Each time a cycle comes to an end, it opens an opportunity called a choice point…
We have a choice between the power of love and the love of power…
From the documentary, Choice Point: Align Your Purpose
Last week, I went on a journey. This journey happened on so many levels, I can barely find the words to encompass it. It wasn’t all butterflies and unicorns (though many Monarchs appeared in the story. Literally hundreds.) The shadow was certainly present and I felt deep pain at points on this trek. Trying to tell the story in its authenticity is like trying to paint a picture and not capturing the scene…like when the colors you choose, or the scope on the canvas, does not allow for the image you are taking into your heart. Or when you shoot a camera lens at a breathtaking scene and the camera only picks up a titch of the beauty. There’s a disconnect between what lies in the present moment and what is being saved to pass on.
To this end, I actually wrote another blog entirely on this Esalen experience. But it was lacking because I was trying to mentally process it instead of letting it flow from my heart space. I’m going to try it again. Here. Now.
The journey began physically in my car as I took in a three hour board meeting conference call for the United Advocates for Children and Families, a California non-profit advocacy group whose goal is to empower families in California with children facing mental health challenges. California falls down hard in the area of children’s mental health, especially in the rural part of the state where I grew up and currently live again. My current calling is to shift that. Through writing. Through film. Through conversation. These conference calls give me a vision of what we’re dealing with and often leave me overwhelmed at the scope of the problem. Choice Point 1: (a) sink into the overwhelm or (b) follow the intuitive lead to reinvent the landscape even when it’s difficult. I choose b.
As often it seems to fall, I spent a transition day between that state of mind and the next with my friend Katherine. Katherine and I met 18 years ago in Manhattan Beach Mommy and Me and have remained friends ever since. Katherine’s thoughtfulness and playful spirit always promise such a great time. Not only did we sing 80s tunes–Carpenters!–at the top of our lungs on the way to The Refuge in Carmel Valley (she always saves passes cause she’s awesome like that), but we hit up the Monterey Jazz Festival (more passes), a perfect way to enjoy moments. (Thanks, Kath, for not making me go 0 to 60 in the Tesla even though I know you love it. And, thanks, for always being such a thoughtful friend.) Here she is taking a Sunday break in what my husband calls the Snuggie of 2016, the Wind Pouch, which a vendor tried to trick us into buying for way too much money.
The colors, the smells, our Carribean/Indian combo lunch shared over brainstorming documentary ideas, listening to people and their stories, playing in the sunglass booth, listening to sounds of jazz while people watching…and let us not forget about the miles and miles of shore we walked down Seaside (pre-jazz prep), smelling the ocean, feeling the sand in our toes, and catching up on the past 4 months since my last Carmel drive-by.
Choice Point 2: a) distract yourself with the next/previous/next thing; b) be in these real moments with friends and appreciate them with deep gratitude. I choose b.
As Simone Weil said, Attention is the purest form of generosity. I am so fortunate to have a close, inner circle that understands that from both a giving and receiving position.
SIDENOTE: Before we leave Carmel, I must tell you about Poke Lab! This is the best poke place outside of Foodland on the Big Island (or that other place in Kona) that I have seen. It’s AWESOME and if you love poke, you must seek it out. Only open for 6 months, but it will definitely be a chain. (I’m really feeling I should have Google Ads right about now.)
As the journey continues Sunday afternoon, I weave my way into the smoke surrounding Big Sur. The drive is always gorgeous, but the hills were burning and the smoke was thick this particular Sunday. This was a metaphor as it often is where nature meets truth. I was excited to come together with my five friends. One from high school. Two from college days. My best friend since my mid-20s. And a new friend from Tenerife I hadn’t ever met in person, but had heard about over the years.
As I drove down Highway 1, I had a feeling Lissa Rankin’s “Anatomy of a Calling” workshop was only the excuse needed to land on the laboratory called Esalen, the precipice of the human growth potential movement, with these 5 strong women and the other players in the play. While I enjoyed the workshop and its community very much, I soon realized my true calling this time reached beyond more schedule following.
What is Esalen beyond a gorgeous retreat center in the middle of the Big Sur Coastline? Esalen is known historically for its ability to be a canvas for human potential in the world. If you want to see your junk close up (and I’m not talking about the view at the clothing optional baths), this is the perfect place to do it. If you want to see what’s possible in the world, and be willing to face the naked truth about yourself and your global community, this is the place to do it. If you want to understand your connection to nature via your spirit and your heart–not just your mind–this is the place to do it. The more you can do that, the more you grow.
Named after the Esselen people of the Monterey Peninsula, this nonprofit touts itself a Pagan Monastery. Having stayed in several monasteries before, I definitely feel that vibe when I’m there, though monasteries don’t come with bars and mineral baths. I guess that’s where Pagan joins in. There is the routine of a monastery, with three meals a day from the garden, and the proper busing of items in their receptacles. There is community eating, and ritual in workshops, rustic lodging, and amazing gardens that supply food for meals. Here’s my best friend, Netters, making friends with the gifter of our morning eggs.
There are altars set up around the sacred land, and morning yoga to get your down dog on while looking out over the vast Pacific. Sweet peas hang on a large fence with scissors nearby so visitors can cut flowers for their rooms. Monarch butterflies dance in the sky and flit from flower to flower, happy and carefree.
