I had the time of my life…

It was quite an interesting afternoon to say the least. As I was driving back to the cabaña tonight I felt like this could be the beginning of another chapter in my life in diary terms (with my time in Ensenada broken up into two parts, before and after my journey to Los Angeles at the end of July). I don’t know what I am going to call this last chapter but I think the title for my time in Ensenada prior to Los Angeles is going to have to be called, with such affection, La Cabaña. The cabaña was truly the protagonist of the story in such a deep way, after all, and I may have to start using the ‘personal a’ when I write about her. Speaking of the pesonal ‘a’ in Spanish, the last time I went to Sana Vegana I was really happy to notice a sign about helping chickens that used the ‘personal a’ for them:

“Al ver un pollo caído en el suelo, lo más lógico es pensar que está abandonada y que necesita ayuda y protección. Cómo puedo ayudarle? Si puedes ver al pollo, devuélvelo al nido con mucho cuidado. Si no puedes ver el nido, intenta improvisar uno, y colócalo en un lugar seguro…”

I went out again this afternoon, to Ceragem, and then to do a little bit of shopping, and I ended up at Wal-Mart. I just got some trash bags, sunscreen, and… I am a little disappointed that I did not support a local bookstore, but it called to me and it felt like the right timing… I bought a book. I think perhaps at the moment my mood has shifted and Fahrenheit 451 is on my to-read-very-soon list but maybe right now I want to read this book I just bought, La Lista de la Suerte (The Lucky List in English) by Rachael Lippincott, translated by Elena Macian Masip. It sounds like the kind of story I would really enjoy reading right now and I shed a tear when I read the description. I’m not sure if that was before or after Tom Petty’s Free Fallin’ came on the sound system but hearing Free Fallin’ certainly confirmed my decision to buy it.

Two songs that played one after the other while I was looking at books caught my ear: the first was George Michael’s Freedom. I am not that familiar with this song and I can’t say that I really understand it but the lines: All we have to do now / Is take these lies and make them true somehow / All we have to see / Is that I don’t belong to you / And you don’t belong to me” stood out for me. I mean, especially those last lines: I don’t belong to you, and you don’t belong to me, and when this song, that keeps mentioning freedom, was followed by Free Fallin’, I felt like there was a message in there for me somewhere, though I was not sure what it might be. Falling does feel like flying, it feels like flow, especially in light of what I have in mind. I felt amusingly affirmed by these songs in a certain way but I didn’t start laughing until I got to the beach and realized that Free Fallin’ probably especially got my attention because the author of the book Flow, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, has a name that is pretty much pronounced like ‘chick sent me high,’ and when a chick sends you high, and then you start to free fall, if that’s not flow what is?

The universe has to be sending me these messages for a reason. Another aspect of flow is synchronicity: there is a deep connection between flow and synchronicity though I have hardly begun to develop the philosophy of it. Being in a state of flow seems to increase experiences of synchronicity while following synchronicity tends to enhance experiences of flow. I would not be so certain about this if it were not for the first song I heard when I turned on my car this morning. I don’t know what I was expecting but it was Rick Astley’s Never Gonna Give You Up and I thought, hmmm, am I being Rick Rolled? Then I thought, well, I can’t be, really, because being Rick Rolled kind of implies expecting something else and then getting Rick Astley, right? Well, I forgot all about that until I read the lyrics to this song, Freedom, and I still don’t really get the lyrics, but just now as I am writing this I found out that the song starts: “I won’t let you down / I will not give you up.” For what it’s worth. And I don’t know what it’s worth, but it’s interesting.

