Last weekend I attended a workshop at the Embodied Life School in Sebastopol, CA, in Marin County. It’s a 75 minute drive from San Francisco, the location of my Feldenkrais training program, far enough that I needed to rent a car, yet close enough that I couldn’t justify getting a room for the night. Marin, with its rolling hills and farmland that abuts a dramatic coastline, offers an antidote to the bustle and noise of San Francisco which, after two weeks, had frazzled and frayed my nerves.
Saturday morning I packed a lunch, my iPad, phone, a pen and notebook and drove to the workshop, arriving just enough before its 11am start to enjoy a cup of tea. The teacher, Russell Delman, who studied with Moshe Feldenkrais and is a longtime Zen meditator, led us through a series of Awareness Through Movement lessons, seated meditation and other mindfulness practices, designed to begin to free us from the patterns of our “historical selves” so that we can embody new possibilities.
During the meal break, as a few of us chatted about where we lived and why we had come to the workshop, another participant offered me her guest room for the night. She said she lived close to the center of town, within walking distance of shops and a Sunday morning farmer’s market. My “historical self”, which hadn’t packed for an overnight, wondered if I should stick to my original plan and drive back to the city, a known quantity. That same self also wondered whether this woman’s home would be inviting and whether I would be pulled into a possibly exhausting social interaction when what I craved was restful silence, not companionship. While she seemed like a considerate person from the few words we exchanged, I knew very little about her.
“Thank you. Let me think about it and get back to you,” I said. As an introvert whose energy tank was nearly depleted, I had to balance the possible rewards and pitfalls of this invitation. As an afterthought added, “I hadn’t planned to spend the weekend here and only have the clothes on my back.”
“You can always buy a toothbrush,” said another participant, who also lived in town.
I chewed on the idea as I finished my lunch and then walked the large labyrinth at the rear of the property. Even though I had at least remembered to bring my phone’s charger with me, I suddenly wished that I had packed a change of underwear and socks “just in case”. As my bare feet made contact with the packed and gritty path, it occurred to me that my “historical self” was in full swing, focusing on what was missing, and that my Pilgrim self, who loved adventure and wore the same clothes for weeks on end, hadn’t been consulted for her opinion. Was I going to allow the lack of toiletries and fresh panties keep me from accepting this potential godsend? I reminded myself that, in the unlikely event her place was disagreeable, I could always drive away.
Towards the end of the seminar, I told the woman I’d take her up on her offer, and mentioned that I was looking forward to resting. She said I was welcome to as much privacy and space as I needed. That she understood my primary need was solitude came as a huge relief. When the day concluded, I followed her to the house, located towards the end of a cul de sac. She led me around back to a wood deck overlooking a terraced garden and opened the room. Cheerfully and cozily furnished, it had its own bathroom. After showing me the various quirks of the space and bringing me some bottled water, she asked if I needed anything.
“Is there a key to the room?” I asked.
“Normally we don’t lock it, but I can give you a key if that would make you feel more comfortable.”
I paused. The probability that someone would intrude upon the space when I explored the town center was extremely low. At the same time, I had placed myself in an unfamiliar situation and felt vulnerable. Indeed, my hostess later told me that she offered me the room, something she doesn’t normally extend to people she’s just met, because she sensed I was overloaded and needed a place to relax.
“You know,” I said, “my ‘historical self’ would like a key.”
Sharing my reality, rather than faking it and pretending I was more relaxed and laid-back than I actually felt, seemed like a step toward wholeness and authenticity. After she located and handed me a key, I locked the room, strolled into town and bought a toothbrush and toothpaste. That night, I slept very well. In the morning, I left the key in the room as well as a note. She, in turn, had tucked her business card under my car’s windshield wiper. For this introvert, it was the perfect adventure.