It's been a week since I attended a half-day women's retreat with the lovely ladies at The Life Detox Retreats. This is the sort of event that I always push back, make excuses about, or try to work around. I mean it's half a day! But I promised myself that I'd show up. For starters. I'm so glad that I did, here's why:
I say this a lot...that magical things happen when women gather together, with like intentions. A synergy, a web of interconnectivity, is born that never existed before.
We began around 8 am, which for me, on a Saturday...is ridiculous. I wanted to stay in bed. Lounge, indulge, snooze, and stay in my luscious dreaming. But I promised, and this was, after all, the year of choosing ME (the premise of Wild Horses and Mistakes.)
I rushed a bit, but made it on time. The grass was still cool and damp with dew, the sun was still low. There was a peaceful quiet: a crispness, a clean-ness...about the energy in the air. I remember thinking... this is why people wake up early. For the stillness. Wow. It was beautiful. (Not making promises to become an early bird...)
I wandered in and found the women, chatting, standing, sitting, assembling around yoga mats. We started the day with some quick greetings and introductions from the facilitators and then eased into a gentle yoga routine. It was just lovely, being outdoors on a sprawling and lush estate, surrounded by green, at the foot of the harbor. Hearing the birds overhead in the canopy, feeling the fresh morning breeze on my skin, opening to the whole experience. It was blissful.
As the day went on, and we nibbled on wholesome foods, and moved into different areas for different methods of inner-work, like EFT (tapping), I found that I was surrounded by women from all places in the circle. Some were a few laps ahead of me, and had deeper, richer stories to tell, and deeper, more painful wounds to carry forward. Some were a few rounds behind me. We were all different, we lived different lives. We felt different levels of stress or worry or pain or sadness... and also different levels of motivation, dreaming, goal-setting, and challenge busting. Because there is both, there will always be both.
Dream and envision, while overcoming obstacles and pushing through fears and pain. And the scale of these things will vary; our best looks different at different times in our lives.
There is a balance.
I remembered and brought so much more to the surface that day, and in the days after. How beautiful it is to share our stories, to gain perspective, and to connect with each other. To observe. To listen. To see pieces of myself, in all of these women. How grateful I was just to be there. To witness. I gained a great deal of gratitude and perspective. It was a perfect little reset.
it was solidarity.
But also, the number one thing that kept bubbling up for me, all week... was exploration. Curiosity. Imagination, dreaming, creativity. All of this involved exploration. I had been in a bit of a tug-of-war, for a while, neck-deep in paradox, while writing more of my current project, which is probably the most honest and vulnerable piece of writing I've worked on, thus far. Even in that, there is challenge, a battle, a charge forward and a rush of resistance. It's all part of the experience. The give and take.
I'd thought for so long, and really took to heart, that to be spiritual... was to be silent, obedient, and stoic. Receiving, only. Just be still and grateful, and all I need will come to me. Ohm... OK. Let's get real for a minute, beyond the bullshit and chatter. I have less and less time for it.
Here's the thing with that... in real life: if I were to sit still, in blind gratitude and acceptance of what my life was and never got off my rump to see or do anything new...well, then nothing would ever change. My life would always be as it was, I wouldn't see or do anything different, nor would my son, and I would spend a lifetime limiting myself. Or him. No. Something has to move. Change. Shift. Always.
Writing my first book wasn't so much about the finished product, it was about who I got to be, as I wrote it. As I finished it. And made room for more to flow through. Chasing wild horses, or pursuing our dreams, isn't about what we catch, it's about who we get to be, what we see, how we grow and evolve...as we journey toward them. It's about adventure, the unknown, the other side of fear, the magic and mystery of encountering something new. It's about moments of awe and wonder and magic. To be still and unmoving, is to avoid change. It's safe. Simple. Less threatening, for sure. But to avoid and hide from change is to miss out on growth opportunities, as well as, oh...those simple little things like... bliss, joy, fun, excitement, passion, pleasure, meaning, and magic. All the things that make Life worth living. For me, spirituality is about embracing humanity, not hiding from it, and living in the Mind, alone. It's about coming fully into my body, from my soft stomach, to my head, and all the way out to my finger tips and toes. Being aware of twinges and discomforts and pain and exploring them. Healing them. Also, diving deep into the me inside, exploring there. Allowing emotional pain to surface for healing, and letting it go, and finding myself that much lighter and more free. Closer to wild and unfettered and blissfully abundant, with each healing and release. Stronger and more resilient with each stumble and setback.