Then I headed to the beach and of course I laughed about realizing how the song Free Fallin’ connects to the idea of flow for me through Csikszentmihalyi’s name. I do so much of my best thinking and processing at the beach and I don’t know what I am going to do when I get to Las Vegas and no longer have an ocean to solve all my problems for me. So, I’ve been writing a lot about my interests as far as languages, film, and music, feeling kind of primary in a certain sort of way, but then there are these concepts that somehow or other are also primary to me, and one of them is FLOW. It occurred to me as I was walking along the beach and playing in the water that PLAY is so connected to flow for me. I am sad that a lot of ‘adults’ do not really take play seriously, even as a subject of study, and it’s so hard to find books that help you deepen your experiences of play, just as it’s so hard to find books that help us deepen the flow in our lives, and I’m thinking there has to be a connection. I feel like, for me, experiences of flow almost always feel playful, and play, when it feels good to me, almost always gets me into some kind of experience of flow. Even meditation, especially when I am in a space of flow, feels like play to me. In Meditation for the Love of It, Sally Kempton brings up this idea of Meditation as Play, and I’m kind of sad that I don’t see that idea very often, but then again, I don’t see too many people writing about ‘play,’ like seriously philosophizing about it or even thinking about it in a deeper way. ‘Adults’ don’t think so much about play as an important category of experience in our lives and that could be why so many feel like they’re not good at meditating. Of all things, meditation is supposed to be one of the most ‘serious’ or something, kind of the opposite of play, but to me every bit of it is play, and it it didn’t feel like play, and if it didn’t give me an experience of flow, I don’t know if I would do it!

Kempton writes:

“Most of us would like to love our meditation. We want it to be a delight to us, a source of joy. For this to happen, it helps to stop worrying about whether you have “good” meditation. The truth is that there is no such thing as “good” or “bad” meditation. There is only your unfolding inner awareness and your relationship to the Self. You don’t need to worry, “Suppose I blow this session? Suppose I do something wrong? Suppose I waste my time?” Instead you can look at meditation as an experiment or, better yet, as a game you are playing with yourself, as an exploration. You can give yourself permission to be creative. For example, when you sit to meditate, you might ask, “What will happen if I breathe with the feeling that I’m being breathed by the universe?” Then you could try this and note the results. You might wonder, “How would it be if I spent this meditation period just witnessing my thoughts?” and try that. You might have an impulse to work with some classical form of self-inquiry, like “Who am I?”—and then spend an hour noticing what happens to your feeling of identity. You might think, “I’d like to have a more devotional feeling in meditation,” and then spend a few minutes praying or invoking grace with some imaginative form of inner worship, like offering flowers on the altar of the heart. Or you might decide, “Today I’m just going to ask for grace and see where the meditation current takes me,” and then surrender yourself to whatever experience comes. You can allow yourself to be playful in how you approach your meditation sessions.”

Yes, indeed, it helps to play. Meditation can teach us so much about what flow is and what play is and I’m so curious about that connection. So I was thinking: PLAY. FLOW. These are concepts that are important to me and that I want to explore in a deep way. I want to explore the way these concepts connect, I want to philosophize about them, I want to think deeply about them, write about them, research them, create life-changing experiences of them. Then I remembered Amanda Cottrell writing about being really interested in the connection between creativity and mindfulness and, for me, these four concepts are really, really exciting together. Play, flow, creativity, and mindfulness. I want to learn about all the work that has been done on the ways these concepts interconnect because if I stumble upon that body of work I think I could dive into it forever… and yet somehow I have this sinking feeling that not much has actually been done, and I don’t know why, because when you bring all of these things together, I think you change the world. From my perspective, knowing how powerful each of these aspects of experience is, it is amazing that reams of books and resources are not available on them. I was also thinking also about studying these fascinating subjects along with an exploration of the economics of our communities and by economics I do not mean economics in the way it is conventionally studied but an application of economics to the grassroots: an actual, deep and out of the box exploration of the way resources are distributed in our communities and how to make sure *all* resources get to where they are wanting to go in the most efficient way possible. What does a healthy community look like in terms of play, flow, creativity, mindfulness, and economics?

