“Lighthouse, Not Sponge”: alternatively, “The Sanctuary Stalker”

(A jotting down of my month long experience volunteering at the whimsical Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY).

Time, as our world knows it, does not exist here. The days brush up against me like cattails and disappear into the bushes. Minutes freeze mid-scamper to observe me before diving back behind the trees with their food scraps. Seconds half-glance down at me from their branches, immersed in their squawking. One of the meditation teachers here noted that you really know that you’re meditating when a bird lands on your head, mistaking you for a stump or some inanimate object. That’s how I feel like I am here in respect to time.

Because time here is non existent, the relationships here happen fast and they go deep. I have to keep reminding myself that I’ve only known these people for barely a month even though I feel like I’ve known some of them for much longer; and maybe I have, who knows, (past life stuff is a big topic here). And because everyone is so intune with each other and with all of the different energies floating around, it can be easy to feel like you’re soaking up everything and everyone like a sponge and then you don’t have a sink to squeeze yourself into because your tent is drenched from all the shithead storms.


And that is how I found myself, one week in, completely drained and confused, typing into my search engine “how to deflect unwanted energy.” Who needs therapy when you’ve got the google search bar at your fingertips to solve all your energetic crisis? The first result was a lovely article entitled, 10 Top Tips to Protect Yourself and Deflect Negative Energy. Many of their tips involve crystals and sage and spells, which are all fine and dandy when you’re not too broke to buy all those things from the cute, pricey bookstore. My hero of the month turned out to be Tip #7, delightfully entitled ‘Think Lighthouse not Sponge,’ which is exactly how it sounds. And so, every time this month that I felt overwhelmed I would mutter to myself, “lighthouse, not sponge, big shiny lighthouse, Gressa, not sponge.”  

When I first got here it felt like everything was going wrong. My tent didn’t arrive for the first couple days, which actually worked out fine because a friend here was generous enough to lend me her foam mattress and crash in her tent. But then when I finally got my tent and set it up it rained for 3 straight days and my tarp came down in the storm and the foam mattress soaked up the water like a sponge (see what I did there?). I spent those nights sleeping in the staff lounge on the bed bug and I don’t even wanna know what else infested couches. Also at that time I was noticing poison ivy creeping up my hands and my feet. One evening when I ducked into my tent to change I was flat out attacked by every species of mosquito and spider and gnat and I’ll admit, that was the closest I came to losing my shit that 1st week. I bolted out of my tent just in my towel and streaked down the path through the campsite scattered forest and straight into an ice cold shower and didn’t bother muffling my teeth gritted groans and half hysterical giggle whining, all the while whimpering “lighthouse, not sponge, lighthouse, not sponge…”

Everyone in first aid knew me by name by the end of that 1st week. I became a regular there between my poison ivy and the mysterious thorn I swore I had stuck into my foot but was nowhere to be found. I’ll admit I’m a little bit of a hypochondriac and maybe I was subconsciously looking for a little attention. As most of you know my mom’s a nurse so there’s probably a weird thing there about looking for motherly support from health professionals. To be fair though I was in need of support early into my 2nd week, as I was unfortunately wrapped up in a situation that lead to someone getting kicked out for crossing quite a few people’s boundaries. My boundaries included. To omit the situation from my blog would not only water down the intensity of this past month, but also filtering my writing has never been my style. Be careful who you disrespect boys! Or just follow the golden rule and try not disrespecting anyone. And girls. Just everybody respect everybody okay? Anyway. 🙂

Longish story shortish, I trusted somebody too quickly as a lighthearted friend just in time for his unfortunate mental collapse, which I may or may not have triggered. Apparently I reminded him in a few short days of his recent ex girlfriend, especially after rejecting him upon his first physical advancement. The days following my rejection of him as anything more than a friend, I noticed his behavior becoming strange and unpredictable; sometimes he would confess his undying love (which I made very clear was not reciprocated), and other times he would tell me that I confused him and he thought he couldn’t deal with my presence anymore. This whole one sided hot and cold affair came to a dramatic end one afternoon, about a week and a half into my month, as I was meditating by myself in Omega’s charming mountain top sanctuary. As I was drifting in and out of a disorienting meditation, partly thanks to my lack of undisturbed sleep, I heard what I thought was a bird running into the windows that surrounded the meditation hut.

