Healing Places

Finding peace at a remote beach in Baja.

– A beach at the end of The Journey ? –

*** 

We are there again – here again. On the way down we tried to remember how many times we actually have arrived here already. I find it beautiful that we cannot really remember, we never counted.

On the first evening we very carefully moved around on the beach, smelled the air, heard the waves whispering on the shore, felt the sand shifting under our soles. Aha, yes, that’s what it feels like. Memories surged up and, very consciously, I let them sail by, didn’t pick them up. Memories are just memories – aha, that’s how it is, now. I came here not to see it again, but to really see it as it is, again.

That’s what this beach always was for me: the place where the mind finally found peace, where I could let go of searching, of thinking and doing and just be, just see. Of course, it could have been any place, and in a closer analysis it certainly wasn’t only this beach, there were innumerable places and moments, a long ongoing process of gradual awakening. However, this is where we thought our travels had come to an end – it didn’t really, it was just a major mile stone. Maybe it was the place where we transcended the whole idea of traveling altogether and started traveling inwardly. This is the place where I finally seriously started meditating, many, may years ago. Not that I was not serious before, maybe, in a way, I was too serious. It was this intellectual seriousness with all its limitations, this searching for sense and meaning rather than for what is, for the truth. Here I finally began looking into my heart. I sat there, under a cactus, with clenched teeth, sweat running down my forehead, devoutly “waiting” for some ultimate mystical experience. With so many expectations that all had to be acknowledged and then dropped and let go of, one by one. With so much pompous importance only genuine ignorance can create, with so much serious effort, and yet, with ultimately genuine intention and an honest beginner’s mind that gradually, laboriously began to sift through the solidified opinions and beliefs, all the grand stories of the mind, and investigate and slowly, painfully see through the grandiose, theatrical show of Self. I sat down to rigorously question personality and individuality, this time not to get rid of it – as if that were even possible – no becoming a better person any longer, no wishful thinking to maybe become somebody else, but rather to finally gain access to a real identity, carefully bracing myself for the possibility that there might not even be any. And I wept those heavy hot tears when stopping the war and surrendering and seeing where the healing has to begin.

What do you see when you return to a place? Change. What do you see when you remain at a place? Change. What do you see when you look, really look? Impermanence. Changelessness is a concept that doesn’t exist. Clinging and grasping is what causes suffering. So here we are again – the ‘again‘ in the sense of: ‘wherever you go, there you are‘. It doesn’t matter that we’ve been here before; I learned this lesson long ago during our wild traveling times. But I learned it also by coming here again and again.

There have been new people arriving, I saw them slowly walking down the beach, somehow tired and exhausted. Something caught my attention when they stood on the island, showing each other what they saw with little sweeping gestures as if it wasn’t really necessary, gestures like old habits that come by themselves. When they came back, he politely but purposely approached Parvin outside and talked to her, his face open, just the sunglasses remaining of the usual mask. “Is this a pleasant place to stay?” he asked in a soft voice, and I saw Parvin smile and hesitate with an answer. What a funny question! How can you answer such a question? As all good questions it tells more than it seeks to know.

We checked them out later when they had set up their camp and talked while the moonlight was dancing on the ocean. It felt as if they had come a very long way from a dark unhappy place, and I quickly sensed that a beautiful act of true arrival was happening here once again.

We’ve seen so many people come and go on our beach.

When you come down the road around the bend and see the beach lying there in its peaceful tranquility, the uncommon beauty of the sight takes your breath away. The island is floating on the turquoise sea, the long white sand spit is reaching out toward it, hardly any surf splashing on the sand.

When you come here you’ve driven for days through hostile desert. You are exhausted from inconceivable distances, from barren desert, from sun, wind, and boredom, and before – much deeper – from civilization. Civilization had gradually faded out, got lost in the vastness of space.

The sight is a cliché. Maybe some palm trees are missing. It’s often the imperfect clichés that get your attention. There are no palm trees, just the barren white desert beach, perfect in itself, incomparable, wonderful in the most basic sense of the word. It’s an invitation to take it for what it is, no purpose, no promise, no cues for a familiar response. There are no houses, no roads, a few primitive palapas, mostly in the stage of falling apart, a few vehicles, maybe a tent. Anybody who ever sees this is immediately touched by the stark beauty. But of course, people have other things to do; most people, getting a glimpse of this place, hardly slow down and simply drive by on their way to their destinations.

