Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Ojai and I

Last week, I gifted myself a solo me-retreat to Ojai, CA, which is about eighty miles from home. When I booked it many weeks ago, I was in desperate need of a change of scenery, rest, and rejuvenation.  When I found this place during my online search for possible destinations, I knew immediately that I had to go...and I had to go there alone.  

The Pepper Tree Retreat is the former home of the Eastern philosopher J. Krisnamurti.  This quote by him on the homepage of the website spoke to my depleted spirit: "It is essential sometimes to go into retreat, to stop everything that you have been doing, to stop your experiences completely and look at them anew, not keep on repeating them like machines. You would then let fresh air into your mind. Wouldn’t you? This place must be of great beauty with trees, birds, and quietness, for beauty is truth and truth is goodness and love."  It's like it was written just for me...a true sign indeed.

So, when the time finally came, I drove to Ojai and I went home two days later just like I planned.  I survived.  I did totally fine.  I loved it.  Did I experience some divine epiphany about the meaning of life?  Did I see a profound vision of my still undiscovered passion that will make me both intrinsically happy and a wealthy woman?  Did I find deep meaning or even remotely understand this philosopher's abstract deeply intellectual teachings that were honestly a bit over my head?  Uh, nope.  Not at all.
Not to be cheesy, but what I loved and relished about it was really all about the small stuff.

The peace and quiet was incredible.  The first night I was there, I was completely alone in the building (which felt like a large home) for a few hours.  The staff went home at 6pm and the other guests weren't there.  It was stunningly quiet - no dogs barking, no cars driving by, no music, no people talking, no noise at all.  It was just me in my room without a usual crutch for mental escape.  I felt uncomfortable yet liberated.  I could've easily called someone or put in my headset and listened to music, yet I was compelled to just be there with myself...to just be.  I will never forget that feeling. 

I took two naps.  TWO glorious drooling deeply relaxing and rejuvenating naps.  I take maybe two naps in a whole year!  I never make the time for an indulgent daytime siesta, leaving them only for desperate times resulting from sick kid sleep deprivation or a bout of insomnia.  It became obvious to me while I was there that I was exhausted.  Spent.  And the naps actually made me more tired, like my body was all YES!! that's what I needed - give me more more more!  I realize now that naps don't have to be a desperate act.  Naps simply feel good and I don't need some major justification for them.  I can just do it  if I want to and I vow to nap more...just because I can.  In fact, yesterday after I dropped the kids off at school and cleaned up, I curled up and took a mid-morning nap and...it...was...divine.  I totally get it now.
I read outside on a lawnchair on the grass in the immaculate garden surrounded by chirping birds, lizards sunning and doing push-ups on the rocks, the scent of orange blossoms, and warm sunshine.  There was not a single other person within earshot or view for hours.  I was completely unaware of the time and there was nowhere I felt I had to be.  Why don't I ever do this at home?  I have a pretty backyard, but also a house and life full of Things To Do.  It's good to take a break from all those lists and obligations.  Aaaahhh...

The last night I was there, I ate at the nicest restaurant in Ojai for dinner.  I will admit that I cringed a bit when the waiters ceremoniously (and loudly) removed the other three place-settings announcing to the rest of the patrons that THIS WOMAN IS HERE ALL ALONE!  But, I wasn't too ruffled when I didn't even look at or worry about the prices - I just ordered whatever sounded yummy.  Butternut squash soup, fresh salmon with roasted vegetables, and a tall glass of locally grown Cabernet to savor with my food.  All of this was just for me, surrounded by impeccable service and interesting conversations at other tables.  I felt well treated and happy, but honestly, a little odd.  A casual sandwich shop is easy to do alone, but a fancy restaurant at nighttime is a whole different thing.  Despite that, I held my head high and smiled with deserving pride.  During my drive back to my retreat, I started talking to myself and giggling - a sign I was either silly giddy, totally losing it, or ready to return to my "normal" life and the people that I love.
The next day, I took the coastal route home and made a point to stop for a walk on the beach.  Oh how I miss the beach and I can't wait for summer!  While I sat there wiggling my toes in the sand, breathing in the sweet ocean air, and listening to the waves, I had a moment to reflect on my time in Ojai.  Wow, did I feel an amazing new sense of empowerment and peace.  I pushed past the uncomfortable feelings, embraced the solitude and freedom, and truly enjoyed my time away.  I feel confident that I can carry this through to future moments where I might feel fear and hopefully not be so afraid.  Bring it on!

Would I do a solo me-retreat again?  Absolutely.  Perhaps an annual gift to myself?  We'll see.  But, as I'm looking out at this beautiful sea, I'm thinking that next time an ocean-view room with a balcony and room service, and possibly a pool would be a most excellent idea.  Not that I don't appreciate the beauty of my rather soulful experience in Ojai, but I realize I can find that almost anywhere, as long as I bring my whole self, mind body and spirit, along for the experience, wherever that takes me.


  1. Ah Daria, beautiful. That you went somewhere peaceful. That you enjoyed just being. That you enjoyed your own company. That you thought enough of yourself to treat yourself to this nurturing experience. That you will allow these moments in the midst of your busy, noisy life. That you are living your life as you choose, filling it with beauty and serenity. That you are you. Love, Mom

  2. oooh... I SO need to go there!