I try. I really do. As the days before a work trip speed by, I try to get all of those errands done, wrap up work projects and tie up loose ends, respond to an ever increasing deluge of emails and attend too many meetings. I’m a planner and I like lists, so I get things done. But it’s hectic. There are dozens of urgent requests to squeeze one more thing into an already overburdened schedule. Coordinating details and schedules for future meetings and making adjustments and booking arrangements takes patience and attention to detail. I don’t have the luxury of someone making those appointments for me. Good presentations take time and effort to craft. For a moment, sometimes a few days, it seems as if a trip is impossible—there are simply too many things to do—and then, suddenly, everything opens up, time slows down, and I get comfortable with the Things That Can Wait.
Then I start to think about all of the new things that travel will reveal: new relationships and ideas, foods and sights. For me, it takes until I buckle my seatbelt and the plane takes off to get excited. Maybe it’s because I secretly think anything could go wrong before that moment. More likely it’s the time when I can stop being in one place and open up to being somewhere new.
Josh Korda, dhamma teacher at Dharma Punx NYC—which I occasionally attend—said it beautifully:
The joys we experience during travels, retreats, breaks and spiritual journeys of all kinds are important openings, allowing us to put aside our conventional perceptual habits, exploring the world from a ‘fresh set of eyes.’ Zen practitioners refer to it as “beginner’s mind,” this is an essential moment in our spiritual progress, for without this opportunity we can remain locked in fruitless pursuits of happiness, in the inauthentic, chasing the unpredictable winds of financial security, approval, fame, career advancement and on. We may be startled to discover there are deeper sources of happiness and security available to us than we expected… And yet, bills must be paid, so we return to our lives… and the difficult transition is part of our journey. The daily experience of one’s heart opening and closing, back and forth, become the story of spiritual integration.
Integration is the tough part. Work-life balance seems harder to attain, even at a nonprofit, which used to be the bastion of those ideals. But every new journey seems like a new opportunity to begin again, to remember a time when I did it better, and to work towards that again.