To me, this is it. Living full-on, up-close with the Self. Honestly. Full acceptance of all that I am, light and dark. Awareness of what doesn't work, and measured action to improve. All change begins with conscious thought, with an idea, with a seed. But it lingers, unawakened, until action is taken. There must be a catalyst.
Action...is the step through the threshold, into a new world. A leap of faith. A big decision. Facing a fear. A change in plans, a new experience, a flight to another place, meeting someone new... all of these are first steps through that doorway, into a new story. A new adventure. Consciously creating opportunities to encounter new things, face to face. To engage the senses in different ways, to change perspective, to expand.
I am working with a coach now, (I'll gush about her when we're through, I don't want to detract from our work together) and it's doing wonders for staying focused and connected to my creativity. And she said something at our last visit, that stayed and rattled around in my head. Shook things up. It had to do with getting to core wants and desired outcomes, how I'd choose to design my life and experience creativity in a responsive world:
"What if there wasn't a book to write? What if there was no song you had to write and sing? No project to get done? What would it be then? What's beneath that? Without the to-dos?"
Wow. What a storm of stuff! Epic battles started raging inside, don't tell me I can't write! Why can't I sing? Why, what, why... and on and on. Silently, of course. Inside. Me against me. As is everything.
But I considered it, for the sake of the exercise...and some crystal clear truths bubbled up through the mess...
1. I am writer because it's who I am. I'll always write, I always have, because it's just me. It's how I see the world, and whether I share it or not, it will still happen. I live stories; life is art. It's not a have to, it's just me. As much as my arm or my foot is me. The same is true of music. If I went through a day without dancing around the kitchen, holding mini-concerts in the car as I drove, or hearing music within me and letting it out...I'd obviously be very ill or depressed. It just doesn't happen often. So, the answer to that question is: I'd still do and enjoy these things, even if I didn't seek to publish or share them. They're just me. It also made me so much more grateful to have these outlets in my life, and I promised to create more space for them.
2. But what if... if I didn't have those things. What else is it, what is the thing that lights me up, that sets my soul on fire, that mainlines me into Bliss? It's travel. New places, experiences, adventures, people, sights, sounds, smells, landscapes, FOOD. I write and create to process my world, and explain it in my own unique way, but I travel to engage my world. To live. For me, travel is to be in experience of Life, while art is to be in observation of life. (I did say up there that life IS art, so I don't know. Good luck sorting all that out. it might not make sense. It might, though.) Anyway. I thrive on a balance of both. So, if I had no project to work on, if I wasn't writing something or crafting something... I'd definitely be planning my next travel experience.
And here's why all of this is so important: knowing what makes us come alive and feel good, is everything. Knowing what that is, and then doing it, is a recipe for a fulfilling life. It's simple, but it's everything. Human beings, as we grow from childhood and encounter life's slings and arrows, we become wary of joy. We get further and further from it if we don't make an active choice to bring it to mind, and connect to it. Consciously. And stillness, quiet, meditation is key...because in the silence, we hear ourselves again. We hear what it is that we really want. (Pssst. We're still allowed to want things.) Or, we could hear our purpose, or the whisperings of the divine within us, our higher selves, pointing us toward our Truth. Whatever it is, way deep down, that energy, in those buried places, we get to listen to it.
I believe that we don't merely wait for our lives to happen to us, but that we consciously create them. Each day, with each choice. What great reminders I got, this week.
A simple prescription:
Find balance: nourish the body, quiet the mind, honor the soul
Listen and know what you want
Honor that voice, take a step toward what it wants, and live in gratitude of it
Repeat as necessary.