I can't believe it has been weeks since the Ground and Let Go retreat took place. Before I left the serenity and safety of Spirit Fire retreat I wrote a few notes down with every intention of completing this post that night! I meandered home intent on holding onto the amazing freedom and emotional weightlessness I felt after spending just 24 hours there! I got to a place where I felt safe to face whatever fears came up and with fire, (no really! FIRE), let them go.
It all started last year when I got a message from Abby telling me about a retreat she was putting together with a friend and asked if I would be interested in teaching Zentangle classes. I was so excited and honored that of course I said yes and over the next few months Sarah, Abby and I worked to put together an experience that would help our attendees release fear and discover their inner artist. Sarah was drawn to lead this journey using her experience in writing and Reiki as a way to share her gifts. Abby is multi-talented as well bringing yoga, writing and Reike!
Flash forward to the Friday morning before the retreat. Last Minute Lucy (that's me) was in full control. I have learned that I need to accept Lucy for her gifts. She works well under pressure and often brings out my most creative side. She also works very well recalling all the little ideas I had at 3am and during business meetings or while in the car over the last year. It was all falling into place but I still had a fairly long punch list left to complete before I could say I was ready to leave on Saturday morning. I sat quietly with my coffee and prioritized what was left to do. I knew something would get left behind and something I planned would take an abrupt right turn when I least expected it but hey the name of the retreat was Ground and Let Go! So I let go and got to it. As I sat there a thought occurred to me...'What if, for the rest of the weekend, I pretend that doing this is my real life?'. How would I feel if all I did was plan and facilitate retreats. What did I have to lose? It felt right so said out loud, 'I've decided that this is my life from now on!' (crazy right? but more on that later) and I got going on my final day of tasks with that as my credo.
The morning of I gathered my last few essentials and walked out to find a sun kissed and breezy morning. As I packed the last box into the car I ran down my list one more time and realized I forgot my easel and drawing paper. Kind of important for an art teacher .... Sooo everything came out of the car and I marched back to the house to get them. In my old life, there would have been some swearing and stress and laser focused unpacking and re-packing. A voice filled my head, 'Just laugh it off and take care of it!'. So I did. No crunchy brow, no clenched jaw. Somewhere in the back of my mind a voice whispered, holding its breath, .... 'Don't. Say. Anything... I think we just learned how to DECIDE to be happy'. Breakthroughs people, they happen when you least expect it and usually with zero sirens and confetti.
In my favorite book 'You are a Badass' by Jen Sincero, she tells you one of the secrets of life in the first few pages. 'Decide to....'. she says. The first time I heard that I laughed out loud. Eh YA SURE. Decide to. That's easy for you to say lady. You are clearly one of those people that never sits still and has always been thin and always sticks to the plan and has not made a billion promises to yourself only to break them every single time..... She was clearly crazy.
The sad truth is that in the last year I had actually given up on myself. I was going to be who I was for the rest of my life and needed to make peace with being a Tax Reporting Manager forever. I am grateful for the things this career has taught me but it has never been my dream job. Pride or my competitive nature kept me from outwardly admitting it but it happened. I would say I was 'taking a break'. I stopped making plans to become the cubicle escapee I always wanted to be, I stopped being creative, I stopped exercising and teaching. Worst of all I stopped dreaming. I lost the ability to imagine myself doing what I loved for a living. Though I could give up on myself I did not want to impact others by giving up on commitments I had made. Silly me..... how many times had my mentors said that not pushing myself to live a life that celebrated my gifts does impact others. Jen Sincero would call me a weenie.
Nevertheless, with my weenie-self in tow, I committed to the retreat and I was going to do the best job I could to contribute to making it special. Deep inside, as I kept putting one foot in front of the other I started to feel a shift happening. My creative self was standing on the edge of the safe shadowy places holding her breath watching as the defeated me was breathing in the moments and unconsciously choosing to be happy by being creative and forgiving myself for my weenie-ness.
I finished packing up the car for the second time, set my GPS, queued up a book and off I went.
As I drove along Rt 2 I marveled at what a beautiful day it was and promptly re-wrote my lesson plan about 47 times. Really. Apparently, the person that did not freak out about having to unpack the car at the last minute may have still been in the driveway, or clinging to the bumper... As I got closer to the retreat center though my panic subsided and I started to be filled with energy and excitement. I reminded myself that I was not only a teacher this weekend I was also a student! I could participate in the activities that I hoped would help me discover a new truth and release me from the self doubt I was shrouded in for a very long time.
