Have you ever had such a perfect day that you never wanted it to end? Last September I visited Joshua Tree for a dear friend’s birthday and experienced a day just like that. Being surrounded by good people in the surreal desert landscape instilled in me a feeling that I didn't want to let go – it was a feeling of shining tranquility, of being exactly where I needed to be. At peace with the universe.
I’ve experienced this highly vibrational sense of perfection before, but it is rare and usually only comes after a period of hard emotional work, of searching the depths of my soul before the heart opening can break though. And indeed, the weeks leading up to this trip to Joshua Tree were some of the hardest I’ve faced as a working adult.
After my first few months of freelancing and blogging full time last spring, I found myself hitting a wall of frustration and creative block come summer. Finding success as a blogger had begun to weigh on me, inviting me to be as loud and ego-driven as I might please in order to continue to grow. But I found that opportunity overwhelming for some reason, with my overwhelm manifesting in writer's block, self-doubt, and self-sabotaging habits like laziness and extreme cynicism.
As the sluggish weeks wore on, I eventually came to realize (with considerable help from my friends) that my confusion and self-doubt were an indication that some part of my business plan needed to change. It was with this breakthrough in how I perceived myself as related to my business that I carried in my head and heart as I packed up to leave NYC for a few weeks on the west coast.
It’s funny how returning home to familiar places can make you see yourself more clearly. Coming home to California always reminds me of the human I would like to be - one surrounded by natural beauty and love of all kinds. That clarity for my life’s bigger vision propelled me into the desert to celebrate a birthday, to revel in the beauty of mother nature, and to find myself grounded once again. I entered our 36 hours in Joshua Tree feeling confident that the desert air, the psychedelic mushrooms, and my beautiful friends would provide me with the knowledge I needed in order to move forward with Sustaining Life.
We arrived at The Bird's Nest around 10pm Friday evening, having gotten too late a start to witness the raw magic of the desert in daylight. And so we awoke the next morning to a beautifully designed space full of textures and textiles, impeccable design and desert details. Beyond our home for the weekend stretched a vast expanse of creosote and cactus, broken up by small and quiet homes. After indulging in a hearty breakfast, we donned our most practical desert gear and headed out on a hike through Joshua Tree national park.
It was amongst the dust and rusted rocks with the heat of the desert beating down on us that I found my first moment of perfection. Just feeling the sun on my head, the wind whistling through my hair, and the dusted earth beneath my feet – suddenly I had the energy of a child discovering the great outdoors for the first time. With newfound exuberance I jumped from rock to rock, climbed and clambered and moved in ways that felt so freeing for a change. I stopped and stared at wonky rock shapes, feeling creatively inspired by color and form for the first time in weeks. ‘How lucky’ I thought - how lucky am I to live on a planet this complex and astounding. How lucky am I to have people in my life who are willing to venture into the desert for fun. How lucky am I to just be here today.
Needless to say we finished that hot and dusty hike feeling both famished and full - in need of replenishing our energy stores and yet buzzingly, beautifully alive - and anticipating the journey yet to come. We returned to our nest for hydration and snacks before each eating a bite of psilocybin-infused chocolates, ready to be taken on a trip through the surrealism of both the landscape and our minds.
I’ve done mushrooms before a few different times in my life (to both wonderful and upsetting results) and so I had an inkling of what would come next. The stillness that overcame my body, quickly followed by wave after wave of giddy giggles, were expected, but the balloon of wonder and love which blossomed in me over the course of our trip took me by surprise. I spent the next two hours alternating between gazing in awe at a sparkling glass, everyone’s happy faces, and the gently waving desert plants.
These three sights represented to me the three areas in my life which rejuvenate and heal my soul; a (very Taurean) fascination with beautiful objects, my love for those I hold dear, and utter awe for Mother Earth. Seeing their sparkling wonder laid so bare before me was a reminder to always make time for these three most precious aspects of life, no matter how busy or focused or frustrating times may be.
Once we eventually took a step down from the peak of our mushroom trip, we broke out from our reverie to venture into the desert. As the psilocybin nudged us along we giggled our way over to some half broken down structures in the distance, camera and dramatic desert looks in tow. We meandered through creosote, crumpled cactus, glittering rocks, and random refuse before reaching our destination where we burst out laughing for no reason at all.
There, surrounded by the sound of happiness and the strangest sights my mouth opened to utter the words “the creativity is boundless.” As soon as I said it I believed it. Suddenly, after a month of wondering whether I’d ever be creative enough to succeed I saw the truth of it laid bare; that with the right people by my side I come alive, that all I need to do is surround myself with people who inspire me.
With that realization I smiled and allowed myself to give in and let myself flow through the rest of the trip. I knew that in the presence of my people and the last rays of golden sun that I would be ok no matter what. Over the next hour we looked on in awe as the sun sank slowly behind clouds and faraway mountains, casting long shadows across land and sky. The dusk brought a pink, orange, and lavender haze along with it, changing continuously as the sun glowed lower and larger and the moon rose quietly across the way. We couldn't tear our eyes away from this spectacle of nature, this magic of the moment. I thought to myself, as the psilocybin receded, that such a glorious sunset is well deserved only when a heart has become fully open to welcoming in a new truth.
With the sun set and our psychedelic journey concluded, we washed up and became human beings again. We sat by the fire soaking in the night air, enjoying good wine alongside a home cooked meal. As others indicated a desire to withdraw to their beds I found myself clinging to every second of the evening, to every last breath of the still desert air.
I wished that day would never end, because it represented a possibility. To live a life full of beautiful days, of sweet, shining moments of perfection. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in our heads over the mundane, what we think life should look like, or where we should be by now. But career success is not necessarily the most important thing in life. I would argue that happiness is the most profound thing for a human being to experience, simply because this fleeting life is all we’ve got. If we don’t fill the space between birth and death with some love, wonder, and joy, then what is the point of living?
That reminder to hold onto joy over all else, to prioritize the things that make me happy, was precisely what I needed. I re-learned the fact that if I surround myself with the things and people who make me come alive, the “success” I crave will come of it’s own accord - but I cannot control or force the timeline. My perfect, beautiful day taught me to remember patience, too.
Of course, even the most good and perfect days must turn to night. I didn’t want to let the precious moments of clarity, love, and wonder slip through my fingers so quickly, but nevertheless I laid my head to rest. As I closed my eyes I thought ‘this is what life is really about’ and I knew that I had gotten what I needed from my inner and outer journeys that day.