Vacation Karma


Why do bad things happen on a good vacation?

Bad things can happen on a vacation even if we tend to feel entitled to a good time from start to finish.

Too often, the gods of Karma awake the moment we hop on a plane or train, or head the car towards the Interstate, and bad things begin to occur.


Take, for example, my bad mood on a recent vacation to Maine.

I’m usually easy-going and upbeat, but my disposition soured terribly at the end of a five-hour drive, with the first symptoms of a head cold coming on, and I felt snappy, argumentative and completely ungrounded. A good meal took the edge off my moodiness somewhat, but I had already acted like an idiot to my wife and you can’t really erase that.

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Then, once in bed, I was hit by a major panic attack of a sort that has occurred from time to time since my heart operation in March. I became terrified that my heartbeat was about to go out of rhythm. Enduring arrhythmia as I have three times since my valve repair operation is something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Each time since then, I’ve gotten out of it in one piece; I sit quietly somewhere in the middle of the mental and emotional turmoil and feel my pulse. When I see that it’s OK, I’m naturally reassured and eventually the panic goes away.

It’s distressing to think that besides the good things that have come out of the valve repair operation, i.e. a well-functioning mitral valve, I also have incurred some deep-rooted stresses.

Like anyone on the spiritual path, I wish to “burn off” my karma as I evolve, only to find that you can never get too cocky. New layers of bad karma keep unraveling, unsettling one’s equilibrium. Illness, bad fortune, “tsuris” (Yiddish for distress) can rain down at any time; it can feel much worse as one ages. Meditating for 44 years doesn’t mean that only good times and unceasing happiness and joy will be my daily bread.

So it was on the first evening and first night of the trip, at least until I fell asleep. The second day, things started improving as I hoped they would, even with the unmistakable symptoms of a cold: itchy nose and throat.

First and foremost, I did not want to spoil Naomi’s trip with my moodiness or sudden panic attacks (she even suggested that we go home the next day when she saw what I was going through). Although I love the ocean, I think that Naomi needed this getaway more than I did. Two days later, when she leaned into me while peacefully contemplating the ocean and told me how much she was enjoying herself, it was a huge relief. I even thought of extending the trip a day or two.

It’s wonderful to find a place where you can transcend just by being there, due to its spiritual vibe. I felt that way in India, in the north, during my second trip in 1984. In the Himalayan foothills, the purity seemed to emanate from the land itself. I could meditate just sitting anywhere, and experience deep inner silence.

I’ve felt that way hiking in Vermont as I approach a mountain summit. To hike, to exercise one’s lungs, legs and heart while at the same time meditating subconsciously on the energy, is not that easy. The mind is divided.

On the beach, however, after a morning swim in the cold waters, with a cool ocean breeze massaging the skin, as I noticed a little troupe of sandpipers scudding across the sand, as the sun warmed me and dried me, it was easy to close my eyes and transcend to a deeper layer of consciousness.


Ultimately, we didn’t extend our trip, but nine days later, the bliss that I felt by the ocean is still there, in my skin and on a more profound level, occasionally rising to the surface and relived.

“Oh yeah,” I think, “oh yeah.”




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