There are times in almost everyone’s life when they feel lost. Not necessarily alone in the universe lost and needing to call a hotline, but rather adrift in the dinghy of life, floating along in unfamiliar seas. More of a “How did I get here?” and “What is my purpose?” and “Why are there so many ice cream stains down the front of my shirt?” rather than a “Goodbye, cruel world” type of thing.
Sometimes, it’s easy to dismiss such a moment as yet another midlife crisis. But as we all plan to live to be at least 154, the math doesn’t add up. And so we are forced to look for other explanations that will shed light on this longing for meaning.
Many people head to church in these moments of crisis, and I think that’s a terrific idea. Church offers a structure and camaraderie for those who enjoy strong coffee on a Sunday morning. Personally, that is not me. Not to say I am anti-Jesus by any stretch. I’m anti-coffee. (And, frankly, anti-Sunday mornings.) So, I’ve decided to look elsewhere for the mysteries of life—as they pertain to those of us in Southwest Florida. Places where we could clear our minds, regain a sense of self and find enough clarity to know that we are sick of everyone else for all the right reasons.
Some of you may recall that a few years ago I spent some time at a Buddhist monastery in Sarasota, looking for many of the same things I’m talking about here today (as well as a comfortable orange robe). After some vacuuming and watching followers leave Reese’s Pieces at the base of a 9-foot-tall golden Buddha, I came away with a sense that reincarnation may not be good for me, personally. But that doesn’t mean it can’t work wonders for you.
Of course, I’m not suggesting you drive to Sarasota. We have several smaller Buddhist centers locally that will explain to you why I was asked to vacuum and why Buddhist deities don’t care if you leave bad gifts at their feet. In Naples, one option is the Naples Sangha at the Green Monkey Yoga Studio on Peacock Court. According to a website, it is a “nonsectarian Buddhist meditation and study group that began in 1998 in the living room of our founder and teacher, Fred Eppsteiner.” I don’t know about you, but that’s all the information I would need to begin a spiritual journey. floridamindfulness.org
If you’re in Lee County and want to experience all the offerings of the New Kadampa Tradition—International Kadampa Buddhist Union (NKT—IKBU for short), feel free to head over to Samudrabadra Kadampa Buddhist Center. They have regular guided meditations and classes that help explain how Buddha’s teachings are still as relevant today as they were 2,500 years ago. It also features a World Peace Café and Lounge, which, if memory serves me, features really healthy muffins. meditationinfortmyers.org
But I totally understand if Buddhism feels a little too organized of a spiritual practice for you. If nature is more your thing, I highly recommend yoga “on the lawn.” While yoga feels a bit like exercise, doing it outside on manicured grass seems to take it to another level. Naples Botanical Garden and the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort & Spa are just two places offering you the opportunity to do a downward dog in a tropical setting, though stand-up paddleboard yoga on the waterways of Southwest Florida is even cooler. But because there’ll always be a little bit of concern that you could be eaten by a shark or alligator, I don’t think it’s an ideal vehicle for self-discovery. Beach yoga with instructor Becky Lang at Fort Myers Beach might be a better choice. naplesgarden.org, coconutpoint.regency.hyatt.com, beckylang.com
And so I want to you consider the notion of complete nothingness. You are nothing. There is nothing. You feel nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. I’m not getting all philosophical on you (although I do have an image of René Descartes—“I think, therefore I am”—tattooed on my right thigh. On my left is the saying “I wonder, therefore I wander” along with an image of Jimmy Buffett looking for a shaker of salt). No; what I’m trying to get at is a direct portal to your mind’s control panel. The place where you are able to flip switches and learn how to think with clarity.
Meditation is basically what I’m talking about here. But standard meditation takes quite a while to master—especially if you’re like me and get distracted by the slightest … Oh my God! There are bunnies running around in the yard! How cute is that? I remember I used to have bunnies as a kid. That is until the farmer down the road’s German shepherd got loose one day and … Ugh! See what I mean? Easily distracted. So annoying. However, there is one way to keep from being distracted: sensory deprivation tanks.
If you happen to watch Stranger Things on Netflix, you’ll sort of have an idea of what I’m talking about. A sensory deprivation tank, also known as an isolation tank, is a light- and sound-proof tank with approximately 10 inches of body-temperature water that has been treated with close to 1,000 pounds of Epsom salt—so you float. All you can hear is your own breathing and your heartbeat. It’s as close to an out-of-body experience as you can have without becoming a target of the war on drugs.
People liken it to being in the womb or floating in space, and that should be good enough to get all of us in the car headed toward our nearest float tank destination, because all things are possible again in the womb. You are completely relaxed and suspended weightless in darkness with nothing to listen to but the blinking of your eyes. It really allows you to find a place within yourself much faster than if you were attempting meditation on your own, hoping to drown out the sound of the UPS delivery truck coming down the street or the birds chirping outside your window. This is full-on guerilla meditation and, if you have never tried it, I promise you it’s a remarkable experience. The first 5 minutes will be frustrating, but the rest of your session will fly by in a haze of mental expansion and you’ll emerge a newborn—so to speak—with a sensation that all things are new and possible. Unfortunately, you’ll also emerge disoriented and even more confused about where you are—physically. naplesclou9.com, theomspa.com, naplesmassage.net, floatandflourishcenter.com
It gave me such mental clarity that I realized I really was having a midlife crisis. So I bought a boat. And now I really am floating adrift. I guess that’s the circle of life.