In last week’s blog post (8/11), I wrote about the value of breathing fully and expansively to create space in which to live fulfilled. This past weekend I felt what it was like to do this 24/7 during a stay at Tassajara-- a Zen Buddhist retreat center in a canyon in the Ventana Wilderness area near Carmel Valley, California.
Over the past twenty years, I’ve been here many times as a summer guest, and the arrival is always the same. As soon as I alight from the van ride of 90 minutes that carries us 14 miles down a bumpy dirt road, I step into the village where there are no cars and the predominant sound is the rush of water along the stones of the Tassajara Creek. I crane my head to watch the cliff wall at the entrance that goes up and up to the sky, and immediately feel my breathing relax and deepen, as if I’ve just released a 50-pound weight from my back.
As Ed Brown, Zen teacher and former head cook at Tassajara, writes: “Guests traveling the long road find themselves remote and distant from the anxieties and turmoil of the daily grind. They can relax and let be, enjoy the sun and water, the swimming pool and swimming hole downstream, the hot baths upstream . . . No need here to do, to accomplish, to produce-- it is enough to walk, to read, to breathe easily and rest assured....”
Actually, this isn’t a travel or spa guide. This is just a reflection of what it can be to rediscover your most open self in a world where, in general, the pressure is on to succeed at work, nurture your family and friendship circles, and manage all the competing demands of life on your time and energy. This time at Tassajara, I met several parents in their early 30’s there for the first time-- who for the first time in a year or two, had left their young children to have the experience of feeling again what it was to be fully in their own skins, eased of vigilance for others, nurtured by good people, good food, and the spirit of the place-- able to “breathe easily and rest assured.”
Mmmm, I’m feeling my breathing flowing into my belly and back just writing about this time out that was really a time in-- to my true nature. Here’s the place I want to be, too, when I need to make decisions or move in a new and challenging direction-- relaxed like an open hand rather than tight and driven, like a fist. This is the image I hold within myself now when I need to re-balance my energy and my priorities.
What is the place where your body and spirit open and allow you find the space to re-group and re-balance your energy and priorities?