One thing I never have to worry about is getting too full of myself. See, I have this built-in behavior pattern that kicks in any time I might be tempted to even think I’m “all that.” An example: Recently, my wife Dixie and I had the privilege of teaching a five-day workshop at Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California. The workshop was called Improv: Expand Yourself with Laughter. It was our eleventh time to teach it at the idyllic retreat center and we had an amazing group of seminarians. They came ready to expand, ready to take risks.
If you’ve never been to Esalen Institute, well, there’s really no way to describe its sheer beauty, nor the profoundness of its legacy, but since I’m a writer, I’ll try. Perched on the edge of the scenic cliffs of Big Sur, it boasts an amazing view of the Pacific Ocean. Dramatic! You can see why the Native American tribe the Esselen consider it sacred land. Walking the property, you can feel the sacredness. Hear it. Smell it. And there are delicious natural hot springs where you can soak away your aches and pains—while whales, dolphins, otters, and many kinds of sea birds all doing what they do. But my favorite time to head to the tubs is at night, when it’s dark. And it does get dark. Very dark. Unless there’s a full moon, which is cool too, super cool, because then you get that strange moonlit shadowy thing going on. But on those dark, dark nights when the moon is hiding, and it’s just me and my tub-mates, the sound of the ocean, and the comfort of the hot mineral water against my naked skin, when above me the vast universe shimmers with its millions of questions, I feel worlds of possibility unfold inside me.
But there’s more to Esalen than the tubs. There’s an art barn, a mediation room, a reading room, and various fantastical spaces where workshops are held: yurts, dance barns, spacious rooms with beautiful views. There’s also the lodge which serves up three delectable, healthy meals every day, and where you can always toast yourself a piece of fresh-baked bread or serve up a cup of hot tea. There are gardens to wander in, trails to explore. And always there is the sense that you are walking in the footsteps of giants: Joseph Campbell, Ida Rolf, Alan Watts, Aldous Huxley, Virginia Satir, Timothy Leary, Fritz Perls, the list goes on. The week we were there, something called The Myth Lab was happening. People had come from all over to create new myths for a new world. There was also a writing and meditation workshop, a passionate lovemaking workshop, a yoga workshop. The maker of the documentary CRAZYWISE was there too and he shared his movie and his thoughts about how our culture deals with mental illness.
So, you can imagine, surrounded by all this brilliance, a person might feel, I dunno, kind of bad-assed to be included in their line-up of teachers. And I was, sort of, as much as I ever feel that way, one night when I was soaking with Dixie and two of our Fun Institute friends. It was pitch black, and stormy, and we’d heard rumors that the southern artery heading into Esalen, Route One, was closed due to mudslides. It was exciting. Electrifying. We’d hiked down to the baths during a break in the rain and had been delighted to find one empty. Down below, we could hear the ocean raging. Having a tub to ourselves enabled us to stretch out a little, and in doing so I discovered, in this one particular tub, that if I simultaneously pressed my palms into one edge, and the soles of my feet into the opposite one, it felt like I was flying. The mineral water was that buoyant. Pretty soon we were all doing it. (We did just come from an improv workshop) We pretended we were super heroes, flying out over the ocean to save the world. It felt powerful, fun. Then it started to rain, hard.
“We should go back,” I said.
“Before…” “Before what?” Lara said. “Before we get wet?”
“Yeah,” Regina said. “If we get dressed and go back now, our clothes will get soaked.
Dixie, as usual, just laughed.
So much for feeling all badass smart. I mean really, come on, Clifford. My impulse to get out of the rain was ridiculous. We were already soaked. Meanwhile, our clothing was inside—dry. So, we laid back and got rained on, and it was wonderful! Floating in a tub of water heated by the molten core of the earth, as cooler water rained down upon us from the sky, all to the soundtrack of the waves down below dancing with the moon. To think I wanted to hustle back to our room so I wouldn’t get wet! Der. It wasn’t long before there was a break in the rain, at which point we showered, dressed, and walked—dryly—back to our rooms. They say some people don’t have the good sense to come in out of the rain. I, apparently, don’t have the good sense of when it’s a good idea to stay in it! Ah well. Like I said, I have this behavior pattern…
So that’s it for today. Remember: Live the Love, it’s all we’ve got.