Newsletter – Leaving Normal

Leaving Normal


  1. Leaving Normal – Hiatus from the So-Called “Real” World
  2. Quote of the Month – from subscriber Grant Smith

Leaving Normal

I recently participated in a month-long program at the Esalen Institute where I worked 32 hours a week and participated in workshops and other amazing experiences available there. If you’ve never been to Esalen, you really must go there to experience this world of human possibilities on the breath-taking California coast of Big Sur. (More info at This place is anything but “normal” — so am I — which made for an interesting experience. My intention in going there was to punctuate my existence and create a foundation for the next decade of my life. (Actually I wrote down on paper all kinds of corporate-sounding goals before going, but halfway through the month I read them, laughed heartily, tore up the paper, and threw it away.)

What’s Different?

I’m now alive to my experience of life in ways that I was numb to before. I am showing myself a lot more compassion, and consequently have a great deal more compassion for others (This connection may seem obvious to a few wise souls reading this!). Let me tell you, it doesn’t always feel warm and squishy to be awake to the experience of life. However, I prefer my current frame of mind over my pre-Esalen mode of over-cluttering my calendar, and my life, in the pursuit of something I could not even describe. Perhaps I was trying to guarantee that I’d have no time to simply “be.” (If you want more of this story it will cost you a lunch and a nickel — and bring kleenex, because there may be tears! No major transformation is without its gut-wrenching aspects!)

Non-Verbal Paths to Transformation

The best part was non-verbal — I drummed like a snake-bit woman for a good 20 hours, and continue to bang on everything in sight since my return. I have finally found a non-intellectual pursuit that fascinates me! (The overly-cerebral among us may want to take note — some challenges don’t yield to intellectual methods. Try a dose of drumming, or yoga, or meditation, or dance, or ANYTHING that doesn’t require your analytical/intellectual brain cells to fire.)

What Did I Learn? – Late-Night Thoughts to Marinate On

Life is messy, and involves risk. We can spend lots of energy creating an illusion of safety and certainty in our lives. Still, a Sword of Damocles hangs over the head of each of us, whether in the form of a terrorist attack, an unexpected illness, or a random accident that can literally change everything in our lives in an instant. There is no safety in the comfort zone. The comfort zone is an illusion. There’s no sense wasting a lot of time wallpapering it.

We don’t always need to “vote on” whether something is right or wrong, good or bad, better or worse. If we stare at a rainbow and ask, “Is it black or white?” we won’t learn anything useful from the answer, regardless of which one we choose. Sometimes it is more effective to simply stand in awe of the complexity of something, a situation, or someone, rather than “voting.”

“Normal” is over-rated. “Cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat” are less likely to attract attention. However, I highly recommend being at least 2 or 3 sigma out from the norm. I believe we are far better served by abandoning our pursuit of the elusive and changeable “societal stamp of approval” in favor of being who we truly are.

The words to this Pink Floyd song have been floating through my head for several weeks since returning from Esalen:

So, so you think you can tell . . .
heaven from hell
blue skies from pain. . .
Can you tell a green field
from a cold steel rail
a smile from a veil
Do you think you can tell . . .

(those of you checking my accuracy at this moment are missing the point)

Did they get you to trade
your heroes for ghosts
hot ashes for trees
hot air for a cool breeze
cold comfort for change . . .
Did you exchange . . .
a walk-on part in the war
for a lead role in a cage . . .

What Does All of This Mean?

Who knows! I refuse to even analyze it. I mean, really, did you think you would find **answers** in this newsletter? Believe me, I have returned with more questions than answers. However, I’d be very intrigued to have YOU share YOUR thoughts and feelings with me. Write and tell me what came up for you while reading this. Quote of the Month (from subscriber and chef extraordinaire Grant Smith) “Earn your living in any normal way and forget about it. Place no value on what society calls success, which is nothing but exhaustive attempts at self-proving. Give importance only to what you are doing with yourself as a human being here on earth. But do use your employment for attaining higher awareness. For example, observe the chaos around you and determine that you are not going to be one of those self-wrecking human beings.” – Vernon Howard.

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