Lead us from the unreal to the real~ Hindu Invocation
When I was just getting started on my life path, my career, my vocation, my calling to be of service through working with peoples hearts, so many moons ago, one of the things that I created almost immediately were weekend workshop retreats.
I co-led these workshops with a close friend and fellow seeker on the path of personal growth at various retreat centers in the San Francisco Bay Area.
At most we would schedule two of these retreats a year and we were business partners for around 6 years, so all told we organized and facilitated 12 or 13 of these gatherings.
And at the end of each workshop we would drive home together and talk about the weekend, sharing stories, going over what worked and what didn't and giving each other feedback on our roles as facilitators.
But mostly what we were doing as we rehashed the event was basking in and savoring the deliciousness of the post retreat high.
And we would invariably say that what we wanted more than anything was to be living our life on retreat.
Here it is,almost 30 years later, and I am STILL on the path as a seeker of wholeness and a life of grace, while creating circles of creative transformation and inner growth for anyone else who wants to tag along.
And.... this year .... *drumroll please*.... I will be leading a grand total of 14 retreats ... many of them 5-7 days long. So at long last I have achieved the dream and vision of practically living my life on retreat.
Of course I have a very full and active life that is not about being on retreat where I run errands and do the dishes and deal with traffic and whatever else I need to do to keep my relationships and home and business and body in good working order.
But while on retreat I often found myself joking around with my participants about my life not on retreat as returning to the "real world".
Now this is not an uncommon sentiment. The rarefied atmosphere of the retreat space... that place where you have total license to be yourself, to rest, to play, to create without judgment .... is not what most of us are used to. It's certainly not business as usual in our frantically busy and fear based world.
But one day as I was making that statement yet again, I really heard what I was saying. And instead of just going on automatic pilot and unconsciously agreeing with an idea that I wasn't even sure I even believed anymore I stopped for a moment and thought about what the heck I meant when I said those words.
The question that I began to ask myself was "What was I actually referring to when I talked about the 'real world'?"
Now granted, when I'm on retreat someone else... namely the folks running the retreat center .... are doing all the food shopping and cooking and cleaning up afterwards. As well as making my bed. And scrubbing the toilet.
And in MY world these things do not happen without a lot of energy output on my part. So that aspect of being on retreat is definitely in the "unreal" category.
But there are a whole host of other things that happen on a retreat that don't require any physical elbow grease that people do for themselves. Because there's plenty of time and space available and they are also being encouraged by the group and the process and the facilitator to go ahead to do them.
Things like taking the time to explore what it means to be completely self expressive and out of control creative. Or listening to your inner voice of wisdom and risking trusting your inner guidance. And to then make choices based on what you hear.
It's being in a place where you have the authorization to fully feel ALL of your feelings without holding anything back. People on retreat laugh louder, cry harder and stomp around when necessary.
On retreat people share the deepest longings of their heart and the dark wounded places in their soul. They allow themselves to be seen and valued and appreciated for ALL of who they are.
On retreat people shine with the many amazing gifts and talents that they normally hide away from fear of being judged or ridiculed. And they own up to and take responsibility for where their shadow is holding them back from shining even more.
In other words, the reason that I love being on retreat, the reason that I crave it and it feels so magical and nourishing and like I'm on some kind of trippy mind altering drug is because when people are attending a personal growth, creativity and spirituality retreat they are given the permission and encouragement to become MORE real. To become more authentic. And more themselves.
And it was then that the lightbulb in my brain started flashing. And I realized that in my mind ( but not of course my heart... which has known better for 30 years) , I have had it completely backwards.
The unreal world is the one that most of us live in every day.
It's that place where wars happen and people shoot each other for money or pride... It's the place where they drive too fast and eat too much because they don't feel safe enough to feel their rage or their grief.
It's the place where people walk around with a plate of armor over their heart keeping them from letting anyone in. Or letting themselves come out.
It's the place where being yourself is often not appreciated or valued. And sometimes it's even dangerous. So it only makes sense to shut down and close off and pretend to be someone that you're not.
Because I know what's real.
When people are given the chance and the safety and the support to be themselves they are funny. And sweet. And unfailingly kind. They are deeply and wildly creative.
And full of so much light that I sometimes feel like I need to be wearing sunglasses when I look them in the eye.
Love is real. Courage and compassion are real. Heartbreak and grief and teeth chattering fear are as real as it gets. As well as endless curiosity and the boundless capacity to experience wonder and awe.
And the hunger to grow and learn and change and be fully alive is way more real than a solid state protective attitude of either disconnection, snarky cynicism, mind numbing denial or happy all the time positive thinking.
And I'm a big fan of reality. But not the so called reality that life is just hard and disappointing and people are crummy and not to be trusted.
Living my life on retreat has taught me that reality is not what we have been led to believe.
I've learned that BEING real is something we can do anywhere.
That life in the retreat zone just makes the capacity for that kind of realness more possible and accessible.
And that this new version of "reality" is much more fun, satisfying and life affirming than the current definition and something I would be happy to sign up for any day.
I also have a couple of exciting creative announcements to share with you all!
One of my favorite online creative peeps is Goddess Leonie, who is a powerhouse of creative juiciness hailing from Australia. She is on a white hot mission to encourage women all over the world to reclaim the bountiful and beauteous goddess nature that is our birthright. And she just developed a free e-book called
How To Be A Morning Goddess: A Free Goddessfesto!
It's a a GORGEOUS book... complete with photos. What she did was to ask a number of creative goddess types ( including yours truly) to describe their morning rituals as a way to inspire other creative goddesses ( Like YOU!) to start their day off in a nourishing and nurturing way. Check it out!!!
And of course, when these fabulous things show up in my life, they always happen all at the same time. Another one of my magical, creative internet friends, Jamie Ridler of Jamie Ridler Studios has created a wonderful digital product called Sparkles:Bring Your Creativity to Life in Five Minutes (or less) A Day!
Which pretty much says it all!!
She has asked 30 people from the very diverse online creative community to develop fun and unique creativity prompts that you can easily fit into your daily routine to keep your creative juices flowing. And I am excited to say that I am one of the contributors! If you sign up you will have one of these Sparkles delivered to your inbox daily for 30 days. For more information about Jamie's work please Click here to visit Jamie Ridler.