I arrived at Spirit Fire in Leyden MA and was greeted by Steve who is one of the two caretakers of the center. Once unpacked I found Abby and Sarah. I had met Abby at the yoga class a couple years ago and via Facebook we got to learn a bit about each other over time. Sarah, who is the brainchild of our retreat, approached Abby to co-host and the rest was history. We had talked via Skype as we planned the retreat but that day was the first time Sarah and I met in person! I am so grateful to know them and am excited to see what adventures we may conjure up in the future. As we waited for our guests to arrive I shared with Sarah that I was bursting with energy and was afraid I would freak someone out (as I was jumping up and down like a nut). Sarah, gracious and kind, offered a Reiki treatment and I happily accepted. Sarah's treatment and quiet voice set me right and I was ready to go!
Once our guests arrived we sat in a circle in the beautiful gathering room and opened up a little about what lead each of us to be there that day. We shared our hopes and welcomed everyone to either follow along with the plan or explore on their own if they felt they wanted to do their own thing for a while. We were lead in a quite grounding meditation that, for me, sealed us in a zone free of judgment and full of support. After some time passed our tummies took over the conversation so off we went to the dining area and sat at a long beautiful farm table.
Let's talk about the food. HOLY MACKEREL those guys can cook. I was a little nervous about what food would be offered as I seem to be in a minority these days of girls that love a good burger and although I also love a good salad bar I will always find my way to the ice cream bar first. Steve and Tim prepared healthy food in a way that I think might have been just a little illegal. They must have found a rip in the cosmos, or magic pixie dust that turns kale into creme brulee and green smoothies into ice cream shakes! I am not even kidding people. As we ate I proclaimed more than once that the drive from Northbridge was long but dinner here each night for the rest of my freakin' life was happening!
After lunch I was honored to teach the Zentangle method to my co-hosts and guests. I have been integrating essential oils into my Z classes and was excited to try some blends that help release emotions and blocks as they are carried through the air. We even tasted the peppermint for a cool and invigorating experience. I invited everyone to follow along and lead them through a Found and Tangled class using my favorite book by Jen Sincero. All but one, my dear friend and fellow CZT, were new to this meditative form of art and for the next couple of hours we drew and laughed and as usual, the method surprised everyone. Every time I teach I see doubt turn into surprise and delight as people hold their pieces at arms length and smile. One student said 'Hey! I did that! Who knew!' another said 'Wow that is not at all what I thought I was going to do but I love it!' I was so happy to see people relaxed and smiling!
After drawing we needed a good stretch and Abby lead a few of us on a hike through the woods around the property. The woods were beautiful with great old trees and stone walls and a meadow full of what we think was pussy willow about to explode into bloom. The pine needles crunched under our feet and the beautiful silence was only broken by the occasional bird calling out to welcome us.
We then enjoyed some free space and let the events of the day settle in. I felt so at home and comfortable and as the day progressed I kept hearing my inner voices telling me to listen. Listen to the beautiful souls around me and be open to whatever comes up.
We gathered again for another meal that was so good a pack of starving dogs and hormonal women craving chocolate could not have gotten away from me. OH! Speaking of chocolate. If they only fed us their chocolate the entire weekend I would have been just fine with that. It was like the most delicate velvet. This chocolate.... seriously....angles tears may have been harvested for this stuff. (I'm sure the tears were ethically obtained though...)
My creative self was leaning happily into the sunlight as we gathered for Abby's yoga class. My mind was so quiet. The usual endless chatter was still there but it was down a very long hallway and only was crossing from one door to the next. I was able to just watch them go by while keeping my senses focused on the present moment. My inner critic tried to come down the hall a few times but as my creative self leaned into the sun my critic fell into the shadows. Abby lead us through a YIN style class while playing a crystal singing bowl. For me, the energy in the room coupled with the tone of the bowl was so powerful. The YIN style invites you to be still. Sitting still, for most, can be harder than the most bendy poses! We sat in silence for a while and let the beautiful sounds of nature flow around us. It was the first time in quite a while I sat with only the earths melody around me and it was lovely. We also finally heard a few goats that one of our guests had told us about from the night before. She said they sounded like someone was sneaking up on them and surprising them! GAH!!! they would say! Not bahhhh. So funny. In all that serious quiet and focus there were smiles and giggles too. We ended class with ohms that were so beautiful and melodic I could have sat in the reverberations for hours. After class,someone said it was the most beautiful ohms they had ever heard. I have to agree. My heart was full and I was feeling the power, light and energy of the work we were doing, although i have to say, it did not feel like work at all as I could feel something deep in my soul was changing.
