Tag Archives: retreat

Aligning with our deepest values

Hints of self

One of the things I pondered during the recent retreat from blogging and computer and caffeine and other distracting activities was this:  how can we more deeply align our daily activities with our deepest beliefs and values?

Where are we putting the gift of our attention?  Is it really aimed at our deepest wishes, or is it aimlessly drifting in other helter-skelter directions?

What do we want to be doing with our one precious life?  What is the core, the honey, the hidden treasure, the Holy Grail?

In what ways am I just coasting through the day, sugar-coating or filling the hours with distractions?  In what way is attention scattered into pursuits that really lead down dead-end streets?

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Rhythms of retreat, reflection and ripe peaches

Peach divinity

Do you know how sweet and pungent peaches smell in late summer?  You breathe deeply the eau de peach–it’s like a fine wine–breathe deeper still–before the silver knife nicks fuzzy skin and slices deep into the essence of fruit.  You cut slices, long wedges, and before your fingers wait for milk and granola you bring sweet peach nectar to your lips and taste.

Magnificent peach!  There is nothing like it in the world.  You are in heaven.  Peach at perfect golden ripeness.  Ahhhh…exquisite joy of being alive!

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Using magical powers to prevent choking out loud.

Tree

I’ve experienced a couple of interesting days, blog-wise.

Usually lots and lots of stories present themselves to the forefront.  (Well, that’s not technically true.  First the photos appear.  Something interesting catches the eye and the camera captures it.  I download the pictures, and suddenly a story presents itself.  The blog basically writes itself.)

Or the reverse happens.  The Universe presents a story, and then supplies the appropriate picture-taking opportunities.  The blog writes itself!  (I swear I am only the typist 90% of the time.)

The last two days have been strange.  I have three, four or five stories with photographs in the hopper.  They sit in the bin awaiting inspiration from the typist.  The stories are ready to go!

But the typist is uninspired.  She doesn’t want to type.  She doesn’t want to blog.  She doesn’t want to share anything.  It’s probably just a needed a break after the 30-day gratitude challenge.  She needed to be silent for a while. 

It just was the oddest feeling.

Yesterday I went to a Women’s Mid-Winter Spiritual Retreat in a small cabin called “Creek House.”  Somewhere up near Boston Location.  (The old copper mining industry on the Keweenaw Peninsula was always calling the little towns which sprung up around areas of the mines “locations”.)

Initially, I planned to go to the dogsled races in Marquette.  That didn’t happen.  Long story, which involved not feeling particularly well and 50-60 mile winds on Friday. 

Then Catherine called.  “Want to go to a women’s spiritual retreat?” 

I hemmed and hawed, but finally agreed. 

Raspberry plants

About seven women sipped lettuce soup and chewed chunks of poppyseed-studded homemade hallah bread in the quaint little Creek House.  We navigated carefully toward the door, as the ice in driveways is clear and slick after last week’s thaw and freeze.

We meditated in many different ways.  One meditation involved magical powers…and it proved very powerful for many of us.  I can’t share the particulars of my journey, but it involved silently choking (in real life, while everyone was quietly meditating) until tears poured down by face.  But I utilized “magical powers” to silently choke so that not one single participant knew!

The owner of Creek House flung open two large cupboards on the northern wall to reveal hundreds–no, thousands–of miniature items.  There was a miniature Indian in a canoe, Jesus, a cheese grater, plates, Buddha, flowers…everything one could possibly envision.  We were given a tray filled with sand (and a partner) and instructions to create a scene in the sand.

It could be a scene of our meditation (I couldn’t envision what might represent the magical powers to prevent out-loud choking) or anything else. 

Truly, it was fun!  The best part was getting to know my sand-partner.  We are now corresponding via email.

We did lots of other activities yesterday afternoon at Creek House.  We enjoyed silent time.  We filled little books with images and words.  We meditated some more.  We talked.  We silenced. 

We enjoyed a middle-of-winter retreat back in the woods near Boston Location, strengthening our bonds with other women…and making new friends.

I was going to take pictures.  But it seemed too invasive to start snapping photos during a women’s retreat afternoon.  And I couldn’t stand the thought of interrupting my own retreat to tell yet another story. 

It has been a silent two days.

I’ve decided the story-teller can have her way this morning.  The silent one appreciated her retreat. 

It’s interesting balancing the different needs of ourselves, isn’t it?

Upsweep

Pilgrimage to the sea

Which is the branch and which is the shadow?

