like Mr. Pirsig, I plan to enjoy my life in the present moment – each crazy masked face, lamp shopping, cookie eating moment of it.