Monday, March 30, 2015

Finally Friday Week 8: Coming Out of Retreat

"I never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude."—Henry David Thoreau

Going off on a solo writing retreat is one thing. Coming out of it is quite another. I arrived to my family's lake house last Saturday afternoon, unloaded my stuff, opened the shades and then just sat there in complete silence staring out at the lake.

It takes some time to decompress. It takes time to let go of all things that push and pull me in the city. So many things to do.

Sitting there in silence, I felt a bit uncomfortable at first. What had I committed myself to? Is this what I really wanted to do? The silence was deafening at times. My ears strained to hear anything.

I heard the hum of the refrigerator.

I stepped outside on the deck and heard the hoo hoo of an owl in the distance. I looked up and saw an eagle. Pine tree branches swayed in the light breeze. 

I made myself a little dinner—stir fried kale and mushrooms with a fried egg on top and then went out on the deck to eat it. Out to the left, I spotted the neighbors paddle boat and took it out alone on the lake. I hummed to myself and sat there alone in the middle of the lake until the sun went down. Ducks flew disturbing the glass surface of the lake. I sat there all alone and quiet. I heard frogs.

The week went by much the same, but then I got absorbed in book writing. I would wake up, eat, take a walk and then write for 8-10 hours per day. I was completely absorbed in my next book. I sometimes became so absorbed that I forgot what day or time it was, forgot to eat lunch or dinner, forgot there was a world out there. 

On about day 5, I started to get a bit of cabin fever. Too many long days of writing. Was I going mad? Was this what happened to the best of writers?

I was supposed to pick up my husband from the ferry dock. He was coming out for a night. He'd be coming in on the 11:30pm ferry and I left at 6:30pm—a bit too early. Obviously, I was ready to get out. 

Grocery shopping was an adventure. I walked down every single aisle just staring at all the goods. But even after shopping and getting gas, I still had three hours to kill. I called my husband and he suggested I wait at Anthony's on the pier. So, I took myself out to dinner. It was really nice.

Near the end of the week, writerly friends came out to the lake, making my transition back to the civilization a bit smoother. I was so grateful to have time to really WRITE. I didn't check Facebook or waste time. I got right to writing. It felt good knowing that that was my only job out there for several days.

Now I'm back in the city and moving as slow as I did at the lake. I'm slow to clean, to shop, to get to this blog. 

But here I am. It's good to be back, actually. It was good to pare things down to only the essentials. I think life can often get muddled with things that aren't important. I'm trying to keep those things that are important close to me and let go of the rest.

Have you ever been on a retreat. How did you feel coming out of it?

Friday, March 20, 2015

Finally Friday Week 7: Retreating from the World

I feel most at home in silence.—Katherine Jenkins

I'm gearing up to head off on a writing retreat. I took a walk and ate lunch with a good friend today, changed the wiper blades on my car, bought groceries and now I'm slowly packing.

I'm heading off on a week-long writing retreat to my family's lake cabin. My goal is to work on my next book without any distractions. No wifi, Facebook, traffic, crowds and the fast pace of city life.

I am looking forward to getting into a slow rhythm again. I look forward to walks, cooking and of course WRITING. My next book has been neglected and put aside in the corner of my office and every time I walk in there it seems to scream for my attention.

Well, it will finally get my attention.


As much as my life is surrounded by people, I am wondering if, in fact, I'm an introvert. I crave long stretches of writing in silence and love to go on meditation retreats where I'm silent for 10 or more days. I feel most at home in silence. I can feel myself there and I'm able to tune into deeper callings within me. Without the silence, I could not navigate my way through this world. I look to nature, dreams and meditations for direction. In fact, I depend on them.

Retreat, according to the dictionary, means:

1. the act of moving back or withdrawing from the world.
2. a secluded place where one can rest or relax

Life seems to move at such a pace these days, especially in the city. It's good to go on a retreat and rejuvenate the body, mind and soul and tune into those inner impulses that are hard to hear with all the commotion that we are faced with on a day to day basis.

Do you ever go on retreats? What is your experience on retreats?

Friday, March 13, 2015

Finally Friday Week 6: Fear of Organized ______________.

