The highway toward Route 101 out of Los Angeles was flooded with cars and I drove at a glacial pace, yet instead of feeling frustrated, I was smiling. In fact, I had been smiling ever since I got into my car an hour ago, gleeful at being alone.
If you are a mother of a young child, you may sympathise. I have a two-year old son and I had not experienced a day or a night off from being with him since he was in my belly. My moments of quietness were snatches, stolen in between naps and after bedtime, swallowed up by life’s mundanities, unending to-do lists and the effort to achieve a greater level of efficiency than I had ever experienced in my pre-baby life.
My husband travelled often, but I was my son’s constant, the parent who was always there, and of late I had been feeling dim, as though part of my inner light was fading. It was not just a question of identity, the dissonance of being unsure of who I was; was I a mother, who wrote in snatches while her baby napped; a yogini whose practice had dwindled into all too brief twenty minute sessions; and a woman who was so tired, with trying to keep it all together that I had forgotten what it was like to have fun? I didn’t recognise myself, but I did know this: it was time for an intervention.
I decided to sign up for a writing retreat at Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California. It would be my solo weekend, both a chance to immerse myself deeper into the craft of writing, as well as to experience some serious R & R.
Esalen has long occupied a mythic place in my reality. Founded in 1962, by two Stanford University graduates, Richard Price and Michael Murphy, Esalen became a mecca for the ‘human potential movement’, which believes that through the development of ‘human potential’ we experience an exceptional quality of life filled with happiness, creativity and fulfilment.