Disclaimer: For those of you who have met Mr. Bacon before, this is his twin sister, Ms. Bacon.
It occurred to Ms. Bacon one day that she spent a fair amount of time, money, and energy on making sure she always put her best foot forward. She tried to take care of herself and look her best. But aren’t the insides even more important than the outsides? Should she not also be putting time, money, and energy into her internal workings? Plus, she had been pondering some big questions over the past few months. In the past, when Ms. Bacon had big questions, Esalen, which is located in Big Sur on the coast of California, had been a helpful place to find answers.
Ms. Bacon had observed in two young siblings she knew, inherent personality differences. They were simply born two very different people. She found this very interesting. While skunks and children are not much related, she had noticed this same phenomenon in two pet skunk siblings a friend of hers had. One was curious and outgoing, the other fearful and retiring. This led her to hypothesize that we are all born with certain traits that are a core part of who we are. Ms. Bacon also considered that as we go through life, we are told by friends, parents, school mates, lovers, and a variety of people in our lives that we are not ok the way we are: we need to be more outgoing, more cool, dress this way, act that way, believe what we believe. Ms. Bacon was feeling that she had been going through life, trying to be who others told her she ought to be so as to fit in and that she had been chipping away, and throwing away, and hiding away core parts of who she was. Her big question was, “Who was I before?” Or to quote a Zen master, “Show me your Original Face, the face you had before your parents were born.” So Ms. Bacon got in the car and headed south down Highway 1.
There is nothing to cure road weary bones like a soak in natural hot springs that over look the sparkling Pacific Ocean. This was the first order of business once Ms. Bacon arrived at Esalen. Next, a walk through the grounds to stretch her rubbery, little legs and orient herself as to the whereabouts of her lodging and the pavilion where her classes were to be held for the week. The class was called, “The Hero’s Journey” and was based on the work of renowned mythologist, Joseph Campbell who coined the phrase, “Follow your bliss”.
Every story has a beginning, middle, and end: movies, books, and even the story of you.
If you take apart movies such as Star Wars or The Wizard of Oz one will see they follow a similar format. So do myths told all the world over. Some of the basic parts are: Ordinary World (the hero’s everyday life, unaware of the fact that things are about to change), The Call to Action (some catastrophic event, anything from an earthquake to a phone call that disrupts the Hero’s everyday world), Crossing the Threshold (the Hero decides to undertake the quest that has been presented), Obstacles and Tests (self-explanatory), Return with the Elixir (in which the Hero returns home with new hope, having faced terrible dangers, grown, learned, and overcome).
Monday the group was informed that they were 6 or 7 years old for the day. They were to answer questions such as “What do you fear the most?” and “When I am doing____ time stands still” and answer as the 6 or seven-year old self. Also, there was to be no writing, all the answers had to be done in drawings. These things would give clues as to one’s core self. They watched cartoons and played games such as run-across-the-field-with-an-egg-on-a-spoon-and-if-you-drop-it-go-back-to-start. It pleased Ms Bacon very much to see adults with very serious jobs such as doctors and mega project developers to get utterly taken in by games, mouths open wide with laughter, eyes shining with excitement. That evening a most peculiar story was told. It started out seeming to be a light-hearted, happy story that involved children playing on the beach. There was sun, sand, seagulls, and fun. Then, through a rock archway, a large whale surfaced. He turned on his side and showed his glistening eye. The children were amazed. Unbelievably, the whale then beckoned to the children with his flipper. They came closer. Suddenly the whale lunged and ate them all up. The end.
What was the point of that very strange story? In the middle of the night Ms. Bacon connected the dots. Long ago, she had a relationship with a Very Bad Man. A Very Bad Man who had sensed her vulnerability and general naiveté during a difficult time in her life. He presented himself as a friend and soul mate. And then he lunged, gobbled her up, spit her out, stomped on her heart and laughed at her pain. Very bad man was her whale. He was also her Call to Action. He was her Catastrophic Event, the thing that catapulted her out of Ordinary World to become a seeker, to begin her quest. And just like that Ms. Bacon could say she was glad she had had that experience with Very Bad Man. Because her life had taken on a deeper, richer, tone than it ever would have other wise. If she hadn’t met Very Bad Man, she might have still been floating on the surface of her life. She would not have begun her hero’s journey.