"When we unplug from intuition and spontaneity, our body, mind, spirit go on autopilot. We start to look outside ourselves for all of our cues, even if these cues no longer represent who we feel we are. We start to move in the same circles and patterns, comparing ourselves with others and never looking deeper to find our true paths."—Katherine Jenkins

I can't believe I got here on Friday! Amazing. Usually I'm so excited that Friday is here that I'm busy doing this or that and have no time to post. Today I seem to have ample time. It's one of those lazy, slow moving Fridays. I did get out and walk around Greenlake and here I am writing this blog post, so it's not a completely unproductive day.

Lately I have been thinking about the term "team player." I don't think I'm a team player at all. In fact, the word "organization" or "organized" anything (organized religion, organized team sports, organized dinner engagements, organized group tours, organized work parties, organized charity events, organized labor) makes me want to run for the hills.

I'm not afraid of the word organized by itself. In fact, I strive to be organized, but it's not one of my strong suits. I have an aversion to "organized ______________."

So I decided to look up the word organized in the dictionary and here's what I found:

1. Functioning in an orderly way or according to a plan.

2. Affiliated in an organization, especially a union.

3. Having the ability to plan and accomplish things in an orderly fashion.

Number three seems okay, but number 1 and 2 sort of make me cringe.

I think it's the rebel in me. It's very strong. My intuition is definitely my strongest suit. I'm often spontaneous and like to have much of my schedule "unplanned" in order for the spontaneous to have space to move. I rely on my intuition about 85%-95% of the time. It has NEVER let me down.

Having things too planned or "organized" is the antithesis of spontaneity, but I do believe that organization and planning do have their place. If we didn't have them, we'd never get anything done. However, if they become the rulers of our lives, we've just squashed intuition and spontaneity...completely. When we unplug from intuition and spontaneity, our body, mind, spirit go on autopilot. We start to look outside ourselves for all of our cues, even if these cues no longer represent who we feel we are. We start to move in the same circles and patterns, comparing ourselves with others and never looking deeper to find our true paths.

Large organizations, groups, religions, etc. scare me. Have you ever seen a zombie movie. I think there was one out recently with Nicole Kidman called The Invasion or something like that. Everyone starts speaking the same, moving the same, talking about the same things, mimicking each other.

Workers of companies and businesses do this. They start talking in acronyms that no one outside the company understands. Religions do this too. In order to understand the acronyms, lingo, literature, you need to be initiated into the group or "programmed." It happens very subtly. Soon you find yourself speaking, dressing, behaving in a certain way. For a while, it can feel good to be "part of the team," but I'm positive this is what most often leads to mid-life crises.

To be truthful, I could use a little more organization in my life. Not the kind that makes me move like a robot and blankly stare into the distance, but the kind that clears space and puts things in that spontaneity and intuition have space to move around.

I hope that spontaneity and intuition are always the rulers of my life and organization and planning are the servants. When it's the other way around, that's when jobs, life, family and even spirit or one's faith become tedious, at least for me.

Do organization and planning rule your life or do you allow intuition and spontaneity to lead you?

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Finally Friday Week 5: Life is Not Roses All the Time

"When I am able to include myself as a part of all life, I'm vast and infinite. I'm the rose that is dying and the one that is blooming at the same time."—Katherine Jenkins

I'm a pretty optimistic person. I usually see the silver lining in most situations. I don't believe that "life is hard," I believe life is life and we get to decide how we choose to view it and live it.

But sometimes you get knocked down, strung out, lost, confused, used and maybe even abused.

Maybe a family member dies, a lover leaves, a friend takes advantage of you, you lose your job, house, car, grounding, are down and out, down for the count, out of commission, out of business, lost, in a funk, stuck, spinning your wheels...

You get the idea.

Nothing really dire, in the scheme of things, happened to me. I did lose a cousin unexpectedly in November. One minute she was bursting with life, making plans with her friends, going to football games and zumba classes and the next moment she was gone. Well, it did make me stop and ponder. It made me think about life and how short it is and how we just don't really know how much time we have left. It made me want to love more and embrace the moment more.

I've also felt disappointed in a friend very recently, but I am now looking at that and wondering what in me allowed me to be disappointed. After all, can anyone make us disappointed, angry or even sad? If we are all reflections of one another, what in me made me feel this way. Obviously I felt hurt by something, but it's my choice how I react and what I do about it.

