“Maybe I’ll get to graduate,” my 83-year-old spiritual advisor said to me. She was explaining that she had been through some health challenges. I think it is cancer but this time she didn’t go into the details. She said “I’m not listening to anything they tell me about it. I’m being positive, meditating, and doing what I need to do.”
She faces death with reverence and lives life in the meantime.
In between appointments, she spends her days buzzing around Hot Springs, MT, an unofficial mecca for spiritual seekers. The land of healing water is home to some of the most mineral rich hot springs in the world, a police officer who also looks to be in his 80s, two bars, an amazing little natural food market and deli, a haunted hotel that looks like it belongs in El Paso, TX and some pretty profound poverty.
The first time I went to Hot Springs, I was there to play music at the Symes Hotel shortly after I joined my first band in 2012. One of my bandmates had signed us up. It seems that anyone can play as long as you can get on the list, written in pencil in the calendar at the front desk. The calendar fills up fast so you have to be there at the right time or you will miss your chance for the next six months. We rolled into town on a Friday afternoon with enough time to soak before our gig. I took one look at the six-foot chain link fences around the pools and thought, “Where are we?! No way am I getting in those pools.” The pools at the Symes look like they belong to a seedy motel on the side of a highway. I decided I would avoid the pools with the excuse that the water would mess up my hair before the gig. Instead I meandered around town. Hot Springs is perfect for meandering.
Poverty teaches us to seek joy in the moment because the next is uncertain.
I walked into the one little retail shop on Wall Street where I was greeted by a cloud of marijuana smoke and the sounds of Madonna blaring over the loud speakers. The proprietors, two women in their 40s, were having a great time. Even without joining in all the fun, the culture of living in the moment infects you in this town. You can’t help but slip into a state of timelessness and bliss when you’re there. It forces you to #SlowDown. Maybe it’s because you have to go to the top of the hill to get cell phone reception. Maybe it is the healing waters. Maybe it’s the up side of poverty — the instinct to seek joy in this moment because the next one is uncertain.
After becoming acquainted with the Wall Street block, I made my way back to the Symes to get ready to go on stage. Performing was still very new and exciting to me and even though I was playing a tiny show, it was important to me and I was nervous. I didn’t know what to expect but what I found was just as magical as the other things I found in Hot Springs that day. I found an audience who came out for the purpose of listening to and enjoying the music. A friendly and supportive crowd is hard to come by in Northwest Montana where the usual venue for a small band or solo act is to play background music in a bar. This crowd actually pays attention. Needless to say, this venue has become my favorite and will always hold a special place in my heart.
The generosity of the audience convinced me that the healing waters might be worth a try. I went to sleep that night in a squeaky brass bed with a homemade quilt in a room that only had a sink and a toilet. All the water in Hot Springs smells like rotten eggs so I didn’t spend much time lamenting the fact that there was no shower. I just climbed into bed and woke up the next morning ready to soak. I made my way tentatively down to the pools and climbed in. When I emerged an hour later, I was riding on a cloud. I got a latte from the cafe in the lobby, loaded up my music equipment and my bandmates, and rode home on a rainbow.
It’s easy for me to glamorize Hot Springs because the water works its magic on me every few months when I make my way back for a soak, but the town really does have it’s challenges. My spiritual advisor is as tough as nails, supporting her business and the community with her social security check and chopping wood to keep herself and her clients warm. She no doubt has found comfort and healing — some spiritual, some physical — in the healing waters. When she finally does “graduate” she will have shown the spiritual seekers from near and far how to live a full life in any circumstance.
Please share, ask questions, leave comments, suggest topics, and tell stories! I want to hear about your moments of magic, miracles, and synchronicity.
Dare to be immortal.
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