I am fortunate to be a part of a monthly CEO group called Vistage. Each month we get together for a full day and listen (and learn) from an expert on topics like economic trends, human resources and succession planning. The speakers present for about four hours and then we break for lunch and spend the afternoon processing issues/helping each other come to decisions to which we then hold each other accountable.

Recently we held our monthly meeting a few hours from town where we could disconnect more fully. After a three-hour drive, I found myself in the middle of the beautiful countryside of Adairsville, GA at a luxury retreat location called Barnsley Resort. The setting is picturesque with rolling hills, a spa, golf course and dozens of homes you could rent for a night or a week, multiple restaurants, gathering areas, a beer garden and fire pits around every corner. Oversized umbrellas rest in neat piles by the doors so you can grab one if needed. Bellmen will gladly drive you “anywhere” in their shiny golf carts. S’mores ingredients are provided every evening.

As I explored the property, I noticed a familiar feeling of discomfort I get when I’m around things that are only for the wealthy. I own this feeling and am not saying anything is wrong with fancy; I’ve just always had it. I love how the door shuts on a Mercedes and am more than happy to hop in one if it doesn’t belong to me. It’s fun to go to a house that has space to park 10 cars and a lavish Christmas party with a valet every year, but I would never live in such a place. It’s just not my style or what makes me happy.

Back to Barnsley – as I wandered around feeling uncomfortable and elitist, I decided to practice advice from a book I’d just finished – Letting Go by Dr. David Hawkins. What I took from the book was the incredibly positive result of letting go of the stuff that impacts you negatively. If I “got it”, then what I now understand is that by accepting things as they are, we create space between an experience and our resulting emotions; that when we recognize a negative emotion and just let it be, its power over us dissipates instead of causing us to act out negatively or suppress feelings.

Passing the spa, pool and gym, I looked up and saw a sign to a walking trail – one of my very happiest of places. For the next hour or so I followed it into the woods, across streams, up hills and then it ended in one of my other favorite places to be, by a huge garden surrounded by horses, barn cats, a Shetland pony, a goat and a couple of sheep. I giggled out loud. Interestingly, during the entire trek, I never saw or heard another person. I felt like the only person on the entire 3000 acres and liked the feeling. I found a bench and sat on it enjoying 55 degrees and sunny in February while the cats wondered around me. I took a few pictures of the garden and decided to add beans to mine this year. I loved the way the designer of this one incorporated triangular bean poles among the rows.

When I returned to the main inn, I felt much lighter and appreciative of this lovely place. I was going to be here for a couple days and decided that I’d enjoy every second and choose not to be held captive by whatever life experiences resulted in my negative reaction to opulence. I did not have time to get back on the trails – it was, after all, a working trip. I noticed, however, that in the quiet moments over the next two days, my mind drifted to the sound of the creek and the crunch of leaves under my feet in the woods and to the pleasing order of the rows of winter greens and to the barn animals. I silently gave thanks for Barnsley’s Gardens. (I admit I pronounced Barnsley with a thick British accent in my mind -just for fun.)

– Becky Sharpe, President & CEO