As the sun retired for the day we chatted and shared stories and lamented on our fortune in coming together for this experience. We decided that we should take advantage of the full moon and absolutely perfect weather. I suggested we do a fear burn. I explained that you write something down that you want to let go of on a piece of paper, and under the full moon, light it on fire and release it to the power of the moonlight. I will take this moment to apologize to my retreat mates for worrying a little too much about the fire getting away from us. My paranoid self was getting the better of me but everyone was gracious and patient and let me work through it. We found a wonderful unobstructed view of the moon and set about our burn. We read them aloud by choice and one by one lit our fear on fire and let it go. The breeze that night coaxed us into a huddle and I know, looking back, that the universe was showing us that we can always seek friends for support if we are willing to stand against fear. We closed our ceremony with a few quotes and sealed with an ohm. We were open and vulnerable and it was so delicate and so powerful. The peepers sang to us as we lingered for a few more minutes before turning in for a wonderful sleep.
Sunday morning greeted us with deer in the yard, amazing breakfast and coffee and quiet reflective time to feel into the day. I got to do a bit of yoga in the sun with a few curious bees. They wondered when I would get off their favorite clover patch and I wondered if I would go from down dog pose to leaping freaking out flailing crazy lady pose. Happily the bees realized they had many acres to explore so I was able to stay in the zone with a little smile on my face. I have to admit though, my inner panic button was attempting to get me to RUUUUNNNNNNNNNAWAAAAAAYYYYYYY! the whole time but I told her to get back in her box and stay there until something like the zombie apocalypse or the last piece of that chocolate was ripe for the taking.
We gathered up for my second class where I guided my friends through a Zendala. I got my oils diffusing and had everyone gather their supplies. This was where my careful, written and re-written plan took that unplanned right I mentioned earlier. I had forgotten to sketch my Zendala string in prep for my class. This is close to the equivalent of a chemistry teacher having no beakers. This was a moment that could have, no.. would have sent my old self into bumbling panic. However the experience of the hours preceding this moment lead me to a pretty cool solution if I do say so myself. In that moment I remembered a song that I had just heard sung by a young student who had just been discovered BIG TIME. Maggie Rogers played a song she had written and produced as part of a program at Julliard for the artist Pharrell Williams who is famous for the song Happy. There was a video of her experience on Facebook and within two weeks she went from crashing the site her songs were available on to being in the top 100 on iTunes. I explained this as I pulled up the song named 'Alaska' and told them the story noting that this was proof that dreams come true! I let the song play which calmed me (it's a great song) and I drew my outline. Problem solved and class proceeded. There were a lot of laughs in this class but in the end we placed our tiles together and marveled at how everyone saw and heard all the same direction but created their own version and they were all beautiful and unique!
'Back in my REAL life'
That phrase was said many times by most of us as we went through this experience. I started Friday morning deciding to pretend this was my real life. I kept smiling unconsciously like I had a secret. Share art, talk about dreams and practicing recognizing what fears are holding us back from what we really want. In our physical letting go I know I let go of what I burned that night under the full moon with countless fireflies and a symphony of happy peepers and wise old bull frogs as our witnesses.
I imagined what my life would be like to be free and happy all the time. Not letting fear be the deciding factor in how I live my life. When it comes down to it I believe there are only two real emotions. Love and Fear. I know that if I return to love in every moment I will find that to be my real life. I am floating. I am joyful. No really. Full of Joy! It's unbelievable.
It's weeks later and I can honestly say, I am still there in that happy place. I decided and continue to decide to be awesome! Sure I have moments where I stub my toe and sure sometimes I just want to crash out and relax but my creative self is on the mountain top, arms wide, head tilted back warm in the sun. Fully grounded and releasing the fear that has held me for so long.
I can't wait for the next retreat because I need to share this peace and power with people. I need to know that when I leave this beautiful place I shared this warmth and happiness with others!
Love and light and thousand thank yous to Sarah and Abby and my little Fire Tribe. I love you guys.
'Forgiveness means giving up all hope for a better past.' Lily Tomlin
Our full moon
Our first tangles