Today I was thinking about what is keeping me from the kind of flow that I am wanting and the ocean can make that so clear because it’s hard to imagine not being in the flow at the ocean but… when something is in my way… it’s harder to be in a flow even there… but the ocean makes it easier to pinpoint exactly what the hang-up is. The first thing I need to do to get myself into a greater flow is to pinpoint and address the obstacles to flow and the first one that came to mind, while I was swimming in the water, was… my dog! It has been way too long, I push my heartbreak around that to the side all the time because it is so unbearable to think about, but I just can’t rest until I have some support around me. I can’t even imagine what would happen if something happened to him before I got to see him again, before I got to spend time with him outside of that horrible environment, and honestly until I figure out a way to be with my dog, which is the biggest thing that I need to figure out to fix my life, I’m not going to be able to get into a state of deep flow, because my sadness and fear and heartbreak and the fact that I am so unnecessarily missing him sooo much is always going to be taking up so much space in my mind and in my heart.

The next thing is, my legs, and the resilience of my body in general. When my legs hurt, that might be in the forefront of what I imagine is in the way of flow, but I think all the time the biggest obstacle to being in flow is how badly I have been treated around my dog and how much I miss him and how much I want him with me, somewhere or other, and how much I wish I had a friend who wanted to help me with what I need to do to get him. I can probably bring him back West with me *if* I go back East for the holidays but I really hope I find some other solution other than staying in that house and if I find some other solution I really hope it has to do with being connected to *someone* who can help me solve this simple problem of not being around my dog. I could take him to Mexico, or wherever I end up after the holidays, but I still feel powerless in the situation without a friend around supporting me. I can’t rest until the situation with my dog is resolved, until I can cuddle with him again, until I have a friend around who can support me in making sure I can *stay* with him. Once I have that I will have my power back in so many ways and yes I feel like my power has been taken away from me.

Once I realised this my thoughts naturally went to this place that calls itself “Shalom Mountain ®” which has so much to do with why I am not with my dog right now. I had been saying for ages what my needs were as far as getting out of abuse (the physical presence of safe community), and I had been saying for ages that the only reliable way to reach me, while I was stuck in that abuse, was text message. I was thinking, what gall they have to implement a ‘policy’ (for my benefit, most likely) and send me an email that would give me 24-48 hours to pay an unpaid balance for a retreat where the balance was unpaid because I have been stuck in abuse and suffering from financial among other forms of abuse!

In fact the worst of the financial abuse was going on right around the time of the retreat in question, when my mother was so sick from alcoholism that she couldn’t do anything about her husband’s financial abuse towards me. It happened when she was in the hospital and just about died and he… just emotionally abused me and was so emotionless, his wife almost died and he just seemed smug about it, like if it happened, at least she would still be his wife, and at least he could scapegoat me and guilt me into believing it was my fault. He talked to people on the phone while she was in the hospital and I just can’t stomach how emotionless he was about it all. It was like his wife’s life was the final tool he was going to use to get back at me for existing and to put me in my place.

Now, “Shalom Mountain ®” had *plenty* of time to hear what I was actually saying, plenty of time to hear the expression of need that I offered to the community. This had been going on for years, after all, when I finally risked signing up for this retreat, trusting that I would finally be connected to people again and finally find my way out of abuse. Finally I feel like I am on the verge of safety and I go to Guatemala because I want to go to retreat with a story to tell: and well, it turns out, I have a very different kind of story to tell, about the negligence and incompetence of an organization that I trusted to have my back that failed to have my back in any way at all. I will tell this story with much more clarity at a later date when I have put all the pieces together, but long story short, they would coldly implement a policy giving me 24-48 hours to pay my unpaid balance from this time I was being financially abused, thus depriving me of the presence of community and the thing I had been saying over and over again that I needed most… for a balance of… $400.

