At the Spa, Part II: Direction of the Heart

As I continue to explore and share my week at the spa, I recognize that many people do not have the time or money to enjoy such a retreat. For many years I was one of those people, and I’ve never forgotten my many years of financial struggle. This week, for Friday Fun, I’ll share some of the ways I found to enjoy spa treatments and mini-breaks at home or for little money.


The Italians have a phrase: Il dolce far niente, or, the sweetness of doing nothing. For a former Midwesterner with a strong, Puritan work ethic, that phrase doesn’t bring a smile to my lips. Instead, it brings terror to the heart.

I am exactly where I want to be.

Over the years, I have learned that I get more done not from pushing and striving, but from relaxing and reflecting. Yes, work has to be done, but the more I nurture myself, the less it feels like work, and it becomes like the play of childhood. In my second full day at the spa, I am opening to nothingness. I have no appointments, no one to see and nothing to do. Yet my brain is humming in the background, processing my intentions for being here.

I seldom use the word “intention.” I prefer the lovely Hebrew word, kavanah, or “direction of the heart.” While I don’t want to turn this retreat into another job (something I’m good at doing), I took some time Monday afternoon to define my kavanah. What is the direction of my heart? Where is it leading me now? When I am feeling confused, anxious, and/or depressed, it often means that I have strayed from that direction. As I spend time in solitude, I can stop, breathe, and make a course correction.

I made notes, starting with my feelings: confusion about general life direction, anxiety, desire to withdraw, sense of failure, etc. The gist of it is that I’m about to have a birthday, and my desire to leave a legacy gains increased urgency with each new year. As a writer, that means books — or does it? Right now, it’s all on the table, though I am open to letting the writing take a different form, or changing my approach to writing and marketing. Am I forging a new path, or do I just need to clear the brush from the one I’m already on?

To answer those questions, I wrote a loose plan for the next few days to create a retreat environment. I scheduled spa treatments on my first full day here in order to release body tension as quickly as possible. This will help me think more clearly and make decisions. In addition, I plan to read, knit, swim, wander the grounds, and write my impressions. I also reminded myself that I have subscribed to Julia Cameron Live, so I can access Artist’s Way exercises — which never fail to unblock me.

Finally, I wrote answers to the question, “What do I want?” I want clarity of purpose, return of motivation, emotional strength to deal with my current challenges, and an action plan for when I return home. It doesn’t have to be a long plan, just a few next steps.

With intentions defined, my focus for the next few days will include working with them, and working with the blocks and fears that have gotten in the way. I’ll be using my new “Feed Your Demons” meditation technique to do that.

In the meantime, I’m also enjoying room service with fabulous food and tasty wine!


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