Tulum and the Lightness of Being

The Shine Yoga Retreat was a beginning for me. Very concretely, it was the beginning of a
year-long leave from my job. I knew that I wanted to do some serious soul-searching on this
leave, but I had no idea my epiphany would start so early in the year, and with a bunch of
people I barely knew.

I come from immigrant stock. My parents grew up during the depression. They expected
their children to do better – much better – than they did. My parents made incredible
sacrifices to educate my siblings and me. I’ll always be grateful for that, but there’s a down
side to all those sacrifices.

As long as I can remember, I’ve been running – yes, that kind of running, the literal kind but
not only that. Academically and professionally, running: College. Law school. Law practice.
Law teaching. Tenure. Articles written, then books. Personal life, running: more and more
miles logged, til I have more repetitive stress injuries than I can count – shoulder, wrist, foot,
knee. Even on vacation – it’s nothing to hike 20 miles a day or cycle 25 miles, SUP, kayak,
and yes, run. Up and down mountains. In the cold. No matter. Just go. A couple of years ago,
I contracted mono – and worked through it, teaching my evening classes and driving home
from Philadelphia with the windows down and the radio blaring so I wouldn’t fall asleep at
the wheel. I said to my husband, I want to stop. I do all this stuff but I’m not happy. But I
didn’t stop. Some lessons are too ingrained.

One therapist called this part of my personality Running Girl. What are you running from,
Running Girl, she asked me. I don’t know I said. YOU DO!,  she said.
And then I was granted the leave. And Running Girl set in motion! Goals! All kinds of things
to do! I had a whole list of things I wanted to accomplish – before my leave even started, I
wondered if I would have time to do everything I had on my list! I even took this approach to
the yoga retreat. This is great! I’ll do side crow! Bird of paradise! Run, run, RUN!
And then I arrived in Tulum. Full. Stop.

That first yoga class, hearing the ocean, feeling the salty breeze. Beautiful, good souls
beaming their positive supportive energy all around me. We did yoga. We ate. We talked. We
got naked and swam. We laughed. We covered ourselves in mud and walked into the sea. We
napped in the sun. We -- all of us women who work so hard, who prop up all of those around
us every day, who run all the time – we played. I was so happy, truly filled with joy and good
feeling. It was so different from how I feel every day. Where was all that irritation, anger,
frustration, impatience? Where was Running Girl?

Well, she was there – it wasn’t that easy. But it was a beginning. Just a little glimmer of
something: It is ok to do nothing. It is ok to rest. It is ok to play. You can just be. You don’t
have to do.

In what I cannot believe was a coincidence, I returned from Tulum forced to just be. In the
airport on the way home, I got news that I had to have surgery on my leg. Immediately. I
would be laid up for 2 weeks – no running, no yoga, no stress on body or mind. Just rest.
Running Girl panicked. I was going to jump out of my skin! I’ll be so bored! What will I do?
(It is typical of Running Girl that she was worried about being bored and laying around for
two weeks instead of worried about the reason the surgery was necessary. Like I said, not
that easy.).

So now I am recuperating. And I have gotten a little bored. Ok, more than a little. Running
Girl took over on the second day and I did too much walking and it hurt. I didn’t bust my
stitches but I could have. So now, I’m in my chair. I’m reading. I’m meditating. I did some
very mellow hatha yoga. I’m writing this blog. I’m remembering the lessons of Tulum. It is ok
to do nothing. It is ok to rest. Ok to just be. I say this over and over.

I’m not done with this work by a long shot, but I have started, and that is something. And it
began in Tulum, with yoga and my yogi friends.