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Blog post on the healing and transformative power of water on creativity

The Transformative Power Of Water by Nancy Hillis MD & Bruce Sawhill PhD. A story of a spa day, sweet scented air, bubbling waters and what can happen when you stop and listen for a bit.

The Transformative Power Of Water


Two days ago, Nancy, Kimberly (daughter) and Bruce decided to take a day off. No phones, no computers, not much of a plan except to go visit a kind of adult water park near Carmel, California. This has been a summer of no long-distance travel, only going to airports to pick up visitors, so this was our Big Event.

It was an easy hour drive through the artichoke and strawberry fields of the Monterey Bay coast. Past the little harbor at Moss Landing, the lime-green seedlings of the third lettuce crop of the year in fields at the mouth of the Salinas Valley (there’s  a reason that this is the most fertile land on Earth!), past rows of freshly turned brown-black loam awaiting the next planting of something yummy and green. The ever-present fog abiding a half mile offshore, breathing out cool moist nourishing air.


The Refuge


Our destination was a place aptly called The Refuge, part of the Carmel Valley Athletic Club. It’s a just-so beautifully landscaped paradise of free-form tubs of all shapes and temperatures, from hot hot to just above glacial, plus fire pits, hammocks, and numerous Adirondack chairs, all connected by stone patios and stairs connecting several levels.  The centerpieces are two saunas, one wet and one dry.  



Refuge Spa, Carmel, California



The wet sauna is so full of steam and eucalyptus fragrance that one has to breathe very consciously and slowly so as not to feel suffocated or cough inhaling the vapors.

In a few minutes one is dripping sweat steadily, a little patter of rainfall.  After about ten minutes of this, we tiptoe out into the sunshine and dip into a cold plunge.

We emerge sputtering and collapse into the deck chairs, drying off in the sun in thick cushy white terrycloth robes before going through the whole cycle again.


Lunch In Carmel


We followed this sybaritic pleasure with a lunch in the village of Carmel, which is in the hyperspace of cute, a food and shopping theme park complement to the aqueous theme of The Refuge. Kimberly found La Bicyclette, a rustic French bistro absolutely jam packed at 2:45 pm on a weekday.

La Bicyclette was closing so we crossed the street and found a charming pizza restaurant with beamed ceilings and arched doorways fronting onto a flowering alley decked with bougainvillea, Little Napoli.  There we sat at a high top table and inhaled El Vito, a pizza from their wood burning oven, made of house Italian sausage, mozzarella, and tomato sauce it. We paired it with a plate of calamari, a Caesar salad, and a Sangiovese wine.

Afterwards, we visited Tiffany’s. It wasn’t quite breakfast at Tiffany’s, but rather lunch at Tiffany’s.

We then made our way home, 50 miles north to Santa Cruz, not nearly as swish as Carmel but nicer weather, (sunnier) and this is when the really interesting things started to happen.


The Effects Of Deep Relaxation


First of all, we were incredibly tired.

Who knew that deep relaxation was such hard work? All we could do in the evening was make faint attempts at reading, lackluster attempts at talking, and generally stare slack-jawed and stupefied off into the middle distance. It was as if we had been knocked off our tracks and didn’t know how to behave or what to do.

We figured we had just become so used to pulling like sled dogs that we didn’t know what to do when the Iditarod was over.

We felt like we were both sled dog and musher.



Dogsled Race, Alaska


Wild & Wooly Dreams


We retired to bed early, and all three of us had multitudes of strange and vivid dreams. Cats using forks, fast moving silver colored streams with vertical sides, an unbelievably dirty kitchen like the Augean stables of Hercules, ponies in closets, etc. 



Salvador Dali, Given



The dreams were the most unusual part. Since none of us regularly remember dreams, let alone strange ones. The fact that all three of us had these seemed more than coincidental.  


#Mathematical interlude

If dreams like we had are about a 1 in 100 occurrence (1%) the chances of them happening independently to three different people are 1/100 multiplied by itself three times, or 1 in a million.

That’s the eyebrow-raising threshold.

#End of mathematical interlude


It was almost as if all of the inhibitory influences in our brains had been removed, the resistance had gone way down, and our thought processes had developed a kind of superconductivity.

We had succeeded in “lowering the temperature” of the daily noise and surprising things emerged.


Disrupting Patterns


We don’t think this had anything in particular to do with our spa day, not anything in the water or the air, but rather it had to do with disrupting patterns.

We had developed such an ingrained discipline for daily life that changing the physical aspects of life had profound effects in the conscious and subconscious. 

It remains to be seen if this has a lasting effect on our creativity. It sure is helping with this blog post. 


Creativity: Let Something New Fall In


In previous posts, we’ve talked about the essential tension between “exploring” and “exploiting,” both of which are essential components to evolution, in nature and in our subset of human thought and endeavor.

Our venture to Carmel highlighted the fact that we’ve been leaning a bit too heavily on the “exploiting” side of things, and that we needed to dynamite ourselves out of our collective rut and let something new fall into our lives. 



Diverging paths


We’ll let you know how it turns out.


From my studio to yours,

Nancy & Bruce


P.S. Want to go deeper? Get The Art Of The Possible Series.

QR Code- The Art Of The Possible Series

QR Code- The Art Of The Possible Series


Nancy Painting on Blank Canvas





P.S.S. Leave your thoughts and comments below. I can’t wait to hear what you have to say.


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