Up at dawn for a sunrise soak, I greeted the day at the springs. As the first crimson rays filtered over the ocean, I relaxed and let the volcanically heated water soothe my sore body. I felt my cold lessen its grip, and anticipated a day of thought provoking sessions, revealing writing prompts, and inspiring and sometimes painful sharing by myself and other writers.
My second time attending this retreat, I found it harder to connect this year. Perhaps the long bike journey had predisposed me to reclusion, perhaps I was stepping back from my desire to entertain and impress strangers, or perhaps I was just worn out and exhausted. I felt I was standing at the sidelines during sessions, and being fully antisocial during mealtimes. So at dinner I pulled out my journal and wrote:
“Alone, surrounded by people, all talking, animated, for what purpose? They know each other, are talking about the workshop, about Esalen, about the rain, their work, their families, their lives. I am alone, pondering, sitting by myself. Isreal Kamakawiwo‘ole is playing soothing music on the CD player, but I am not soothed.
“Why am I here? The retreat seems harder than last year, when I opened up more, reached out more. I have talked with a few people, mostly answering questions about my ride, taking in their adolation and praise. But I am tired, weak with this cold. I don‘t want to ride anymore. I don‘t want to write either. I just want to eat too much, and to go to bed and sleep for a month, or a year.
“I had a meeting with Sy Safransky this afternoon, but not before wandering around in the Esalen garden, crying to myself, to the ocean, to the rain, about everything. I have such grief, and yet I tell no one. Who wants to hear? Who really wants to hear!
“I don‘t want to feel this way, not now. I want to feel happy, that I belong, that I have friends, that someone wants to listen, and I want to listen to them too. But right now, I want to withdraw, to crawl under the sheets and cry myself to sleep.
“Neglect the broken heart for too long, and it makes itself known, emotion returning with a vengence. Who wants to listen? I do. I do. I want to hear. So I write…“