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Personal Retreat Part 2 (the story of the chair)

Chair? What chair? Read on and I’ll tell you…

Two weeks ago I began to tell you about my personal retreat experience. I intended to continue my story a day or two later, but true to form, God/the Universe/Karma filled these last two weeks with the fruition and results of past and recent efforts and a few (good) surprises – meaning that I was super, super busy. I’ll be sharing it all with you but that’s for another post, or two or three. Suffice it to say it’s all good and will take this little dream occupassion of mine to a new level. Stick around for the ride, as always, I’m making room for you, too!

Let’s get back to the retreat

After art and reading, it was time for a walk. The retreat center is surrounded by woods, so I set off to explore. The seasonal natives were thoroughly excited to see me and proceeded to surround and accompany me on my walk. I’m talking gnats, folks. They were horrendous. There went my idyllic plan of an inspiring commune with nature. I didn’t change my plan, I changed my attitude.

Waving them off (constantly) I continued on, journal in hand, seeking ideas and inspiration. Some downed trees exposed an interesting pattern of root structure and texture. A sketch was out of the question. I needed my hand, my only chance at keeping bugs out of my eyes, nose and ears. I persevered, looking, up, around and finally down. Covered in dried mud sat a little hump of a turtle. I haven’t seen one in years so I was as excited as a 4 year old. “Can’t sketch, so I’ve just got to take a picture!” But in my no-technology efforts, I had left my iPhone back at the house.

I ran back, arms still flailing at gnats, to get the phone after noting my exact spot in the woods. I never did find him again. (I think it was a him because he looked like a grumpy old man.) I’m pretty sure he had his own agenda to attend to. I went back and started a journal page to recount the effort and list all of the things with me on retreat: turtle, bumble bees, stink bugs, GNATS, a spider. And then, pausing, I turned my attention to the good things and I wrote birds, and then pulled together these words from my earlier found poetry snippets:

 

Yes, it does make a difference what you think, doesn’t it? I can easily get so caught up in the gnats of everyday life, my to-do lists and un-done lists, that my energy and attention become scattered and drained. This wanting everything to be perfect, quickly attended to without interruption and complications is too high of an expectation. The gnat and turtle opened my eyes to quite a few things I needed to change in order to truly be present, content and grounded.

Lessons from the Long Walk

Yes, the long walk. The previous day’s gnatty experience didn’t deter me from embarking on my planned adventure deep into the woods. The urge to discover was greater than the inconvenience of gnats. This time I had both my camera and a smaller notebook. I literally walked over the meadow and through the woods, in search of…whatever. As you may have guessed by now, the discoveries I made were more mental than physical. And yes, there were gnats.

I remembered that bugs will often fly to the highest point, so to keep them away from my head, I continued my walk, arm and a notebook raised high above my head. It worked and enabled me to continue on.

I was hoping to come upon a breathtaking vista overlooking the river below but that was not to be. I saw a deer and some wonderful vines hanging from tall, tall trees. I soon realized that no matter which fork in the trail I took, or how well I marked it, that again, what I was really searching for was not new sights, but a new awareness. Once you open your eyes to it, the Universe delivers.

The annoying gnats were a part of the process. I had learned how to handle them in order to move forward with my goal. While preparing to set out I realized I had no portable container for water so I had to adjust my thinking and timetable to account for that. Not being able to fulfill my vision of sitting in the woods to journal, I opted to break my no-technology rule again and employ both my video camera and voice recorder to document my thoughts, (listen to my thoughts here!)

I gave up adhering to rules that no longer served my best interest. This retreat was really paying off with new insight and awareness. The benefits were clear now and yet nothing like I expected.

Reading (and the Chair)

After 27 retreat hours, I set aside all my self-imposed rules and requirements and began to be totally in the moment. I became grounded in the experience, fully present and open. After a tasty lunch it was time for my always and forever favorite activity – reading, or (as I just now realized), knowledge gathering.

I have an incessant need to know stuff. I’ve spent most of my 61 years trying to figure out life and the urge to create. It’s my passion, my occupassion, and every little Aha moment brings me great joy. My pleasure is doubled by sharing it with you.

Up until the retreat, I viewed reading as a guilty pleasure, designating it to a pre-lights out activity. The older I get, the harder that has become. My mind and eyes are just too tired for more and a few pages.

Gone are the days when I would stay up all night reading. I gave up novels many years ago because once I start, I cannot put one down and they were seriously cutting into my creative time.

I had taken just 2 books with me to read yet this one was there at the retreat center and I was called to pick it up. I snuggled into the comfy couch in the sun room and spent the rest of the day with the book. Not word for word, but choosing just the parts pertinent to my present needs. Do you notice that when you read, fiction or non, that ideas start flowing? For the first time I opened my notebook and started writing my thoughts and ideas on the left side of the spread and copied notes, quotes and info on the other. It was then that I had my realization – reading is part of my job! It is a pleasure, but it also serves a purpose, a practical one. I now had my own permission to read during the day.

As I curled up deeper into the corner of the couch enjoying the sunlight and breeze streaming through the window I realized I’ve always wanted a comfy reading spot. Probably 90% of our upholstered furniture is my parents Williamsburg style hand-me-downs, slipcovered and reupholstered as necessary over the 40+ years of marriage and six children.

Before the retreat was over I made the decision to invest in just the kind of chair I’d always wanted. I would put it in the double-windowed corner of my sun-drench bedroom and schedule a reading “break” every afternoon. This chair and I will be together the rest of my life. It will serve as a reminder of my retreat, acknowledgement of the value I place on reading, and as days pass and the pages turn, it will be the spot where inspiration and I get cozy.

None of these were momentous moments yet all were life changing. I just had to slow down long enough to become aware of the answers, insight and solution that are there waiting for us to find them. I hope this helps you look at the little things a bit differently. Let me know, OK? And please, do me a favor, share this with a friend. You never know what may change a life.