The Power of Retreat

After a frenzied summer given over to clients and trainings and filming and writing, I’m tired and need some serious off-the-grid time, so I’ve come to my RI beach and my little cottage for my 2nd annual retreat.  One of my revered teachers, Dr. Monica, working with me through the darkest days of my life last year, suggested that I create a retreat for myself, spending as many weeks as I could alone at my beach house, asking questions and listening.  Uh, listening for what exactly, I’d asked her.  You’ll find out, she replied.  Go away with no plans, no script?  Are you kidding?  She told me that once I understood the power of the retreat and the questions I’d ask, I’d create one every year forever more.  I was highly doubtful, but agreed to the plan, reluctantly giving it a try.

The rules of this retreat, as laid out by Monica, were simple.  I was to do whatever I wanted in the moment for as long as I wanted.  Listen.  Have no plan, just desires in the moment.  Listen.  Wash, rinse, repeat.  Listen. For as long as I could arrange.

The only question I need ask, Monica suggested, was “what do I want to do now?”

I won’t lie, the first 2 days were excruciating, since I’m a planner who doesn’t know the meaning of ‘spontaneous’.

But as the days went by, I got into the pattern of no-pattern and soon began to seriously dig it.  I meditated with Deepak Chopra, weeded my beach roses listening to certain recordings of Coast to Coast AM (don’t scoff…this show does a huge service by discussing things the main stream media won’t touch, like their Lyme Disease show last week…and I love the quantum physics stuff), walked the beach for hours, drove to Rhody Joe’s for their chicken wings, drank martinis, communed in my neighbor’s hot tub, all spur of the moment, none of it planned.  I slept late sometimes, got up early other times, watched ‘on demand’ movies and went for days with no TV or music.  I wrote and cried…a lot. It was glorious.

Little by little, I started hearing myself again (albeit faintly) after a lifetime of internal deafness.  I settled down and took a few baby steps back to myself because I had truly lost my bearings and maybe even a bit of my mind in the previous few years and it was time for that to stop.  Fast forward to now…

All this month I found myself looking forward to retreat again

and now that I made it back here, I’m in that early what-was-I-thinking stage that I know will settle into the pattern of no-pattern.  I jump up to eat my favorite steak and eggs at Hungry Haven (where the wait staff knows me now and already knows what I want), then drive to Java Madness, my favorite place to write on the planet, where I know the owner now and have my choice of open tables inside since in the nice weather everyone sits out on the large deck overlooking a sleepy marina.  Although I love the water, I want to write tucked away in the corner inside, with live music drifting in from the deck.  It’s the end of the summer and people are still pretty relaxed. I’m settling in, doing what I want in the moment and listening.

Soon the academic year will start again, and I wonder which of my many ventures will take off this year.  At the moment, I have a new idea.  I’d like to write a book about fall from grace moments and form a group of others like me, publicly identified as flawed.  When I had my 15 minutes of fame, despite all of the loving support extended to me (THANK YOU!!), I felt very alone and so I isolated, as is my nature.  I’m thinking that my little group of kindreds would be willing and available to reach out to those who fall in the future, offering a spirit of camaraderie and an action plan based on our experiences.   Cool idea, huh?   And really needed, too, since mistakes no longer have a half-life thanks to the internet and its forever memory, and the fact that we’re talking about human beings.   People screwing up and making mistakes?  Yup.  Just as surely as the sun will rise tomorrow, humans will be flawed.  And that is what makes us all such miraculous creatures.

I screw up, therefore I create.

Love that mantra…