So, a while back, I told some friends of mine “I’m a simple man of peace!”
It bothered me. More than it probably should have, and so I tried it out on other people. Exactly one person – my oldest friend, in fact – didn’t snicker, laugh, chortle, or guffaw when I said I was a simple man of peace. They pointed at the San Francisco GRUE, at Dark Odyssey Surrender, at the upcoming Washington DC GRUE (which conveniently comes right after Thanksgiving). They pointed at my self-employment, my public work, my private relationships, my kinks and hobbies and goals and gadgets.
And you know what? They were right. I was – I am – about as far from a “simple man of peace” as I can be.
And that bothers me.
So I decided to take arms against a sea of brainweasels and do something about it. The lovely Miss Ali had asked me if there was some special way we could spend a weekend together, and as I outlined what I had in mind, she enthusiastically agreed. Thus, SMOPcon was born.
The idea was to find an environment both reclusive and also inspiring. To pare things down to a minimum, to cut down on the noise just to see what kind of signal might actually be coming through.
For my part, the rules I made for myself (the aspiring SMOP) were relatively simple:
- No technology more complex than paper and pen. That meant no clocks, watches, smartphones, computers, whatever. I was OFF THE GRID.
- I would sit zazen three times a day, for 1/2 hour per session.
- I would do yoga twice a day.
- I would eat simple and healthy (mostly) meals.
- I would go to bed when tired, get up when rested, fuck when horny.
Miss Ali, for her part, was taking on the role of “Service Muse.” This meant that she was accepting the responsibility of:
- Locating an appropriate space for the SMOPcon and negotiating its use (AirBNB for the win, btw!)
- Planning & preparing the menu, usually
- Fruit, coffee, and toast for breakfast
- Vegetables and fish or sausage for lunch
- Salad and (possibly) meat for dinner
- Fruit, nuts, other snacks as needed
- Minding the technology:
- Monitoring my phone for emergency messages
- Changing the music as I requested
- Keeping track of time when I sat zazen
- Leading yoga workouts twice a day
- Courtesan/bedwarmer/rope bottom services as requested
- Providing stimulating conversation, a sounding board, or a silent companion as needed.
I could write. I could read my books. I could smoke cigars, drink whiskey, listen to music (though I couldn’t actively use the iPod, see rule 1). I could bounce ideas or thoughts off of Miss Ali, or simply enjoy watching her do the work she’d brought along for herself.
This lasted from Sunday afternoon thru Wednesday noon.
So, Did It Work?
That’s a good question. Am I now a SMOP? Well, no. As the zen saying goes, first mountains are mountains and rivers are rivers, then mountains are not mountains and rivers are not rivers, and then mountains are once again mountains and rivers are once again rivers.
To put it more clearly, did something happen? Yes. Was it enlightenment? Come on, are you serious? Here’s the way it broke down:
- I had thought that going off the grid would drive me crazy. It didn’t, not at all. I surrendered my phone when we got in the car to go to the location, and never had the slightest temptation to check it, check in, or anything else. That surprised me just as much as anyone.
- I also thought that sitting for 1/2 hour 3x/day would be hard. It wasn’t – even though that’s six times longer than I sit any other day. In fact, I grew to really look forward to that part of each day.
- The location was SPECTACULAR:
- …which probably had a lot to do with how easy it was to monotask.
- I found that my days went pretty much as I’d planned them, with the big chunks of time spent on each making them feel more…nourishing, I suppose. Like eating real food instead of fast food might taste.
- I found that for the most part I didn’t want to listen to music, but I really treasured the time I spent talking with Miss Ali. We discussed her own work (some career planning) and I would talk to her about where my thoughts were leading. Like a true muse, her comments often led me in directions that led to breakthroughs.
And yeah, while I didn’t achieve enlightenment, I did have an epiphany or two (life-changing, even) and also came out of it with a pretty nice outline for a cigar-themed erotic romance. Also some unforgettable sights, sounds, and memories.
I can’t speak for Ali, except for two things she shared with me: one, she did get a great deal of her own work done, and two, she would have liked to have a third service provider there to “…do the meals. And the yoga!” So maybe her calling was more towards the muse; I only know that she gave me exactly what I asked for and several other things that I needed but wasn’t aware enough to ask.
The hardest part of the weekend was the aftercare – or rather, the lack of it. I mentioned that leaving the grid behind was no problem; coming back to the grid has continued to be difficult. I find myself much less tolerant of noise, of bustle, of busy-ness. I came out of the SMOPcon right into managing and hosting a variety show/street fair night at Dark Odyssey Surrender, and the number of times I wanted to just scream “FUCK RIGHT OFF!” and go find some water to sit by was more than I was comfortable with.
It’s been a couple of weeks now, and that urge only hits once in a while. Meanwhile, I find myself monotasking more – every chance I get, in fact – and guarding jealously my morning rituals of yoga, meditation, and caffeinated journaling.
For me, it was a SMOPcon, but you can easily remove the gender and call it STOPcon – whether that’s Simple Top of Peace or even a non-power-dynamic Simple Time of Peace. But oh, do I ever recommend it. That silence, when all the rest goes away?