The Cabin

Euphoria and terror on a solo retreat



I came out to myself in February 2014, during a 12-day solo meditation retreat in a remote cabin at 8,000 feet in Colorado. The cabin had a woodstove, a bucket for a bathroom, and the luxury of a propane burner. There were water coolers and a faucet a quarter mile down the mountain. It was, in spiritual parlance, a very protected space, especially the loft upstairs overlooking the San Luis Valley, where I would practice many hours a day.

But on day one I felt stuck, unable to engage in the Tantric meditation I’d come there to practice. I tried to stay with it, and somewhere in the middle of the stuckness I sensed that it would go better if I switched to a female body. So that’s what I did. Now that may sound crazy, but in tantric states, which involve energy and visualization, conventional logic falls away—there is no crazy or sane, no separation between inner self and outside phenomena. The instruction is to let whatever comes up have its life. So I shifted into a female aspect, and energy poured through me.

I finished my morning practice and came downstairs for lunch, engaging in the familiar activities of cooking, eating, and napping, plus one other thing: freaking out over what the hell went on up there in that loft. Another meditation instruction is “look again”—don’t come to conclusions, just come back and look again. That’s what I did later that afternoon, again that evening, and the next morning. Each time I went upstairs and reentered practice, I was female. Each time I came downstairs to check the fire or do chores or urinate, I was in shock.

What did this mean? At night, unable to sleep, I allowed myself to imagine exactly this: What would it mean to live as a woman? In moments of bravery—and it may sound crazy to call an act of imagination brave—I visualized a life of presenting myself, and being received by others, as a woman. Words bubbled up from within: You mean I actually get to be me? That was euphoric. It was also terrifying.

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Diana Goetsch (formerly Douglas Goetsch) is a poet and freelance teacher of writing. Her latest book is Nameless Boy.


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