The weather was perfect that day. Wait. You’re never supposed to start a story with the weather? It’s “bad” writing?
Hmmmm…let’s see. How about…
Once Upon a Time in a Redwood Valley in Northern California. Wait. You’re never supposed to start a story with a cliché either?
I can’t remember if Hunny Bear was wearing a shirt or not when he flagged us down on the side of the road. All I know is one minute I was sitting in the backseat of Erica’s rented SUV, and the next minute a strange man was hugging me saying he’d been waiting for me and was so glad I was there. There being a winding gravel road tucked between rows of towering redwoods in the small town of Navarro California.
I was handed a large brown paper sack. And then our small group formed a circle. I’m not sure if I’ve ever fallen in love with someone as quickly as I fell in love with Hunny Bear. In a flash we had gone from strangers hugging on the roadside, to fellow travelers, eager accomplices on a common adventure.
Up until that very moment, I must have been uncertain. Frightened of the unknown. Drowning in worries and anxieties. Questioning my own worthiness. Troubled by thoughts of spiders and snakes and communal bathrooms. But I found peace in Hunny Bear’s words that day. Words that would echo through my mind for the next 48 hours and which seem to be echoing still.
But, I’m getting a bit ahead of myself…
This dusty circle of strangers by the side of the road was the start of a tech-free adult summer camp. And that large brown paper sack, that was the bag where I would place every piece of technology (digital and otherwise) that I owned for safe keeping. In short, “my life”.
For the next 4 days, I would not Tweet, Facebook or Tumbl. There would be no liking or commenting, instagraming or blogging. But most importantly, there would be no clock watching. No appointments to be kept. No watches or time pieces, clocks or even sundials.
There is a great freedom that comes when you stop measuring your life in seconds and minutes and hours. When you don’t have to worry about being on time. When it’s impossible to be late or early. When you begin measuring your life based on the quality of an experience. And all that matters is the present moment.
At first, this can be unsettling. We are so used to keeping time, to judging ourselves and our lives by how we “spend” our time. By judging others by how they “manage” their time. And here we are in this unlikely paradise, circled by strangers – and an odd but remarkable man who calls himself Hunny Bear is telling us:
“Wherever You Are Is Exactly Where You’re Supposed To Be”.
Cut free from the shackles of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), I found myself diving head first into new experiences. Rising each morning with the sun. Sleeping when the temperatures dropped so low that even the campfires no longer warmed me, and I naturally craved the warmth and comfort of my first grown up sleeping bag.
But time and technology weren’t the only things we abandoned. We also said goodbye to titles and names, to money and networking. Socioeconomic status became irrelevant. We tossed the Rolodexes away. Name dropping and “W” talk (WORK) were forbidden.
I won’t give you too many details about my time at Camp Grounded. What happens at Camp Grounded Stays At Camp Grounded. But I will tell you that I made friends with a tree full of spiders while on a creek walk with Uncle Dan, that I was lost in the woods alone one night and I stumbled on a hidden adventure, and that I spent a great deal of time staring at a golden hillside while typing on an actual typewriter.
I learned that all the things we take as “supposed to’s” in life, are for the most part, self-imposed. So if you want to start a story with a cliché or the weather go ahead. And if you want to take a weekend away from those digital devices which are both a blessing and curse, do it. If you want to skip that party and stay home and cuddle on the couch and watch a movie, or read a book under a tree, or watch all 117 episodes of Lost in one sitting…I say go for it. But most of all, stop measuring your life by the lives of others. Stop wondering if someone else is having more fun, or doing better or worse, or is more connected, intelligent, beautiful or worthy. When you spend all of your time and energy worrying about where you stack up – you end up missing out on your life altogether.
“The Life we’re most devoted to, is the one we do not have.” ~Maezen
Photo by Scott Sporleder.