Yesterday was my first day back to my full-time job since being out all of last week at Present Moment Retreat in Guerrero, Mexico, a top-notch yoga retreat with ocean front bungalows, five-star cuisine and selections of yoga, meditation and Qi Gong classes as well as an assortment of other off-campus activities like horseback riding, hiking and surfing.
In a word it was extraordinary. If you’re interested in my review of Present Moment from a traveler’s perspective, click here. This post, however, will focus on the change I experienced at Present Moment and that change’s benefit to me and my writing.
Know that I have historically been a nervous nelly. I’ve been confident in my abilities but somehow continuously afraid to show the results of my creativity and constantly questioning whether the good work is good enough, always seeing more that a work could or should be.
I’ve either sat on good stories, good music, good paintings, good poetry, and good graphical work for pretty much all my life, opting to move on to the next work rather than market myself; or, I’ve turned down or choked with fear when given opportunities to showcase my various talents.
A cluttered and rushed mind can be a terrible liability. I felt I had worked myself into a stupor of frustrated disorganization. So it was off to Mexico for what I thought would be a week of unwinding from my job. But it turned out to be so much more.
In my late 20s I had suffered from panic attacks. Some doctor’s believed I was depressed. I didn’t feel depressed. Others thought I was simply hyper and needed to be tranquilized. Medications to remedy those guessed-at conditions numbed or otherwise crippled my ability to live normally. Taking matters into my own hands I began reading extensively about Taoism and learned how to focus on my breath in order to still my racing mind. Voila! No more panic attacks — literally overnight.
From the very first day at Present Moment, I resumed the meditation practices I had begun back then, and with confidence and peace, as if I no time had lapsed. And again, I felt an immediate improvement in my thinking. I didn’t have panic attacks to overcome but I could feel a change.
I had decided that I would spend at least part of each of my days in Mexico writing. Some had warned that by doing so, I was either wasting my vacation “working” — I’ve never thought of writing as working — or that I needed a break from writing as much as I did from my regular work. Both turned out to be reasonable assumptions but both turned out to be wrong. I was taking a vacation TO write. Somehow I knew that, even if nothing at all happened, I would benefit from the peace that writing itself gives me. What I didn’t expect was that peace itself would, in return, feed back into my writing.
On the second day, I gave myself a pass on morning yoga so I could sit for the first time at my remote writing setup — great food for an upcoming post, btw. I was still hung over on stillness from morning meditation so began writing in a near dream state. Gone was desire for a specific word count. Gone was the smallest worry about accuracy or word choice. It could all be sorted out later.
Breathe. Relax. Align. Enjoy. And then it hit me. I was enjoying writing at a level that I hadn’t enjoyed, well, anything in more years than I cared to count.
Writing is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Correction: GOOD writing is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. One has to either enjoy it a WHOLE lot or be a single-minded workaholic in order to pull it off. I was some of the former and too TOO much of the latter. Now, all of a sudden, I found myself, despite the heat, despite the incessantly pouring sweat, despite the bugs, enjoying the act of writing. Fully enjoying it. I mean like childish enjoyment.
I considered it was the place. The coastline of Guerrero is breathtakingly beautiful and the harshest of the summer’s heat had more or less passed. But my enjoyment wasn’t coming from the sights or the sounds of the birds or the ocean. It was my relaxed state. I knew it. Believe me, I had fucked up enjoying great things before and was confident that, if given a running start, I could fuck up my days at a yoga retreat.
But I had meditated. I had killed want and time and pride.
I hadn’t created a new thing as much as I had killed threats and had knocked down obstacles. I had made way for enjoyment to calmly walk up and wrap its arms around me. The whole week, I never once checked my word count and never fretted that all I put out might have been a paragraph at a sitting. Instead I read, decided and rewrote with the same youthful approach as I had applied to my poetry in 10th grade back in our home in Tennessee. I enjoyed looking back at a writing session as much as I enjoyed the session itself. And, more importantly, I enjoyed looking forward to the next writing session as much as I did looking forward to meeting a non-judgmental friend for lunch.
I suppose it’s obvious that I will continue meditating.