A week ago at about the time I am starting to write this post, I was lying on the ground by a lake, looking up at a sky so unpolluted by human-made light that I could see the Milky Way and constellations whose names I’ve long forgotten. I breathed in fresh air and listened to the night sounds that tonight enter my home through blissfully open windows.
A week ago I was at camp. Camp GLP (Good Life Project), a once-a-year weekend camp for adults, filled with many of the great things summer camp offered when we were younger: beautiful land, a lake and a pool, games, songs around a bonfire while toasting marshmallows, a talent show, and most importantly, a kind of joy that sometimes we forget to live into as adults. On multiple occasions when all 380 or so campers were gathered together, we danced. We Danced!
A week ago this night, there was a dance party. Exhausted from the day and the previous night’s not-great sleep (the “comfort” of the beds was another indication that we were really at camp), I had decided not to go.
I was in my cabin talking to a bunkmate, when I heard the start of a song – Suavemente, bésame, Que yo quiero sentir tus labios – a song that compelled me to say to my bunkmate with an urgency that surprised me, “I have to go dance.”
Besándome otra vez – I slipped on my flip flops and jogged to the party to make sure I didn’t miss the song. I was not disappointed.
Que yo quiero sentir tus labios
Besándome otra vez
Once upon a time, I used to dance to it every weekend and I even sang it when I was in a Latin band. Last weekend, after the song ended, I stayed and danced with no one in particular for a while before eventually heading back to my cabin, where I slept maybe just a little bit better than the previous night.
Our camp days started (if we chose) with meditation. Despite being tired, I got up for it every morning. The first morning I stayed for yoga afterwards. The next two I chose to walk around the lake, sometimes taking off my flip flops to let my feet feel cool dew on soft grass.
One afternoon, I attended a meet-up that included another guided meditation (bonus!). What dominated the images in my mind were not so much pictures, but colors – red-oranges, browns, white, olive green mixed with just a hint of pink. I tried to make note of the colors, their nuances and changes. At one point in the meditation, we were guided to meet our future self, who would give us a gift. This image, not simply colors, was clear: she gave me a small box that contained a bracelet made of rusty-orange stones and clear quartz.
Later I talked to the meditation guide and told her about the question I had brought into the meditation and the images I had seen. She suggested that the message was about commitment… to myself.
I have thought a lot about that since camp. I thought I did a decent job of committing to myself, following the path I know is meant for me, when it’s straight (rarely), with its curves, in its switchbacks.
Before I went to camp, I had reached out to a couple of people who I knew I needed to speak to in order to feel at peace. One of the people I’ve seen. I had no specific words to say, no agenda but to talk and to listen to whatever might surface in the moment. The conversation flowed naturally and easily. Without asking a question, I received the answer I needed. The other person I haven’t seen, and without any assurance that I would any time soon, I sent an email with words, precise and careful, that I needed to let go. Both were acts of self-liberation, commitment to the voice within.
In one of the camp workshops about project planning (more interesting than it might sound!), the speaker talked about the importance of displacement and asked, “What needs to go in order to make room for your project?”
As I am currently getting ready to lead a delegation abroad, whose preparation and execution require a lot of time and energy, I have twice said “no” this week to events I had planned to attend. One night I spent the newly freed time sending emails and doing other delegation work. The other night I spent most of the time walking the bridge and soaking in beautiful weather and a lovely sunset. While the first night may seem to have been more valuable than the second in terms of preparation, both were necessary for me to be able to feel ready - logistically and energetically.
As I talked to a friend today who has been going through a rough time (“I’ve aged ten years in the last 6 weeks”), cognizant of my own renewed commitment, I asked, “What are you doing for self-care?”
After silence was the first answer, “That was the reminder I needed,” was the spoken reply.
In order to get through those times that sap our energy, that can age us months in a single day, we have to make a commitment to ourselves, even if a small one.
In order to get through life with any sense of joy and peace, we have to make this same commitment, probably over and over again, as so many things or people attempt, wittingly or unwittingly, to steer us away from our center.
We have to recognize that our most significant relationship is the one with ourselves – it’s the only relationship we have from birth to death, at all times, in all places. The way we honor that relationship ripples out into the way we honor any other one.
A new camp friend wrote about her experience standing on stage at the talent show reading a most powerful poem she had written. She described the experience as liberating and healing. As someone who was in that room, I can say that hearing and seeing her honest and deep truth was liberating and healing for more than just her. She had committed to herself.
And so I invite you, if you haven’t already done so, to commit to yourself. Not only to yourself, not to self-indulgence that shrinks you instead of growing you. But first to yourself, the kind of self-commitment that expands your being, enabling you to be more of who you are. Enabling you to breathe deeply. Enabling you to accept yourself, and thereby, to accept others. Enabling you to live into the abundance that is you and recognize the same in every other person.