So, I was walking along the beach, and I was thinking about this, and about the $300 that I donated at a work weekend, and that. THAT. I felt the sense of violation in my heart. I would give $300 to this place that I assumed had the best interest of me and the community at heart only to be denied access to the resource that would save my life for… oh, what is it now, $400 minus $300 is… a $100 balance? I thought about how, in my business, if I had received a donation from someone and then they owed me, I would be totally flexible about cancelling that debt in circumstances far less severe than the kind of abuse that I have been speaking of… and about how much their policies suck and how much their organisational structure sucks… and then I started thinking, ouch, the fact that I would donate $300 to a place that wouldn’t hear me at ALL over the course of YEARS and would do NOTHING for me hurts so much, I can’t believe I almost coughed up $1400 for that retreat that they told me I couldn’t go to because of this unpaid balance!!! Retreats cost about $700 but I can’t believe I was about to pay them twice that because… and I thought about Mariah and my heart kind of broke open as I walked along the beach and cried.

Oh, it would have been bad enough paying “Shalom Mountain ®” $1400 but the fact that I wanted to pay for someone I love so much to have an experience at a place that I now realize is so, so toxic (at least to me, everyone else has the right to think and feel as they do too)… I just can’t even bear that I almost did that to somebody I love, I can’t fathom it. My heart just broke open, when I remembered, not just that I was going to pay this money, but what and who it was going to be for. It was a breaking open that I needed and it felt like so much toxicity attaching itself to my heart was suddenly melting away.

I thought more about the toxicity of that place and how so much is gatekeeping: give me 24-48 hours to pay up or cancel my registration therefore proving they have not as an organization heard anything I have been trying to say over the course of years. Gatekeeping. Keeping people out leadership by rejecting folks from leadership training for reasons that are not at all transparent. Gatekeeping. Trademarking and appropriating the name “Shalom Mountain ®” and the phrase “Shalom Retreat ®” thus giving folks in the community the impression that if they want to take leadership they have to “do their work” which seems to mean kissing the butts of the powers that be to get into these leadership trainings. Gatekeeping. Getting onto their now conventionally named executive board, which you serve on for maximum terms of three years or something like that (to give it a vaneer of ‘democracy’, I suppose), there is one person you talk to about your interest: the executive director. Gatekeeping.

Then you become afraid that if you leave the community you will lose friends and that you will never find anything else like this place but this place is not all that unique; in fact, even Jon Terrell, the “Shalom Mountain ®” retreat leader who abused me told me so, right in the middle of abusing me: oh, they have places like this in California. The processes are not unique, perhaps the particular order the processes are put together and their words for them could in some way be considerd proprietary but few of these processes in themselves can be considered so… yet I think people become so afraid of taking leadership without going through the hoops and if you are someone who would rock the boat you can’t get in. It seems to me the goal is to cover their butts and keep the status quo power structure in place by making sure that voices that want to rise up against what is not right within the organisation go through the proper channels and to make sure that folks who might leave it do not have the will or desire to speak out. The myth is that you find your power within that structure but sometimes the only way to find your power is to abandon it and speak out against it.

Well, I had more thoughts about that but then my attention shifted to this leader that abused me, Jon Terrell. Last night I read an article about a retreat leader who abused Tara Brach and though the situation is in some ways very different, in other ways, it feels ever so similar, and hearing the word ‘abused’ attached to the situation that Tara Brach went through affirms me in my own experience of Jon’s behaviour as abusive, though I have often been so afraid of saying his name, so afraid of attaching his name to the word abuse publicly, because it feels icky to write his name, for one, but also because of pressures to stay silent… and now I refuse to stay silent. I did a lot of the old kind of “mat trip” process around him, shouting at him, and finally letting myself feel how terrifying it is that he reached out, not only to my mother, without my consent, but to to this person I have nothing to do with, who I NEVER talk to, who Jon KNOWS has been violent towards me and caused me deep trauma, and now Jon is in his cell phone contacts, and NO. This is terrifying to me, it is disgusting to me, and I refuse to stay silent.