Tuesday the group became teenagers. Because teenagers roam in cliques and gangs, they were broken up into “tribes” and given the task of drawing out their greatest fears and most fervent desires as teenagers. Small pieces of paper called “chits” were employed and this led to many jokes like, “Oh no, I lost my chit!” and “Get your chit together and tell a story.” There was a very clear theme of fearing being left out and thought of as “different”. Ms. Bacon wondered aloud if we had all wasted so many years stressing out about being “other” when everyone else had the same fear. Or maybe only people who worried about being “other” came to Esalen.
This day was a competition and everything they did was judged and awarded points. Ms. Bacon was the only girl in a group with 9 men. Her heart sank and she assumed that she would not get to participate, that the men would all be stronger and bigger and talk over her and push her aside. She prepared herself to be relegated to the background. Ms. Bacon was wrong. The guys in her group wanted her to have the main parts! To play out the wise old woman who looked into a crystal (rubber) ball and led the tribal games, to be the mascot-Lady Truth who galloped across stage on her stick horse, they even let her be the team representative in a competitive frisbee toss which she won! Her heart sang as she got to be included and contribute to the team effort. She was positively bursting with joy. At the end of the night, Franck from Paris inquired in his outrageous accent, “Who are dee weeners?” “We all know who the wieners are, Franck!” followed by much teenage like hilarity. Ms. Bacon found herself with a blossoming feeling of affection for the men in her group.
The next day involved a Wheel of Misfortune. You went to the front of the room, spun a wheel and were assigned an impediment. Ms. Bacon had her dominant hand put in a glove, taped shut and then the arm tied up in a sling. As an anti-dependant, Ms. Bacon found herself in a conundrum. To ask for help, is to expose vulnerability. If you ask for help, the person will NOT help just to be that way because they can. Or, they will lord it over you, constantly reminding you how much better they are than you because it was you who needed their help. Or they will suggest that perhaps you are simply not good enough and perhaps you should be reassigned if you can’t do this yourself. No, Ms. Bacon prefered to figure it out on her own rather than risk such unkindness. But, all of a sudden, she could not tie her shoes. She could not zip up her coat. She had to go to the cafeteria and collect her lunch and eat it, all one-handed. Suddenly simple tasks became somewhat confounding. She had a rock of dread in her stomach when she had to ask for help, but in the end she was the only one who seemed to think it was a big deal. People were happy to help and didn’t think a thing of it. Once, Ms. Bacon was trying to be a good citizen and put her paper food container in the recycle bin which had a tiny opening. Food blurped out all over her hand. She stood at the bin uncertain how to proceed. How do you wipe goo off your only hand? A woman a few steps away quickly assessed the situation and came over armed with a napkin and asked if she could be of assistance. Ms. Bacon didn’t even have to ask for help and a kindly stranger was there at the ready! Ms. Bacon noticed it felt good not to be fearful of asking for and receiving help.
That night was pure Esalen magic. One of the guys in the class was a visiting Jazz musician straight from the French Quarter of New Orleans. He gave a free hour and a half performance to any who wished to attend. Afterwords as everyone wandered out into the night, a group of astrophysicists who were there not to probe the mysteries of the soul, but rather, of the stars, had set up one of their giant telescopes. Ms. Bacon smiled at the up close and personal of the moon but was then really wowed by a view of the green, gaseous cloud that surrounds some of the stars comprising Orion’s Belt. The talk turned to more complicated matters such as quantum entanglement and Ms. Bacon’s attention started to slip. She was in the mood for the earthy and primal and could see a bonfire and hear drumming off in the distance. The firelight flickered on the faces of the drummers, their eyes closed in concentration, beads of sweat upon their brows. After many days of wind, sun, hot springs, and no flat-iron, Ms. Bacon heeded the tribal call. She stomped her feet with the others, in time to the drums and it reverberated through the earth like a heartbeat in the night. She was over come with a wild and fierce joy and leaped and spun like a wild gazelle, face turned to the night sky, and danced till she could dance no more.
To be continued…