Thursday the group passed into old age and death. They wrote thank you letters to important people in their life. They created their own gravestones. Ms. Bacon thought this was a good practice. If you only have a few lines in which to sum yourself up…it really forces you to consider “Who am I at my core? What makes me, me? For the rest of eternity, engraved on stone, what are the few sentences I would like people to know about me?” It was a peculiar feeling indeed, to post the gravestones around the pavilion and lay underneath looking up at them. Not a perspective you get every day. Some people got very emotional. Ms. Bacon was just feeling quiet and reflective until they were dismissed for a lunch break. She was walking along a path and looked up through an enormous cypress tree to see the sun shining down in shafts. It looked so…solemn, beautiful, God-like, and very much like something she might expect to see on her way out when her time came. She was suddenly holding back a flood of tears and unable to speak for several minutes. She was feeling a little verklempt. Talk amongst yourselves.
Later that evening the group reconvened having been given a task to complete. Each person had written on a card “I am seeking ____________”. Fill in the blank. The cards all went into a big pot. Each person (or bacon) drew out an unidentified card and was to go find a stranger, someone not in the class, and ask for advice on how to find what was sought. It was an emotional time. People told their stories and a kleenex box made the rounds. Ms. Bacon however, needed her own personal kleenex box. She used an entire box and the front of her shirt was soaked. Some people had beautiful or happy or sad stories, and there were sniffles here and there, but during this exercise, Ms. Bacon realized that one of her core traits was that she was sensitive and an empath. She cried her eyes out for everyone, for joy and for grief and simply could not stop.
Suddenly it was her card that was being presented. Ms. Bacon sought healing from her past so that she might move into a functional, healthy, and happy future. The man who had drawn her card had found a woman in the hot springs who was sitting alone and seemed inclined to help. She said, “Boy have you come to the right place!” This woman had been so terribly abused in her life that she had developed the ability to have out-of-body experiences at the snap of her fingers. She was proud of this ability as it had allowed her to survive. It meant she did not feel pain. But the side effect was that she had also never, ever, in her 35 years, experienced love. She wondered what love was. This thing that everyone else talked about. She did not know what it looked like or how to find it or how to feel it or even if she would recognize it if she did see it. One day a friend of hers became very ill. She grew worried about this friend. And it occurred to her that maybe this was love. It was the first crack in her armor that let a little love shine it’s light through. This was her first step to healing.
Ms. Bacon’s face crumpled. While she had not been abused thus, she 100% understood that feeling of not knowing what love was. She had never been sure if she had experienced it. She couldn’t really tell you what it was. Then she met Very Bad Man and thought at last she had found what love was. He shattered her little bacon self from the inside out and it hurt so badly that she felt certain she would die. She did not know the soul could endure so much pain and not die. She made a deal. She figured this had surely not been love since it had tricked her so, and decided that she could just do without love whatever that was as long as she never had to experience that kind of pain again. She could not survive another such experience. But this? This sounded like something manageable. She could care for a friend. And maybe let a little love shine in that way.
The Hero’s Journey was a big group of folks. 39 people and one Bacon. Most of them were men. Ms. Bacon’s previous experiences had led her to believe that many men did not find her worth being a friend. There were a few fellows in her life who were exceptions to the rule, of course. But, for the most part, they were polite enough as they all went about their daily business, but they were not kind or interested in her as a person unless they were expecting something she didn’t want to give. Which made any kindness or interest feel false. Her experience at Esalen was different. She received many gifts while she was there. One man wanted to share a song with her. Someone else gave her a long and healing hug. One man gave her friendly and encouraging words of advice about men. A guy gave her a light saber to cut through the darkness and see the good. She had a long, heartfelt conversation late one night with a man in the group. They had both discovered on this week’s journey that if you remove any possibility of a romantic relationship, you have the opportunity to connect with people on a profound, real, and deep level that otherwise does not seem to happen. It allowed you to be sincere, to show your wounds and your joys without fogging the lens of your perspective. When you are wanting to date someone, you are trying to show your best, most interesting, most fun, most desirable self. The rest gets left out. That’s not the real, true you. Connecting with people as people because they are people and not because you are hoping to impress them was deeply, deeply satisfying to Ms. Bacon. The men in her class, those who gave her little gifts throughout the week? They didn’t want anything from her. They never asked for anything in return. They were just kind people. A little more light seeped in through the crack.
That night they celebrated their re-birthdays with a dance party in the pavilion. Barbara who was there to celebrate her 80th birthday waved a light saber around to ACDC’s “You Shook Me all Night Long”. Quiet and introspective Decland from London transmogrified into a groove master and shocked and delighted everyone with his dance party moves. Ms. Bacon laughed and sang and danced with no one and everyone. She felt her wild, tribal gazelle emerging again and she leaped and sprung and spun with wild, joyous abandon once again. A nice lady told her the next day that she had been a beacon and a shining light all night with her joyous jumping. Ms. Bacon proclaimed that what she lacked in dance skills, she tried to make up for with enthusiasm and they both laughed.
On Friday, the group was told to choose a tiny piece of rock from a basket. This was to replace the wooden bead they had been gifted on Sunday. They were told to find a resting place for the wooden bead which would symbolize the old self that would disintegrate and disappear back into the earth. The new rock, they were to keep as a reminder of the new self. Ms. Bacon knew exactly where to put the wooden bead and rushed to the spot as soon as the class said it’s goodbyes and was dismissed for the final time. Alas! The gate was locked and Ms. Bacon could not get down to her special spot, the spot where the river meets the sea, where the fresh and salt water mix. She stood at the top of the cliff, and stared at the sparkles dancing on the water. She felt the sun on her back and breathed deeply of the salty air. She became lost in deep thoughts. Then she felt another presence and turned to see Jeronimo. He was hesitating, a small wand festooned with a sparkly pom-pom. He approached cautiously and asked Ms. Bacon if she would like the Many Waters Ceremony. She wasn’t entirely sure what that was but nodded wordlessly. He hesitated again and then gave her some kind words. She started to cry (again!). He didn’t want or ask anything of her. Yet another gift out of the kindness of someone’s heart. He nimbly leapt the locked gate, and motioned her to follow which she did, albeit not so nimbly. they carefully made their way down the crumbling stairs, down the cliffs to the water. He walked her through the ceremony which had been taught to him by a shaman. They asked Pachamama for permission, set an intention, showed respect, plunged into the sea, then plunged into the river. Ms. Bacon found the perfect spot to leave her wooden bead. Wet and shiny like an otter, Jeronimo scrambled up the rocks back towards the grounds. He glanced over his shoulder at Ms. Bacon and asked, “Ok?”. She grinned up at him and nodded. He gave an impish grin himself, gave a shake of his pom pom wand and disappeared. She was more than ok. She was going to be just fine.