I opened my eyes to see him violently “cleaning” the windows with a broom. And by cleaning I mean using the broom as a baseball bat and the windows as the baseball. So, naturally, I took this disturbance as an opportunity to test my meditation skills. I envisioned myself as a giant version of myself, a giantess in all of her giantess rage and power…(I’d like to see him try anything on this armored giant warrioress). But then I heard the door open and close and a shadow fell over the room. He was inside and he was proceeding to vacuum in tight, intentional circles around me. At this point I felt the image of my badass giantess shrivel and pop. I was outraged by the inconsideration, outraged by his nerve. It is unheard of to vacuum in the meditation room of the sanctuary when there are people occupying the space; and I was joined there by one other young woman, who was sitting in the back corner looking deeply disturbed and annoyed. At this point I got up and stomped off as quietly as possible to the restroom outside of the room. I splashed my face with cold water and thought about what I could possibly say to this person to get him to leave me in peace. What was my power move in this situation? I decided that I would tell him peacefully and bluntly to “fuck off.”

When I opened the bathroom door he was standing inches away from me, waiting for me. And his size is not to be messed with either. And I felt something then that I’ve never fully felt before and I never want to feel again. As powerful as I feel in my strong, female body, the body that loomed before me could crush me in seconds. And it was yelling at me; its face was inches from mine, spitting on my face. Something about how I was a cold hearted bitch and all he’s ever given me is love and kindness. My cells felt rigid and rusty. I felt red and I felt fucking furious. I knew that nothing that I could have said to him in that moment would do any good, so I turned and I walked ferociously in the other direction as far away as I could get. I stormed into the forest and then I sat down by a tree and let it all sink in. I stayed away from everyone that day not wanting to disturb anyone with my mood and not caring to be disturbed further. That night when I finally made myself stick my head into the staff lounge, the first person I made eye contact with came up and asked me if I’d heard: my sanctuary stalker had been kicked out that day. Apparently after our interaction he had proceeded to make quite the scene and was brought into the People and Culture office, who promptly fired him after he began yelling and demonstrating obvious signs that he was not fit to continue volunteering at Omega.

After his banishment, my days took a turn for the best. I learned a great deal from that experience about asserting my boundaries and listening to my intuition about the people around me. Mostly, however, I spent a good amount of my time alone; in meditation, reading, running, exploring all of the intriguing groups that took over the campus on a weekly basis, journaling, and preparing myself for my upcoming Indian adventure. About a week after my sanctuary stalker (how he will forever be referred to as) left, I decided that it was not enough for me for him to just be gone. I hadn’t been able to talk much about my experience, and I was starting to feel paranoid about him coming back at night. He did live only 20 minutes away and he knew the location of my tent. So I took my case to the People and Culture department, and after retelling my story, the sanctuary stalker will never again lie a foot on Omega’s soil.

I began this blog entry 2 weeks into my Omega experience, and I am finishing it up a month later in Baltimore, 2 short days before flying to New Delhi, India. I made a promise to myself that I would keep a blog during my travels, and have also been mentioning it to friends and family to further motivate myself to keep this promise. Welcome to my blog! This first blog is much longer than I intend to make the entries that follow, as I hope to be keeping them up weekly. So if you’ve made it this far, you are a true friend and I thank you for caring about my life. There is obviously much more about my month at Omega that I could write about, as it was rich with growth, healing, and metaphysical non-drug induced mind and spirit trips. But perhaps for another time, because honestly I’m over this first blog and anxious to post. See you in India!

Much love, (unless I don’t know you or particularly like you),


3 thoughts on ““Lighthouse, Not Sponge”: alternatively, “The Sanctuary Stalker””

  1. I love your writing Gressa. Some of the material, was a little tough for a dad to read. However, I do want to read it and I think a lot of other people will too. Bon Voyage my sweet.


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