Jon’s abuse has separated me from my own power for way too long and I finally decided to say NO, and to choose FREEDOM, from him and from “Shalom Mountain ®” which never responded in any way at all to my needs around the way Jon traumatized me (even before I found out he had been communicating with my mother’s husband, after I told him I was running away from abuse there and looking for safety), other than, when I asked about why Jon left the Mountain, hearing “maybe you don’t need to know,” and I am sorry, this screams of a cover up to me. There is no way in hell I can trust anything that calls itself “Shalom Mountain ®” in any way at all ever again.

And as for Jon, I mean, not only that, he told my abusers that he was concerned about my being delusional which gave them all the fodder in the world to attack me with; he told them private things about my life that he had no right to tell anyone, and all the while, he was putting down my experiences to my face, making me doubt myself, questioning my perceptions and my sanity; he was pretending to be on my side when I was running in terror from abuse when really he was collaborating with my abusers, and so I ended up trapped in that house for so long, thanks so much to the power he gave my abusers over me, and then “Shalom Mountain ®” was negligent, incompetent, and incapable of responding to needs, or of hearing anything at all. That’s as far as I will go today, but I will not be silent. I promise I will not be silent.

I have been feeling scared of reaching out to Rebecca because of fear around her behaviour to me in Salem but my fear as far as whether she is safe gets exacerbated by the fact that it was on a retreat with Jon that I met her. Sometimes I kind of FORGET that so much of my ability to feel safe with Rebecca relies on how she would feel about my speaking up about the abuse of Jon Terrell. If Rebecca is not okay with me speaking out for whatever reason, I cannot feel safe with her, period. If Rebecca is on good terms with Jon in any way, I think that gets difficult; but from what Jon told me, at the time he was abusing me, Rebecca stopped talking to him for reasons related to this “Me Too” stuff (that he brushed off with such machismo) and he did not talk in detail about the accusations but he seemed to imply that Rebecca at least knew about it and disapproved and that is why she stopped talking to him, or maybe she had her own issues, or maybe she was the one who made accusations against him. I do not know but if I had an ally in her who could understand my hurt that would make such a huge difference in my sense of safety.

Another thing is, yeah, sometimes it felt like Rebecca was flirting with me, and maybe I would have been more straightforward about that, in some ways, except that I brought it up with Jon, and as always when I mention something like maybe being into someone, he was like, um, no. Like, no, that’s not what’s happening, just don’t think about it, it’s not gonna happen, with the same kind of attitude with which he would ultimately consider me delusional, a sort of subtle… no, they’re way out of your league, kind of thing. If Jon had given me any idea other than that in response to what I shared with him around curiosity about what Rebecca meant to convey to me with what felt flirtatious but obviously wasn’t because Jon said so, I might have… responded differently… and I have no idea really if Rebecca actually liked me in that way. If she did, though, it would be really nice to be like, so there, Jon… and that also might go a long way towards trusting Rebecca, because obviously I was between a rock and a hard place: this person we both trusted said that nothing could happen between us so if Rebecca *was* flirting with me, and I responded all wrong, well… from now on I’m gonna blame Jon Terrell.

As the sun got closer to setting I started thinking about love. I wanted to beam love out to everyone and everything and I was even open to including Jon Terrell in that. As Danielle says in her latest podcast wishing someone well does not mean that they are going to suddenly be happy if you get your wish; most likely if they have a lot of shadow stuff going on they won’t get what they think they want because that’s not what is really going to serve their growth and often when people have as much shadow stuff going on as Jon Terrell does they have to go through a sort of reckoning, trial by fire, perhaps, before they can find their way to peace. Wishing someone well does not mean their shadow selves and their egos are going to get their ‘needs’ satisfied. It does not mean they are not going to go through misery or that they will not have to reckon with the karma of their actions. It may mean they are going to have to finally work through their stuff that they haven’t worked through, and it may mean that they have to start being responsible for their actions. It may mean they become less likely to abuse people in the future. It may help others be safe.

