I’m always on.
I’m constantly writing and commenting about anything having to do with love relationships; meeting a prospective partner, fixing a relationship, letting a relationship go, keeping a relationship alive and well, and on and on.
And being Mr. Therapist, I’m always writing about emotions that we’ve all come to know (and love?) that are so closely associated with love and intimacy; gratitude, jealousy, joy, hope, fear, bliss – all good stuff, right?
But I want to tell you about something I did last week that had a lasting effect on me–it happened right before Christmas.
Hot springs with a vision
I traveled down to Southwestern New Mexico to a beautiful place called Mimbres Hot Springs Ranch; a rustic area with ponds, a few adobe-like structures, and a series of natural hot springs.
The place has a colorful history; once a TB sanitarium, it was then purchased by a rather dowdy Englishwoman, and finally bought up by a group of hippies with a vision.
Today, it’s a member-driven co-op that accepts visitors (by invitation only) for short stays, so “city folks” like me can enjoy the peace and calm of this natural setting.
What, no Internet???
Anyway, I didn’t know what to expect upon my arrival, but I came armed with all my high-tech toys, including my trusty phone and 8-gigabyte laptop.
After all, I had to have something to do out in the middle of nowhere, right?
I had to generate something for my website or everything would all fall apart, and then where would I be?
In my mind, I had to constantly produce every day.
At least, that’s what I thought!
Aimless and alone
Well, when I found out that cell phone reception and internet connections were all but non-existent at this “out-in-the-sticks” place, I began to panic at the idea of life without my hi-tech security blankets. Sound familiar?
At first, I was feeling the existential pang of being truly alone, with nothing to distract me.
Where was everybody, I wondered?
I walked aimlessly around the deathly quiet grounds, looking for signs of life and for any kind of cerebral stimulation.
Feeling somewhat marooned, with seemingly nothing to do, I grudgingly made it down to one of the handful of hot springs scattered about the premises. I have to admit, upon entering that steaming pool, it felt good, really good, especially after the long car drive down from Santa Fe.
After that, I took a walk and began to hear the pecking sounds of chickens and the chirpy songs of birds. I sat by an idyllic pond and picked up some old Indian pottery shards off a meandering country road.
Was I turning into a latter-day Thoreau?
Now, I hardly noticed that I was alone…
Ah, serenity now!
Little by little, my need for “something productive to do” fell away. I slowly released my expectations and just started to flow into the experience, one unfolding moment at a time.
By the end of that first afternoon, I remember thinking to myself, “You know, I’m actually feeling pretty calm and relaxed. There’s nothing I have to do, I’m not on any time clock, and I have complete freedom to follow whatever happens next. That’s pretty cool.”
Once I just let go, all the worry about unpaid bills and work on my all-important work fell effortlessly by the wayside.
The fact was, I began to enjoy and appreciate just being with me – not always an easy thing to do for a lot of us human beings.
Loneliness had turned into solitude, and an exhilarating sense of freedom filled my soul…
The art of doing nothing
Now, this certainly wasn’t my first experience with unstructured “alone time” in new surroundings. But in this particular instance, I was truly appreciating the “slow down”–the opportunity to practice what my wise mentor and writer, John Bradshaw, called, the “art of doing nothing.”
Doing nothing isn’t really doing nothing. It’s really just taking the time to notice the simple things; the birds, the trees, and the simple recognition of one’s own inner world.
This art of doing nothing is a learned skill, a healthy antidote to our current “gotta get it done now,” “hurry up,” “I can’t live without my iPad” society.
Home for the holidays
But, I really did have an unforgettable time out there in nature, spontaneously roaming the tranquil hills, happily enjoying the life-giving waters of the springs, and finally, meeting some of the welcoming community members.
On my little journey, I was able to experience the sublime tranquility lying just below the stormy surface of my fears and tribulations, without the need for any high-tech distraction or heady stimulation.
At least for the time being, I had successfully let go of control and the frenetic need to “make things happen.”
I had come home to myself for the holidays…
May you also have the good fortune to find your way back home in 2015…
*I’d love to hear some of your stories about unexpected inner tranquility in the comments section below. Then again, you just might be doing nothing at the moment, which is just fine with me!