Chatting with a man with no pants. A desert super bloom with flowers as far as the eye can see. Dancing solo by the fire under the full starry night sky in the warm desert breeze. Plus, unexpectedly learning to accept changes in my idealized plans somewhere along the way. This is living. This is my joy. I finished both “The Untethered Soul” and “The Crossroads of Should and Must” on this trip. Appropriate reading for a solo desert camping trip. And all stemming from a decision to travel by myself before and in between Southern California photo shoots.
I camped in Joshua Tree solo several years ago when I was at the very beginning of my journey to find out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. Husband? I decided resolutely that he’s who I want to grow old with and since that decision, we’ve gotten closer and closer (we’ve been together for twelve years and married for almost nine). I decided about a year ago that he’s my soulmate and I said it out loud in December. Seems a little strange after all these years to finally come to these solid conclusions, but I now understand the concept of a slow burn vs. the beginning fireworks of a relationship. It’s the slow burn that ends up being sustainable and once those coals are lit, it gets stronger and stronger. Camping solo for four days can do that for you. It can show you your greatest heights and loves and passions and your deepest fears and misgivings. But mostly it can bring you to depths of understanding about yourself and your place in this universe.
The reassurance about my marriage was an unexpected outcome of that first trip, but the journey I started on that first solo trip to Joshua Tree really was that of The Healing Farm. I read the book “Fail Fast, Fail Often” in my tent and at the same time I was seeing a career counselor. I had already decided I no longer wanted to be a wedding photographer and had started dreaming of a place called “The Healing Farm”. From that trip and the work I did with the career counselor, I have started building The Healing Farm brand, I’ve held single and multi-day retreats and continue to try to grow into this new role of founder of a dream. Founder of a big dream. I needed this time alone in the desert to reaffirm. So far I still don’t know, but what I do know is that I’m on the right path for me. One of opening and healing. I’m finding the dreamer in me that’s always been there. I’ve not trusted that dreamer completely and I’m still hesitant, but I’m getting closer to letting go and letting her take over again. It’s about time after 40 or so years.
As I read more about Buddhism and meditating I’m learning to let go. Learning to be the dreamer again. I’m learning to let go of my fears and am embracing living in the moment and trusting that if I do what I love, and love what I do that success will follow. Success is a funny word though. Success to me doesn’t have a monetary meaning. Success to me is finding what my true passion is. Being excited to go to work, living and working with enthusiastic people in a beautiful setting and helping others in the process would be the greatest successful outcome of my life. I understand all businesses need to make a profit, but there’s a new movement in business in which profit is not the driving force behind the vision. Workplace culture, helping others, helping this planet, showing others the ecstasy one can find in nature and the joy and energy received from natural healing, meditation and gratitude will lead to a successful business. I’m so happy I found “Conscious Company” magazine. It’s something that has put a definition to what I’m trying to do with The Healing Farm.
As I finished “The Untethered Soul”, I was struggling with learning to let go of the energy of the spring breakers surrounding me while I tried to camp in “solitude” at Joshua Tree. There are “quiet hours” at any campground and being 19-21 year old kids on spring break I should be glad they weren’t more obnoxious and I was actually really happy they were out camping and hiking at Joshua Tree rather than participating in wet t-shirt contests in Ft. Lauderdale, but still I was hoping for the peace and joy I found the night before camping at The Salton Sea and had a hard time “letting go”. So I came up with a plan that would keep me from thinking about it obsessively and spending my precious time annoyed (which is what I would normally do). I’m sure this is not what the book had in mind for letting go --planning is really not part of it, but if I didn’t do that I would have been stressed the whole time.
Basically on the second day (my first full day) I decided I would go on a huge hike (in the plan anyway) and to go early enough that when I returned, the spring breakers would still be out hiking since they would likely get a later start. Then when I came back to camp, I would spend a few mid-to-late afternoon quiet hours napping and reading while they were still out. As they filtered back into their camps, I would go out in the car to explore some areas along the road that had some wildflowers I wanted to check out and I would come back around dusk to start my fire and dinner. Sure enough, when I got back all the spring break camps around me had their music going (not too loud thankfully), but I was prepared with my plan and therefore remained pretty zen. I cooked my dinner and when it became apparent they would keep their music going, I sat by the fire for the rest of the evening with my headphones on being inspired by my own music. Part of the plan had been to ask the biggest group if they were planning on staying the next night and if they said yes, I decided I would pack it up and move on to another plan for my last solo night. Indeed they were staying, so without upset I packed it up the next morning and went back to the Salton Sea for a little photo shoot of “kickass solo camper Julie with the axe” and moved on to Palm Springs to stay in comfort at a place called “The Nurturing Nest”. My body was craving water at that point so staying at the Nurturing Nest and soaking in their natural hot springs water was lovely and I was able to take a long shower and prep for my re-entry into the real world. Amazingly, my plan worked and I didn’t get all worked up about the spring breakers ruining my camping trip plan. Normally I’m pretty good about expressing my displeasure with other’s noise in peaceful places, but I decided I didn’t want to dampen their pretty wholesome spring break camping fun which is another reason I came up with another plan.
Learning to let go, not being too tied to a plan and accepting change is all part of the person I’m trying to be. Building this business of The Healing Farm is a constant high and low, feeling of being “untethered” and unsure and feeling like I’m all alone. There’s nothing like traveling alone (doesn’t have to be camping!) to realize that you can rely on yourself, roll with the punches, accept changes and be confident that you’re going to learn some great lessons along the way.
I would love to offer immersion retreats for women to feel more empowered to have experiences like this. When I got to Los Angeles after being out in the desert, I stayed with an old roommate. She laughed when I got out of the car and said she half expected me to be carrying the axe from my Salton Sea photo shoot. Perhaps on that future immersion retreat, I’ll get axes branded with The Healing Farm logo to give as gifts to my kickass women’s retreat participants.
Cultivating practical wellness means a lot of things to me. Reducing inflammation in the body through an elimination diet and finding what works for you to get rid of or manage your chronic conditions, building a regular meditation practice into your life (even if it’s a few minutes a day), finding a realistic sustainable exercise plan are all a big part of what I want to teach at The Healing Farm, but also finding that place in you where you feel strong and confident is important too. These are all things that are hard to start, but inexpensive and easy to maintain in the long run and in finding what works for you, you will learn to naturally thrive. I promise. It’s happening for me and I can see the light at the end of the dark tunnel of uncertainty. I’m becoming “Untethered” and ready to really live.
The Healing Farm - Cultivating Practical Wellness.