Last month, my vacation was cut short due to unexpected weather. It was still a great trip, but the final three days were filled with more logistical navigation than I had expected. It felt like I missed 30% of the unplugged experience I had hoped to have due to circumstances beyond my control. I don't know about you, but it takes me a few days to really arrive and be fully present when I step away from my day-to-day and choose to be intentional about going off the grid and giving my mind and body that space to just be.
The week I returned to NYC, I was sharing this reflection with my Executive Coach and talking about all I had ahead of me post Labor Day. As I described my travel schedule for company offsites, conferences, and a new keynote speech I was working on, they zeroed in on my feeling of incompleteness from my vacation instead of all the things that I had ahead of me.
They asked if I was willing to be intentional about closing that loop. They asked me to focus in on this idea during my trip to Chicago and gave me an assignment.
"When I lived in Chicago, I would spend hours in a certain gallery at the Art Institute of Chicago. It was a specific place with a specific feel to it that I think might give you a closure to your vacation that you don't yet have."
So after I finished my first of four speaking engagements for the month, I made my way to the AIC and found my way to the Ando Gallery, #109. My Coach told me that it had a certain presence and that each step you took felt significant. As I found this almost hidden gallery in the back of the Asian wing of the museum, I was immediately caught unaware of how significant it would be.
When you walk into the gallery, there are 16 square pillars arranged in a 4x4 formation that you must walk through to get to the Japanese art displayed in the glass cases. The journey through the pillars feels like walking amongst the giant trees in The Hobbit or through a council of faceless elders from an unknown part of the world. Each step, even with sneakers, shifts the makeup of the energy in the gallery. There is stillness but you are not alone even if you are by yourself.
It was there in that incredibly unique space that I found an unplugged peace that felt like an extension of a stillness I had started to experience before the weather arrived on my vacation. I was only in that space for an hour, but I felt transported to a much slower moment and it was special.
We don't always get the vacation we want, but if we lean in, we get the vacation we need. And we can be in control of how that manifests itself in that moment and in the moments that follow.
Being able to seize control of a situation and make it the experience we need is one of the most powerful skills I believe you can obtain. Having agency to say, "I'm not done yet, let's find a way to make this complete" was a part of that growth for me. After this experience in the silence and completeness of the Ando Gallery, I feel one step closer to knowing how to do that for myself again the next time it is needed.