I’m less than four weeks away from my next adventure to the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California. I applied for a 28 day work study program. My course of study this time will be writing and improv in a group lead by playwright, Ann Randolph. When I tell people what the program is about, they always seem surprised because it doesn’t have anything to do with yoga. It actually has a lot to do with yoga. Part of my job is training other yoga teachers, so this experience, like the last one will be invaluable to me going forward. Teaching vinyasa yoga IS improv and if it’s done well it also includes story telling.
The last time I went to Esalen, I remember thinking that it was like grown up summer camp. When I was a kid I went to a Free Will Baptist Church camp. It was called Camp Beaverfork and it is located just outside Pickles Gap, Arkansas (pause to let those words sink in). Little known fact, I was crowned Miss Camp Beaverfork the summer before seventh grade. I had all the right answers about Jesus and I looked super cute in my white eyelet drop waisted dress. So proud.
I remember the summer Camp Beaverfork added a swimming pool! It was so exciting! The rules were that the boys and the girls were not allowed to swim at the same time and that all the girls had to wear a one piece bathing suit. The first time I wore a two piece bathing suit was in high school. I thought I was totally scandalous!
Esalen is famous for it’s natural hot springs tubs built on the side of a cliff over the Pacific Ocean. One morning, I was gathering the towels left by the late night tub dwellers when I remembered Camp Beaverfork. I began to laugh and sat down. Esalen is clothing optional at the natural hot springs tubs and the swimming pool. There on the ground looking at the crashing ocean below I had to take a moment to appreciate my life. I was quite a far cry away from my Camp Beaverfork days.
So much has changed, and I am grateful for all I have learned and experienced.
We discussed the yoga sutras today in my teacher training. We talked about how the path of yoga leads us out of ignorance and fear and into Liberation, Vulnerability & Love. In the sutras the way out of ignorance is called ‘viveka’, it’s a sanskrit word which basically means a continuous state of mindfulness and inquiry; discriminative discernment about what is real and what is impermanent; between that which changes and that which does not. In other words, viveka is the practice of questioning EVERYTHING. Question emotions; question thoughts; question beliefs all from a state of non-judgment and compassion. It is a lifelong journey that leads us toward Peace.
I have no doubt that the Love and Peace I wanted to find in what I had been taught about Jesus as a child, is the same Love that supports me and carries me forward now. It looks a lot less fearful. All the rules, guilt and shame have fallen away and I’m left with a Peace that I know will be with me wherever my journey takes me in this life and beyond. There truly is nothing to fear.
I love me and I love you,