Earlier this month I read Joan Anderson’s book “A Year by the Sea:  Thoughts of an Unfinished Woman”.  This is the story of a woman searching for herself, attempting to connect again to her deepest knowings.  She leaves her husband and settles in their cottage in the Cape along the Atlantic Ocean and moves steadfastly and deeply into her confusion and inner despair.  By the end of the year she’s carved out a space of independence and connection.  She’s swam with seals.  She’s celebrating her “unfinished” nature, the way that life will keep unfolding and spiralling through her.  She’s put some of the jigsaw pieces of herself back together.  It was a sacred year of pilgrimage.  

Kind of reminded me of the book “Gift from the Sea” by Anne Morrow Lindbergh.  Anyone who reads this book is struck by the possibility of moving away from the everyday world into nature and allowing something larger than the everyday self to lead the way.  The cycles of the seasons teach us how to better connect with our innermost selves.  Both Anne and Joan emerged from their pilgrimages with a deeper connection to spirit, to the earth, to others, to life. 

Follow the tracks to the sea

Reading stories like these have spurred me on to carving spaces in my life to dive deeper into myself.  I have truly worked to make these spaces priorities amidst the busyness, the ordinary days, the hours of glassy-eyed staring at the computer or in work-related tasks.  Whether in the garden or by the lake, in the woodstove-heated basement or sitting on a lawn chair on the deck, I have dedicated hours to silence, to returning to center, to seeking the inner jewel which gleams in colors of peace, freedom and joy.

I have been wondering if most women and men consciously do this.  Find alone places.  Find places where “doing nothing” is more important than “doing something.”  Places where being shines more brightly than our actions.

It feels, to me, like one of the most positive contributions we can make to the planet.  To seek for the places inside which are already whole, which don’t care about appearances as much as essence.  To find the center inside where we shine brightly from our completeness rather than our fragmented shards of personality and accomplishment.

Designs and patterns along the way

This morning I hopped in the car for a mini-pilgrimage to the Mouth of the Huron.  This is a long stretch of sandy beach open to the public at the edge of Baraga and Marquette counties.  People camp out here on the sand; smoky fires dot the horizon in the morning and evening and the sound of laughter echoes across the water.  You can see the Huron Islands offshore about five miles, beacons for travelers in boat and kayak and canoe. It is an amazingly isolated area with incredible natural beauty. 

Before departing I posted my Facebook status:   Heading out for a solo pilgrimage to the Mouth of the Huron…just a few hours sitting by the lake…thinking, dreaming…seeing if there are any wild blueberries left.  (All good pilgrimages should involve something good to eat, right? However, be forewarned.  Most of the berries which remained were dark huckleberries with pithy seeds.  Although I later found a handful of blueberries closer to the ground.)

The shining shore

Here are some possible guideposts for a pilgrimage:

1)  It will probably take you a while to relax.  Plan to spend at least 2-3 hours, minimum.  More if possible.  The first hour will be spent unwinding from daily cares.

2)  For better relaxation:  breathe deeply deeply deeply for that first hour.  Breathe into any aches and pains.  When the mind starts thinking about planning, figuring out, yesterday’s dinner, what so-and-so meant by the last thing she said…gently but firmly bring your attention back to the present moment.  Maybe keep your attention on your feet if it wanders outside the present moment.

3)  Spend some time sitting.  Even if it’s dewy and your jeans get wet!  Let your eyes travel across the horizon and up close.  Let your ears hear the seagulls.  Your nose smell the pine needles on the path to the beach.  Your fingers linger on the tree bark.  Taste a blueberry, if you’re lucky enough to find one.  Engage all your senses.  

Beautiful sea

4)  Let spontaneity determine what you should do, if anything.  I recommend diving into the blue waters if you’re brave.  Don’t let thoughts of cold stop you.  The thoughts are wrong–especially this summer!

Innocence

Doesn’t sound too hard, does it?  Have any of you been on a pilgrimage recently?  In the past day?  Week?  Month?  Year?  If not, what thoughts try to convince you not to go? 

One of my friends said recently she really really really needed a break.  But she couldn’t go, couldn’t leave her family.  I suggested, hey, how about four hours at the beach?  Four hours alone?  Can you arrange for a babysitter for those few hours? 

Her eyes opened in amazement.  Her face lit up.  Yes, yes, yes!  She could do this.

Why is it that we don’t give ourselves a pilgrimage every week?  Once a month, at the minimum.  Unless we care deeply for ourselves, unless we fill the well of ourselves with sustenance, we’ll run dry without having any leftover to share with the ones we love…