Staying a Little Empty

by Chris Koellhoffer, IHM,  July 22, 2018

Hopefully, we’re all blessed with the pause that renews. The dictionary describes vacation as “an extended period of leisure and recreation, especially one spent away from home or in traveling.” Personally, I gravitate more towards the Latin root, “vacare,” to be free and empty, to take rest and freedom from any activity. In that understanding, perhaps the British term, “holiday,” is closer to the original Latin root of what it means to take a vacation.dawn copy

To be on vacation is to vacate in some way: to leave a place that we’ve previously occupied; to give up possession or occupancy of something; to release ourselves, even briefly, from an activity or occupation. At the heart of vacation is a sense of emptying out. Making space for what restores and refreshes. Adding to our diet a daily dose of peace or solitude or whatever feeds our well-being.

Whether our vacation is a week in some exotic setting, time spent experiencing fresh adventures, a few days at home replenishing our energy, or an afternoon sitting on a deck or strolling through a park, we are called to let go in some way. Even if we haven’t physically moved or relocated to a new place, vacation urges us to mentally, attitudinally, and spiritually move. To let go of some everyday routine or habits. To listen and tend to the rhythms of our body and spirit. To enter into a space where we can be refreshed, restored, and renewed. To pause and reflect, as the Creator did, on the work of one’s hands and heart, and to find signs of both goodness and blessing in that holy work.

The reality is that we all need some ceasing, some halting, some pausing, and certainly some emptying out for the deeper meaning of vacation to take hold in our hearts. May we find time and space in the days ahead for a deepening spirit of wholeness and well-being, and when we find that place, may we remain there in some way even as we return to our everyday living.

I’ve often, at the end of a retreat, introduced Steve Garnaas-Holmes’ blog post, “Don’t Come Back Soon,” as a reminder of our call to enter wholeheartedly into whatever renews our spirit—vacation, Sabbath, retreat—and to come out of such experiences moving a little more slowly, pausing a little more regularly, and holding a space of peace as we return to the dailiness of life. Garnaas-Holmes writes:

“Back from a week in cabin on the coast of Maine. I’m all slowed down. The thing now is not to jump back up into fifth gear and start hurrying and fretting and multitasking and plowing all night long. Don’t come back from vacation and fill up with stuff. Stay a little vacant. Keep the empty place. Stay slow. Keep paying attention, keep being deeply present.

The thing as I rise from prayer is to stay in prayer. The purpose of prayer, or vacation, or Sabbath, or sleep is not just to come up for air so you can go back into the fray but also to slow down so that what you go back into isn’t a fray.

Even when things around you are chaotic, you can be at peace. Even when others are panicking and hurrying and demanding or when they aren’t doing anything at all and it’s all falling to you, even when the house is afire and you have to move quickly, you can stay rooted. You can do one thing at a time. Even when you’re not at your prayers, you can still be in prayer.

Go on vacation, or into prayer, or on Sabbath, early and often. Go there now. And don’t come back soon.”armsopenwide

With thanks to Pastor Steve, I’m about to take a summer break myself and follow this wisdom. I hope to hold the empty space and live with renewed intention. Know that I wish that same blessing for each one of you in abundance.


Sit in stillness with the Holy One.
Reflect on an experience or practice that restores your soul.
Give thanks for this blessing.
How might you incorporate it more deeply into your everyday living?
Express your desire for the renewal of all creation.

As is my custom, I’ll be taking a break from blogging during the month of August to allow time for my own retreat and self-care. There will be no new blog posts in August, but I’ll look forward to being back with you again in September. 

My deep thanks to the wonderful Sisters of Mercy and Associates of the New England area, with whom I was privileged to spend this past week of retreat at Marie Joseph Spirituality Center in Biddeford, Maine. Thank you to all who held us in your prayer during that time.

May I ask you to also prayerfully remember these days in August: 

August 18-24:             Guided retreat for the Sisters of St. Joseph,  Hampton Bays, NY
August 25:                  Installation of new IHM Leadership Team, Scranton, PA
August 27:                  Retreat for faculty and staff of Waldron Mercy Academy, Merion Station, PA

 To automatically receive a new blog as soon as it’s posted:
Go to the beginning of this current blog.
As you scroll down slowly, you will see the word, “Follow”, in the lower right hand corner.
Click on “Follow” and a form will appear for you to fill in your email address.
After you do that, you’ll receive an email asking you to verify your address.
Click on this link, and you’ll receive a confirmation that you’re now automatically subscribed.

Please note that if you’re reading the blog on your phone, you may not see the word “Follow.”  Try reading it on a PC or laptop and you should have no problem subscribing.

Thanks for signing on and Following!




10 thoughts on “Staying a Little Empty”

  1. Chris, what a gift to read your reflection! Thank you, for sharing this peaceful, sanctuary! I love your phrase, “holding a space of peace.” In those few words, you “cued” a memory and have shared a strategy to take on the journey. Blessings of a welcome space for your peace, Chris! Enjoy your time and thank you for sharing the grace that abounds in your writing. “See you, in September…🎼”

    1. Maureen, of course your spirit steeped in yoga would understand the need for breath and pause and holding a space of peace. Thank you for all the healing energy you send out into our world–and into me.

  2. Jesus constantly sought for himself and others a rest…a time to be taken to restore and refresh. Thank you for this lovely reminder of vacation/holiday/time out.

  3. Thanks so much for this message and your intentions will be in my prayers-Joan ________________________________ From: Mining the Now Sent: Saturday, July 21, 2018 8:23 PM To: Subject: [New post] Staying a Little Empty

  4. As MIB says ‘grace does abound in your writing’ and I look forward to your return in September, – but hope you have many ‘restful pauses’ before then!

Leave a Reply