I had a breakdown at a meditation center. Husband and I were on our roadtrip up the California coast and one of the very few planned stops I wanted to make was at Meditation Mount in Ojai. We had driven out to Joshua Tree the day before to spend some time in the desert so Husband could get some good shots in its vastness and we both could have our minds blown by it. That day was Husband's, this day was mine. I wanted to climb up into the mountains of Ojai and perch myself in the middle of mindfulness. I wanted to feel my soul fill up with the answers that surely meditating at a place built for meditating would produce. I was on a mission to expand. We drove four hours through the desert to get to Ojai. Even that drive was majestic. Due to the epic desolation of desert highways, our bathroom and food stops had to be strategic. I suppose we could have driven on the main highway and saved our bladders a lot of trouble, but we're just not main highway sort of folk. Needless to say, when we got to Ojai, I was a little punchy.
We were finally out of the desert and into the mountains. My phone and I were navigating our way to the meditation center with very little service and very little battery as Husband drove the rental car through winding mountain roads. It was a bright day, but the hundred year old trees diffused the light around us as we weaved. I was nearing the end of our directions when the phone told us to make a right turn into a ranch. It didn't make sense.
"Are you sure?" he said.
"I mean, that's what it said. I don't know. Maybe there is a through road?" I answered.
Husband rattled our car over one of those red clay roads that kicked up dust as soon as you breathed on it and all of a sudden I felt a panic. I knew this was wrong, we were stirring up a lot of dust, the dust was going to kill whatever crops were growing here, we were going to get in trouble, we had to turn the car around and go anywhere else, but this was not right.
"Stop. Stop! This is wrong, we have to go back," I yelled at him.
"Whoa, let's just see where this goes," he said, creeping the car forward.
"No! Stop!" I yelled again. I don't know what had come over me but I was scared. I imagined my way deeper into my panic. I imagined a man coming out with a shotgun and yelling at us to get off his land. I imagined getting a fine. I imagined that we had the wrong directions, we'd be in trouble, and never get to Meditation Mount.
Finally we agreed to turn around and Husband pulled up directions on his phone. I was angry at this point. I was scared. I was tired. So naturally, I started taking things out on him. We found the road up to the mount and it was gorgeous, but I wanted no part of it. I didn't want to enjoy the deep valley drops to the side of the road. Or that on certain turns you could see mountains for miles. Or just the fact that I had never been to California before and here we were, doing exactly what we wanted to do. No, I just wanted to keep feeling irritated.
We curved up a long road that could only fit one car at a time. At the end of the road was Meditation Mount. It was quiet and calm, unassuming. He parked the car in the lot and I started to cry. Something about getting to that spot, after seeing so much beauty and refusing to be present for any of it, made me feel like a fraud. We had finally arrived and I didn't want to go in. I thought, this place is for good, mindful, happy people who would never freak out because they made a wrong turn. I'm wearing meditation beads and I'm breaking down over nothing. I'm a chump.
God love him, Husband somehow managed to get my teary self out of the car with a few choice words that simultaneously kicked my butt and validated me, and we headed into the center. Everything there was still. Even the people walking, were still. I started to ease up on myself and Husband. We walked to the edge of the mount where there was a little bench under the shade of a tree. On top of the mountain, without the cover of the trees, the afternoon sun was hot and the shade felt precious. On the bench, I sat with my legs folded. Backpack in my lap. I closed my eyes. All I heard was the wind. And the little clicks coming from Husband's Canon. My mind finally slowed down. I was still.
It was the hero's journey for me, though I didn't feel much like a hero. Getting up to the mount couldn't have been easy because I wanted it so badly. It was never going to feel effortless because I was seeking. Every time I've wanted to go after something important, the journey has transformed me. And usually, right before I get the thing I have been seeking, it's after an infuriating amount of difficulty. I booked four dream shows in a row right after not working for three years. I met Husband right after I went through one of the loneliest times of my life. I started working as a trainer where I build people up right after I got out of a job that only tore me down.
Every winding road is leading to the same place. The top of the mount. The place of stillness and calm. The place where we forgive ourselves and understand that the process is what gives the finish line its value. In this case, my usual weapons of being a good girl, following directions, and being right all led me into discomfort and pain. Not to mention they kept me from experiencing the very things I came to the West Coast to experience. It was only when my armor crumbled, when I broke down on the doors of my destination, that I was ready to step through them.
When it got too hot to be looking out over the mountains, we went inside to the meditation room. We were the only ones there. Husband sat at one corner and I sat at another. I felt everything around me, including my own sadness and my own forgiveness. I let everything exist and then let it go. When we walked back to the car, Husband said,
"I watched you meditate. I've never seen you make that face before. You were really calm but also present."