Friday, July 23, 2010

Value of Retreats

Yesterday was the Cultivating Your Inner Garden Retreat, at my home.  Eight women joined me to create a wonderful space of inner focus and exploration.

A retreat is a funny thing. On the outside it doesn't look like much is happening. But for the mind, it can be like a pressure cooker; asked to reflect on a question in silence, it can seek to run like quicksilver or mercury - when you press on it it scatters in a hundred different directions. Or it can settle and center in the breathing body, thoughts mesmerized by the soothing rhythm or the soughing of wind in the leaves. Nature can soothe, like lapping water on the dock, or soft music: combine the two with a journal, some yoga and walking, an inspiring quote, and voila - a sacred space is created. Ritual also does this, by repeating a song or phrase, lighting a candle flame, walking in a labyrinth towards the center, ancient routines to entrain the wild horses, corral the mind into a focussed pattern.

What do we gain? a heat or pressure is created, and something shifts. Sometimes it's seismic, sometimes subtle, but we gain clarity or understand a problem in a new way. We may feel like nothing has happened on the surface, but clarity, like a strong focussed beam of light has just lit up a dark corner, illuminated an area of shadow.

If we are gentle with ourselves and trusting of the process, a retreat can be restful, rejuvenating, relaxing, even while we are focussed inwards. It does take effort to stay inside the container provided by a retreat. The container is created by the structure of the day, by the respect of the retreatants for the focus and concentration required - by the ritual activity or by the relaxed interior gaze of the questions posed in our journalling.

Time spent on retreat stretches, loses its shape, becomes eternal for a moment - then elastic, returns.

How to follow up on a retreat and put into practice the learnings made?  Take baby steps, give yourself reminders to stop and breathe; regular practise is built over time by paying daily attention to our need. For instance, I need peace and quiet to reflect, so I build a time in my scheudle for meditation and writing, even if only fifteen minutes a day. I post reminders to myself on my mirror, and I write affirmations to help strengthen my resolve to be kind to myself.  I practise paying attention, slowing down when I feel the rushing happening. I don't expect to transform myself overnight, but I listen to the impulse, the desire for peace, the desire for soul food.  I pay attention to my hunger, and I feed it.

I am worthy of taking care of my inner needs, as well as my physical ones.
I deserve to experience this peace of mind.
I allow myself to take all the time I need.

Jenn, retreat leader

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Cultivate your Inner garden

I've been reading up on materials for a retreat coming up, about what fertilizes your soul, and have serendipitously also found a number of good books at a local used book store.

Woman, Earth and Spirit, The Feminine Symbol and Myth by Helen Luke is full of wonderful understanding about the creative feminine spirit.

Too often we align ourselves with the outer values of the work force; production, performing, success and goal making drive us forward until we hit the wall of exhaustion.  Luke would say this is because we don't value the feminine values of receiving, openness, holding space. The feminine fertilizes in the dark space where the seed lies in the earth, receiving nourishment, light and water and heat from above. It is the earth's nature to foster growth in the dark so that the seed may reach up to the light. This inner fertilizing of our soul growth is as important as the creative output phase.

The soul needs tranquility, and rest, not only fire; inner cultivation occurs in the darkness by resting, finding completeness and wholeness from within.  "The way back and down to those springs [water of life] and to the roots of the tree is likewise the way on and up to the spirit of air and fire in the vaults of heaven." Luke

If we don't give ourselves time to rest and be still, to listen within, due to the pressure to perform and feel worthy, then we "scorch our inner garden with the destructive fire".  We burn up, we burn out. We feel dry and empty.

So to find the fertilizing power you need, think about what elements you need to help you rest and go within.

Think about going on retreat, or making yourself a mini-retreat for an hour or two, by unplugging the phone, the computer and emails. Even over lunchtime, you can make a mini-retreat by walking outside in the sunshine, finding a shady tree to sit under, reflecting on the Waters of life that nourish you and what they may be.


Friday, July 02, 2010

Summer Time

Good morning from the Cafe Aurora!

I have no internet connection at home, until my power supply cord arrives in the mail, so here I am at a cafe having a late breakfast and writing to you.

Had a great poetry reading the other night, reading a very emotionally strong and resonant poem, Birth and Death Mother. At least three people asked me for a copy, but since it's been sent to a poetry contest, I will hold off on publishing it here.

Summer time, day after Canada Day (see overthetopquartet blog next door for picture of our new shoes), singing with the quartet is fun and light-hearted, but I must confess I am glad to take a summer break.

I am taking a very inspiring retreat coaching class with Helene Van Mannen, (look her up on facebook). Very very packed with good information, and I will be experimenting with retreats at my place this summer. We have a winning combination: the lake nearby, the big deck to do yoga flow on, a hot tub to relax those tense muscles, and an awesome group of women to share with.

It's becoming clearer than ever that this work is what is calling my heart, as well as journal writing classes for women.For those who have patiently followed my blog, in all its questing for meaningful work and where to put my focus, this is good news. No more whining and complaining from me about how lost I feel, OK?

It's been a long haul, I've had to be patient, and so I give all you fellow seekers in mid-life this advice: hang in there, write down your soul in your journal, keep asking the questions and listening to the answers from within, take chances and when you hear a call, answer it. Take baby steps and grow your confidence, and find an unconditional support person who loves you and will encourage you to say Yes when the call comes.

have a great long weekend,