The land here feels sacred. From the collective energy of the Esselen people and all those that came after to soak up the healing mineral waters, an energy resides that’s hard to miss. But this group of peoples was decimated by settlers, and that energy is tangible, too. The feeling of cycles is in the air here. People at crossroads, in huge life shifts. One man we talked to in the baths had been living on the property for 9 months (which he’d done before for 2 years some five years earlier), working in maintenance and taking classes in consciousness the rest of the time. There is a feeling of sacred transition, personal retreat, and evolution afloat. It feels like Esalen Island, physically and metaphorically.
Yet, everybody moves through this space differently. One thing Esalen teaches you so clearly is that each person carries with them a lens filter through which all reality is viewed. Each being’s interpretation is purely subjective, as they hold up the mirror to themselves through their reactions to others. Paying attention to what’s in the mirror is not always comfortable, sometimes even painful, but it’s the key to evolution. Not everyone is ready to do it, yet to ignore it is to stagnate. Choice Point 3: a) give up growth for the sake of what is familiar, even if that familiarity causes suffering, pain, or dysfunction, or b) drive into the fire even if it feels like you will get burned and it will be hard to breathe…emerge on the other side, stronger. Much stronger. I choose b.
For me, the whole adventure was planned intuitively for lessons I needed to learn. To listen intuitively while there, I maintained a meditation practice daily despite the distractions of regulated workshop hours, meals, and social times. That was important to me so I could clearly hear my intuition and not everyone else’s stuff. We did yoga and chakra meditations. I journaled and drew in the forest, my feet plunged into the ice cold stream. We sat in the baths under an unbelievably extensive cover of stars listening to the waves crash against the cliffs.
When I returned home three spiritual allies, for whom I am so grateful, helped me see through the smoky emotions I had learned on this journey–and how I had set the whole thing up to learn them without even being conscious of it. (My Intuition is a master planner.) Choice Point 4: a) We can live on the surface of De Nile, or b) We can listen to spiritual teachers we trust to help us grow and evolve. I choose b.
One of the key lessons from this visit to Esalen: Trust the Universe. It’s got your back–always! On the third day, I felt my intuition strongly say, Go into the forest. Walk the paths to the baths. Experience the land.
When we woke up, and we laid giggling in our cabin, I told Netters I knew clearly I was to trade the structure of the workshop day for the non-structure awaiting definition. She thought that sounded like a good idea, too. Having been on Tech-Disconnect (on my own intuition and to respect the limited bandwidth resource of Esalen Island), I whipped out my cell and took pictures. We found beautiful coves to sit in and just be, a luxury we don’t have often since my husband and I moved from LA where Netters still lives. We took selfies. We sat in the stream. I did readings for her in the forest near our Day 1 Despacho Ceremony. We sat in the hot springs for three hours watching the otters play in the surf (or was it seaweed? We’re still not sure.) We meditated together in the Meditation Hut. We ate without having to navigate the crowds and rush off to the next thing. It was perfect. Choice Point 5: a) stick with the original mental plan at all costs, because it’s familiar and predictable or, b) listen to your heart intuition and follow it 100% of the time. So grateful to choose b!
Midway through the week, I started having withdrawals from contact with my husband, my children, and my mom. My husband and I both work at home and spend tons of time together, so no contact for 7 days was A LOT. Same with my youngest son. My mom and I talk daily, too, and not talking just feels weird. I was missing my peeps!
However, my intuition had called out the Tech-Disconnect and I wanted to honor it. So on Wednesday, in the middle of a withdrawal period, I was prompted to pen my husband a love letter. When was the last time I even thought about doing that? I couldn’t remember. Choice Point 6: a) second guess an intuitive prompt, b) follow your gut to PachaMama’s Magic Camp. I choose b. When my husband read the letter out of my journal, a gem fell out, and that will be a magic story for a future blog.
As I drove away from Esalen, the smoke had cleared from the fires. Emotionally, not so much. However, as I returned to the world I had held on sacred pause for the previous 7 days, I felt so happy to reconnect with my family and spiritual allies. My cell became active as I used it to pay for coffee in Carmel. Ahhh, the tasks technology allows us to do. Up popped 40 texts, 2,000 emails, 4 calls, 90 Facebook notifications (not to mention Twitter, Linked In, and all my friends on Word Streak thinking I’d driven off a cliff)…and a ringing phone as my husband saw the Starbucks app prompt up a tip and knew I was back on the grid. I was so excited to talk to him! I caught up with my peeps on my cell all the way from Carmel Valley Starbucks home. That’s seven hours of catch up.
I understood why my intuition put me through that period where I was meant to focus on that which was in front of me: friends from all different stages of my life, all in their own different different parts of the journey. Had I questioned it and not followed it I would have missed this valuable lesson: I appreciated so much how much each member of this close intimate team–as well as the “strangers” I talked to throughout the week– taught me about life. Choice Point 7: a) status quo, or b) Status Quo Buster! I choose b.
And so the elixir. Realizing love does not mean holding on to something simply for the sake of holding on just because you have been in that holding pattern. Love means honoring the frequency at which you vibrate and not making yourself small because someone else needs you to be small so they can be big. Love means standing in your power, but not being egotistically consumed by what the world sees as powerful, for the true Power is not about you at all. It never was. Instead, it is only found in your ability to get out of your own way…to open to the greater Universe that wants to express itself through you as you. It’s about Flow.