Message in a bottle
By Kathryn Baxter
This winter was a long one. I lost count of the number of snowstorms and legitimate blizzards at some point in late February. Between the weather and work, my wife and I needed a break, and something to look forward to. So, we booked a trip to a small town on the Gulf side of Mexico called Tulum.
If you haven’t heard about Tulum, you aren’t alone. I hadn’t either. About one and a half hour’s drive south of Cancun, you’ll find a little paradise for folks who love eco-travel, organic, trendy cuisines and yoga. I loved it.
Our hotel provided a clean, eco-centric, comfortable suite with air conditioning - available only at night. For breakfast, we walked two hundred yards down the white, soft sand beach to a little restaurant where we’d get plates of thinly sliced fresh fruits and egg burritos, sip fresh-squeezed juices and watch the sun gather strength above the east-facing horizon.
We snorkeled, we walked, we sun bathed, we swam, we ate and we drank. It’s no wonder people use words like ‘heaven,’ ‘paradise,’ and ‘spiritual’ when describing this area of the world.
It is important, for the mind, for the soul and for a relationship, to look for opportunities to truly relax, disengage from all those things we convince ourselves are important even though in our hearts we know they really aren’t. Not really. Not in a way that is worth losing sleep over. Not in the ways we pretend they are. One needn’t go to Mexico to do so, but if you can rack up some credit card points, I’d recommend at least considering it.
Although there were lots of young professionals, families and older couples walking the beaches in Talum, noticeably there were many groups of women. Mostly middle-aged and older, these women had clearly come together to do something important. To relax. To regroup. To revitalize. I dug it.
When I said I loved the culture of this town, it also comes with a dose of well-culled northeastern cynicism. All these northerners practicing yoga and drinking giant jars full of fresh green ‘juice’ was a little over the top, and in the beginning I really found the mandala painting groups and soul-reviving retreats were hard to bear. But I also knew my cynicism was something I was trying to dispense with.
I needed to stop being so judgmental and ease out of the winter curmudgeon I’d become. And it was working. Each day, I was more apt to go with the flow and just smile. I sat in the sun until I needed a break, then I’d go sit in the shade. I swam in the sea until I was sleepy and retired to a beach bed and a cerveza. It really was working.
The second to last morning, though, I was tested. As we meandered down the beach for breakfast, we noticed one of the women’s groups sitting in a circle meditating. Get into it, I thought. Relax and enjoy, silently willing myself to join them on their wavelength.
As we were halfway into our morning fruit bonanza, the group relocated to our breakfast area. Once everyone was situated, the women rose from their seats and held their hands out, palms facing a large plastic shopping bag in the middle of the table.
As a reminder, this was very much an eco-village. Plumbing still could not accommodate toilet paper, so there were small covered baskets in bathrooms. Drinks were consumed from reusable glasses - never a plastic cup. As mentioned, air conditioning was only available at night when it was too humid for tourists to sleep.
So, with that in mind, please picture this: A group of women, arms extended toward the center of the table, their palms hovering over an oversized white plastic bag. One of the women was leading a blessing. Too bad about the plastic bag, I thought, but that’s sweet that they’re communally blessing something. Good vibes, man. (Sunshine really does wonders to a New Yorker.)
Then, the blessing over, the woman reached into her big white bag and handed out, one-by-one…plastic water bottles. Each woman squealed, cracked open the lid, and guzzled it down. And that, friends, was it. Paradise be damned, I was pissed. I cannot just let go of everything I worry about. Did the plastic water bottle blessing include a positive thought about the lifecycle of those containers? I doubted it.
I wanted to relax. I wanted to be mellow. But there is a responsibility that extends beyond the needs and wants of a singular being. What it takes for me to survive and thrive is one hundred percent interdependent upon supporting what it takes for the communities and environments I live in and visit to survive, too. My own health and well being cannot come at the expense of their survival.
Of course, visit places like Tulum if you can. Or, simply sit outside on a local park bench and let the sunshine kiss your face. Go forth and let the potential of humanity illuminate your breath, and ask for the universe to bless all the things that enter your being. But first and foremost, in your search for paradise, consider the elemental connection between yourself and the world’s people, plants, animals and lands.