Next morning our new friends went swimming and later he came over: “this water is so buoyant here, I feel like floating, what is it?” and a wonderful smile was on his face. Her face was still inscrutable, somehow, but I clearly began to see it when they came back from a trip with our kayaks during the day.

They are park rangers up in our home state. I got into a deep conversation with him the next day. It was quite simple and easy when we both took off our masks. These are rare moments, when conversation becomes like a dance, when the information exchanged is raw, pure, and direct, when the mere sound of words is as important as their meaning, when the souls touch each other directly and converse without the need and dangers of interpretation. This happens sometimes, you never can count on it, and you can easily miss it when you don’t pay attention.

Stories poured out of him, stories that must have been buried for many painful years. It wasn’t so much that I listened, it was more that the words came out of him, and he listened to them himself, half surprised, half relieved, and suddenly grasping their meaning. I more watched his face than listened to his words, and I saw the convulsions of pain erupting in his facial expression when he, only seemingly vague, mentioned a daughter, somewhere, from an old lost marriage, who is terribly disabled since birth. A few short sentences fell like lead, and he stared at his feet. We sat for a long time and didn’t speak. He looked up, and we watched our osprey dive, out over the bay, and catch a fish, and he stood up, somehow awkwardly but composedly, and spread his arms a bit as if to say: “but now I’m here, and that’s what matters” and walked away.

Our beach is both, an invitation and a challenge. There are some who come and express their amazement with loud voices, unload all their clutter, the kids run around and scream, they drop on their lawn chairs, turn on the boom box: ”Man, this is awesome!” They crack open a few beers, and after 2 hours, at the most, they get restless and find that nothing is happening, no action, nothing to do… and they leave.

The tourists are the fastest, they take pictures even before they look; they step out of their cars with this fairly new but already universal gesture of holding their cameras in front of them, oddly almost like a sign of reverence, in a bizarre way almost worship-like, hardly peering at the displays and not wasting even a glance at the real thing. And you can hear them finding this place ‘oh, well, still not quite as beautiful as the one in Tahiti or Kenya‘. You see how they detest certain things like other tourists, for example, because, paradoxically enough, they consider them disturbing the “authentic” picture. They always search for shells as if they’ve lost their car keys.

The long-timers (yes, like ourselves) want nothing to do with the tourists. When they come, they check out the best spot, they arrange their stuff, they take possession, and they always take up their usual habits, regardless of where they happen to be. And when they’ve settled down they meet with each other and complain how everything has changed and how much nicer it was last year.

However, some come and are quiet, let the place speak to them, and are up in the morning to see the sunrise and actually see it rather than notice what it reminds them of.

Only two days later, our friends were back from a discovery tour along the bay. She didn’t wear sunglasses this time, the color of her dyed hair had washed out from all the seawater and her gray hair showed everywhere – a somehow endearing mixture of embarrassing and beautiful. I saw scars around her mouth, which I hadn’t noticed before. She didn’t smile yet, but she looked as if something very beautiful was happening to her, something she didn’t quite believe yet. He cracked jokes, and his eyes sparkled. We made plans what to do next, they only had a few more days, but it was plain to see something was happening – a great healing was taking place. We saw them go and knew, once again “our” beach had worked its magic.

Today, in my first yoga-session on the island, I saw the sky between my legs, upside down, with birds majestically circling in the wandering clouds, and it was as if I saw everything for the very first time. I felt the delicate warmth of a slight sunburn and drying salt on my skin. The night before the moon was full and the silver light on the sea was like clinking glass.

Now I sit with the Pelicans, these amazing creatures with this profound look on their face, the Pelicans that can fly like gods and sit like Buddha. I watch the familiar scenery – the cactus on the tip of the island has died last summer – the mangroves have grown…             Nothing to do but be…

             Klaus  written and revised between the 1990s and Dec. 2010

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