Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Spontaneous Cooperative Action (Return from Taos)

Here it is. "The post" following my week in Taos. I put up a couple of posts while there, but of course I hand-wrote my heart out, so the idea of getting online to either copy over some of my experiences or write them in a different mode was far from appealing.

I was glad I took my laptop along, though. The couple of posts I did make, as well as being able to sieve through email bit by bit, use Skype to talk to Dylan for free and keep tiny tabs on Facebook (I was very proud of my non-progress there!) were all really helpful. I found the first of the four intensives with Natalie Goldberg (I am doing a four-part program and this one was part two) intensely lonely - I knew almost no one there, we were in silence almost immediately, and I had to pay outrageous cell roaming rates to talk to Dylan. No hugs, barely any eye contact, no cats. Plus I was in a mid-winter depression.

This time around was remarkedly different for many reasons, but the main one is the title of this post. There was a sense, barely logically built by the minimal email contact in-between, of actually knowing each other, and of increased compassion. Folks made a bit more eye contact, were relaxed into their issues more easily, and the pain rose, for all of us, to the surface a bit sooner and stayed there. The first few stormy days let us feel at ease being unsteady, and the sun dried it all up toward the end. I went on an (almost) silent spontaneous field trip with a core group on Thursday, and got to see the Rio Grande Gorge (pictures up soon on Flickr) and a few of the small towns nearby. Friday we did a similar trip with a caravan of all 25 participants and Natalie - to Sweet Nymphs in PeƱasco, to Dixon and their fantastic community library, to Banana Rose territory. Add to this so many hours of inner landscape, and the sense of spaciousness, though tittered through with depression, confusion, self-hatred, was glorious.

For those of you who haven't done it, I can't recommend it enough. Go Study With Natalie. The area she teaches in, Taos, and the building/retreat center, Mabel Dodge Luhan House, are an experience all in themselves. Though I am working on getting her here to the Midwest to teach, she is utterly in her element there, her home scape of now 20 years. The high desert is a powerful tool for stripping one down to the elements. She offers financial aid. She is a master. There are very few reasons not to do it, and I guarantee I could convince you out of them if you give me half a chance. If you feel any calling to writing practice at all whatsoever, just one long weekend retreat will buoy you up for years.

The sense of what can happen in a space where people are gathered for just this motivation: spontaneous cooperative action - that sense is hopefully common enough in our neighborhoods, with friends and family, but to do it with strangers, in the desert, high up above the earth, and one hand held by a master while the other writes through your fears to the deepest truths that exist, that is immeasureable. Priceless, as Mastercard would say.

I am lucky enough to realize I get whiffs of this week to week, whether or not I am in class sessions. I am also smart enough to realize very few are as lucky as me. You want the luck? Make it happen. That's the way to make a path for it to beat its way to your door. You have to cooperate for spontenaity to act toward you. Go for it.


  1. Ahhh....Natalie....if only she knew how she has affected my life. I want to go study with her, I do, I do.

  2. LM: One day you will. Maybe even when income is restricted is the best time, though!
    ; )