I returned to my babe cave from a quick trip to Arizona to see my two sons and spent my last night in Sedona near the Boynton Canyon vortex. The place was private and tranquil, away from the “noise’ of the city. What I took away from this experience was not only the stunning scenery but the act of disappearing, which left me inspired and invigorated.
I wanted to share a few thoughts with you.
Retreating and recharging, for me, is a necessary discipline, one I am still mastering. Throughout history, many great free thinkers and architects have had to remove themselves from civilization to connect with their work at a deeper and more meaningful level, sometimes against their wills.
Life is constantly inviting us to let go of ourselves so that we can experience rebirth. Sometimes, we are slow to recognize these moments—a death in the family, a lay-off, a divorce—but change is always happening all around us, often disguised as loss, asking us if we are sure this is who we want to be. I stood and stared for several minutes admiring the hovering hummingbirds tirelessly whiz by me. It was the perfect ending to my trail walk and opportunity for introspection. Despite the excessive mid-air flapping of wings, these mystical creatures appear to understand the importance of conserving energy while managing their metabolic rate.
Our identity, in many respects, is an idea: a story we tell ourselves that is reinforced by our environment. When we let go of this idea, even briefly, we are free to re-imagine almost everything about our lives, including our work. Disappearance, then, will refresh a soul when done well. At the pool, later that day, I read these ancient words of wisdom from Lao Tzu, the Chinese philosopher who wrote The Way of Life:
A sound man, by not advancing himself, stays further ahead of himself, by not confining himself to himself sustains himself outside himself: by never being an end in himself, he endlessly becomes himself.
To endlessly become ourselves, we have to let go of what we think we are. This, I believe, is the quest of the artist, the visionary, the creator. She must go to the heart of life, tasting the sweet nectar of it, and only then may she re-emerge to talk about it sincerely.
This can be uncomfortable. At one point on my trail walk with flip flops on, I slid down a rock face. Thank goodness I did not break a bone—or my skull. The danger of the experience was both frightening and exhilarating, and that was the point. We have to find new edges; we have to go beyond what we think we can do if we want to keep growing in our work and inspiring others to do the same.
When we don’t allow ourselves to disappear, we often lose ourselves in the haze of a frantic, unintentional life, settling for something less than our best. This discipline of stepping away from the outer world to access a more profound, inner one teaches me to let go of what I thought was true and allows me to access something new and altogether familiar.
Anyway, it’s good to be back. Sitting in my babe cave, I remember the stillness of Sedona. I noticed a hummingbird outside my window and smiled. As I start small, I am not fretting about what the next chapter in my life entails. I will continue to explore both my inner and outer self and do what I need to let go of right now to make room for what’s to come, even if I don’t know what that is.