I’m currently reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic because well, everyone told me to and to help me come to terms with having found a second calling in life that’s just as difficult to pursue as my first one. Somewhere in the midst of Section II, Enchantment, Gilbert refers to the ancient Greek term for what we would commonly think of as “being in the zone” in terms of creativity, eudaimonia. For the Greeks, this was the word for “the highest degree of human happiness” it means that we are taken care of by “some external divine creative spirit guide”. I knew what she meant immediately.
I guess you can call me a “young” writer, though I’m not technically young. I’m new, new to this art that I’ve dabbled in for decades. I have felt that creative spirit guide before though. I’ve felt it through music, through performance and visual art. I have accomplished and created things that I look back on and wonder, “where did that come from”? I have been in The Zone. It’s not an easy place to find, and when you do it’s not an easy place in which to stay.
My most recent trip to The Zone happened on a beach in Costa Rica. I went there for a very unique retreat experience that combined yoga and breath work with writing and creative study. Both disciplines are a huge part of my life and so I went there with a group of strangers, which is not a thing I would normally do, but I’ve been working very hard to get away from what I normally do, so I went. I left husband and dog behind. I didn’t think about the expense (well, I did, but not the way I “normally” would) and I went. Having no idea what to expect and scared as hell.
The experience was one that I wouldn’t trade and will venture into again as soon as the opportunity arises. I wrote a little while I was there. Not much. Nothing that I thought I would, but I learned. I learned constantly from my instructors, from my new friends and from myself. I attended every class, every workshop and every group activity until the last day. On the last day I played hooky and went to the beach. I took a walk, right into The Zone. I wrote this…
Playa Guiones, Nosara, Costa Rica – March 18th, 2016
I walked on the beach, alone. Headed in a direction that was totally new. I went with no one beside me. I went with my heart open. I breathed. I looked down at the sand and saw that beneath my feet were hundreds of tiny creatures. Hermit Crabs? As the waves washed up on the shore, they were flushed out of their sandy homes. They began to travel back to the surf, leaving trails in the sand. Beside them I saw a bright wide eye looking up at me. I bent down to touch it. I plucked it from the sand and rinsed it in the salty water. It was a seashell. An abandoned home? I thought – “don’t look backwards. Keep your gaze ahead”.
I kept the shell gripped tight in my palm. I headed forward again. In the distance I spotted a group of birds all pecking away at the ground. “Something died”, I thought. I pushed on, pausing from time to time to admire the Pacific Ocean. A sight I’ve rarely seen. Traveling on, I began to close in on the birds. Buzzards. “There must be something good, something substantial there. There are so many”. I didn’t want to get too close. I squinted to try to identify the carcass that drew these birds together. I couldn’t tell. Some kind of very large fish. I was fascinated. I paused for a moment to observe the buzzards and I noticed that their struggles for power resemble our own. One bird stood atop the rotting feast while others crowded around. The instant one found a pocket of sustenance another was upon him, trying to take it for himself. That is how they survive. The one on top just stood there, surveying. There were two or three that stood a few feet away. Were they the weak? Had they already had their fill? Were they sentinels? I thought for a moment what they must think of me, and then I realized – they didn’t.
I turned to head back to find the others. Maybe I would swim. I walked and I watched and I cried. Just a bit. Just softly, to myself. Songs were swirling in my head. Songs that were not my own. They plagued me. I wanted my own thoughts. Didn’t I have anything in there that was original? I straightened my spine and walked on. I closed my eyes as I walked. “I opened my heart here”, I thought. And I cried again. Just a little. A little less than before. Less than the day I arrived.