And as for “Shalom Mountain ®”, I realized, I don’t have to worry about wishing it well, because it doesn’t exist. It is a thought form, an idea, and oh, I can certainly send love to the letter S, and the letter M, the vowels a, i, o, and u, the consonants h, l, m, n, and t, too. I can send love to that cute little ® symbol and to the geometry of the shapes and to the binary code that forms the letters on my screen. I can send love far into the universe to things that I can’t even conceive of existing but as for sending love to “Shalom Mountain ®” it doesn’t exist, it’s just a social contract, an idea in people’s minds… but of course I will wish it well and send it love in the sense of hoping to transmute it and send it back to source where it belongs.

I also realized that the more clear my heart is around Jon Terrell and “Shalom Mountain ®” the more open I am to trusting Sarah. I think there are a lot of ways that, if I don’t trust Sarah, it has everything to do with what happened to my heart through Jon Terrell and “Shalom Mountain ®”. I have been afraid of Jon Terrell. I have been afraid of “Shalom Mountain ®”. As I could feel so well when I thought about the $300 I donated and the $1400 I might have given them for the May retreat if they had let me come, they still had a hold on my heart, but today feels like the beginning of freedom.

When I let go of that, and claim what I really want, which is FREEDOM, I feel so much more open to trusting Sarah, somehow. I think so much that gets in my way is… these other things that hurt me, and I feel like if Sarah could be empathic around that, that is a way that I could connect with her, and it gives me an idea of something she might be able to say to me that would be healing. I have been so afraid of reaching out to Sarah but it has so much to do with these other experiences with this other place and this other person and if I can open up to Sarah about that and feel received then… that would be so powerful, maybe, but also, there is just such a direct correlation between freeing my heart totally and completely from Jon Terrell and “Shalom Mountain ®” and my willingness to let Sarah into my heart.

When I listen to this song I wrote about recenty that made me think so much about “Shalom Mountain ®”, Change Your Mind by Sister Hazel, more and more, as I feel into my truth (though I hoped they were listening, really they were not hearing me at all), I feel freedom, and suddenly, the meaning of the lyrics shifts for me:

Did you ever think there might be another way
To just feel better, just feel better about today
Oh, no, if you never wanna have to turn and go away
You might feel better, might feel better if you stay

When I posted these lines on social media a while ago, I was talking to this place that calls itself “Shalom Mountain ®”, trusting that as an organisation they had the capacity to hear something I was saying. Now, the lines take on this flavour… that is over… my heart is free… and… when my heart is free, it becomes so much easier to think of talking to Sarah, for it is all this stuff with Jon Terrell and “Shalom Mountain ®” that is really causing the fear. I kind of hate to admit it but now, when I hear: “Did you ever think there might be another way to just feel better, just feel better about today,” while before I was hoping to communicate something to this place in the Catskills, now it makes me think of hugging Sarah. Like that is the “another way” that comes so strongly into my imagination now that this song is no longer about that place. I think she messed up, New Culture messed up, but the extent of my refusal to give them a chance, any benefit of the doubt, has so much to do with that other place…

And so I watched the sun set and walked up to my car. When I got into the car and turned the keys the first song I heard on the radio was this Black Eyed Peas version of Time of Your Life. When I heard it, I laughed and cried at the same time: that is the song they played at that place on pretty much every single retreat, the song that I associate with that place pretty much more than any other, and when I heard the line, “I owe it all to you,” I remembered that, though it’s over for me, I really did have the time of my life, in so many ways, and… I was looking into Mariah’s eyes. Ah, Mariah.

They were on… my mind… so much last night… I had this feeling like I wondered if they could feel me feeling them. But… oh, I’m so sorry, probably they will never talk to me again now, and writing about them at the same time I am writing about all this makes me feel so very bad, but they just go deeper and deeper in my heart.

Log in to write a note