The school where I am studying for my graduate degree invites their students every year to participate in a week-long retreat at Esalen, a retreat in Big Sur along the Pacific Coast Highway. I am writing this as I sit here now, overlooking the Pacific Ocean thinking about my first few days here.
Honestly, I was nervous about coming. I have never met any of my fellow students in person. Esalen has a very different culture than the one in which I live and work every day. I may have a hippie heart, but I also have a business brain. I didn’t know how well I would fit in. There was also the issue of the clothing-optional hot springs. Hmmmmm.
But something was calling me to go, even if I ended up being the only one in a bathing suit.
After several of my professors and advisors told me “You don’t want to miss Esalen” with an evident glow in their voices, I understood that my heart was calling me to this experience, and I bought my tickets.
My first day here was spent adjusting. I adjusted to the time zone, which wasn’t hard. I also had to adjust to the fact that there is zero cell reception. Not bad reception. ZERO. This was harder. I hadn’t planned on it, and was hoping to continue to keep in touch with my team and our clients while I was away.
I also had to adjust to sharing a cabin with two women I had never met and knew nothing about.
I could have jumped back in my car, headed up to San Francisco, and grabbed a beautiful hotel room with a view of the city, but I decided instead to surrender to where my soul was calling me.
I think that decision was the little bit of magic I needed.
In surrendering I have been better able to commune with the Edenic beauty of the surroundings. It truly is a sanctuary here. I have been better able to connect with the people here. And most importantly, I have been able to connect with what’s inside. All of this in an unhurried, accepting pace that honors everything about me.
Approaching the Sacred Ground
My husband Philip has a concept he calls the “Sacred Ground” — that place where we are struck with utterly deep clarity about what is important to us.
Usually we approach Sacred Ground in moments of crisis. When the life of a child is in danger, or when we have lost someone we love, or when we have lost everything and have hit rock bottom, there comes an almost otherworldly clarity about what is important in that moment. It is a clarity that stays with us.
In situations like those, we have no choice but to surrender and accept. I think that’s what what is transformative about standing on Sacred Ground.
I was standing on Sacred Ground when the word “sanctuary” came to me.
But we can approach that perspective at any time we are ready to surrender and accept.
And it turns out that I have approached the Sacred Ground here in this beautiful place.
I surrendered to what this calling of my soul was leading me to. And in that I found communion with the Earth, with myself, and with my fellow students and seekers here.
I surrendered to sharing a cabin with two women I didn’t know, and found the easy, relaxed grace that comes from a recognition of our shared humanity.
I’m beginning to see what is truly important and to slough off what is not. And the clarity that has come has been more than worth every bit of the perceived inconvenience that I felt at having to adapt. In surrender and acceptance is transformation.
And I think that this is one of the deepest forms of self-care that we can do — giving ourselves the gift of clarity, the gift of perspective, the gift of standing on the Sacred Ground.
By the time you read this I will be winging my way back to my everyday life, but I will bring this gift that I’ve received with me.