Usually I try to take the high road. I give the person the benefit of the doubt. I send healing energy and love and move on.

This time I feel sort of stuck in a funk about it. I felt like I needed to address the situation. Life is not roses all the time, right?

So sometimes I just allow myself to feel what I'm feeling. Not change it. Just feel it.

I woke up feeling a little sick to my stomach and had a headache too, but it is one of the most beautiful days outside in the Pacific Northwest. A day to go down in the books! The full moon was glorious last night and I met with good friends over good food.

I'm feeling better. I got really quiet this morning and early afternoon. I meditated a bit. I allowed myself to do nothing and to just be. I felt every unpleasant sensation wash over me, and  I'm coming around now.

Warm camomile honey tea has helped. My husband massaged my head, shoulders and neck and made me some hot chicken soup. I had a banana and lots of water. I'm feeling better. We are housesitting right now and I think cats can sense when you are feeling down. One of the cats plopped down on my stomach and its warm body against mine was very soothing.

I think all of these little things have helped.

Now I'm feeling good enough to actually take a meditative walk outside while the sun is still out and there is still daylight. I obviously feel good enough to show up on this blog and write this post, which was actually meant for Friday, but I've been having trouble getting here on Fridays :)

I know you can relate. I know all of us have had bad days. We all go through different things in life. Sometimes we think that what we are going through is more difficult than what the next person is going through. Sometimes it's easy to get stuck in a 'woe is me' frame of mind about life.

But then I'm reminded of the life that is all around me: the beautiful sun, cherry blossoms, flowering bushes, fish in the pond, the two cats on the sofa, the hummingbirds and chickadees outside flittering about. Life is changing and moving constantly. Things wither and die and new life blossoms. Life is vibrating all around us and in us. I, the personality part of me, is so small with all my thoughts, emotions, pains, inconveniences, etc., but when I am able to include myself as a part of all life, I'm vast and infinite. I'm the rose that is dying and the one that is blooming at the same time.

Have you recently felt unpleasant about anything? What did you do to see the situation in a new light?

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Finally Friday Week Four: I Am Alive

The Bird Totem on Puget Sound
Okay...It's Sunday! I'm having trouble getting here on Fridays, but it will happen. When Friday comes, I'm out experiencing life because.....well, I am alive!

I think it's easy to forget.

It's easy to get wrapped up in this drama or that drama. Thinking can take such a great hold on the mind that it's easy to forget that life is happening right now.

For the past three or four days, life has been pulsating and vibrating in me. It has been so blissful, rapturous even, that it has often felt overwhelming or hard to contain at times. I was afraid, for a few split seconds, that it would swing the other way and my thoughts would take me down a deep dark path, but it hasn't happened.

I know life has it's ups and downs, but if I stay here in the present and fully experience life as if it is happening to me for the very first time, I experience something indescribable. In fact, words don't often do it justice, but I'm here to write, so I'll do my best. This poem spontaneously came to be right now:

Totem of Life

Do you ever look at the ocean? Really see it.
Do you see the waves, the deep blue, the vastness of it,
A lone boat in the distance at dusk with just a flickering light.
You feel you are on that boat.
You can feel the solitude and peacefulness of the moment.
The boat reflecting back at you,
And you, a lone person on a cliff staring out at the sea,
Are also sharing a moment with that boat and its sailor.

And then, did you see that hummingbird?
The one that hovered above your head,
It's tiny green body full of life,
pulsating with it,
flittering, fluttering from flower to flower,
Did you see it?

And the smell of those flowers....
Of lilies and lilacs.
The sun beating down on your head
Warming your entire body from head to toe,
You tingle with this sensation.

And then the sun going down,
Crimson and orange and pink—
Darker and darker.
The Bird Totem next to you comes alive too.
The outline of it,
Like a person, almost, watching the sunset with you.
A totem of life, of many lives culminating.
All of life's secrets, prophesies, legends and myths
Become known in that moment.

I didn't expect I'd write a poem today, but it came out that way for some reason. It's these pieces of life woven together. I am witnessing more, feeling more. Who knows how long it will last. I seem to have this curiosity with life these days. When I walk to class, I see the cherry blossoms looking at me like one thousand eyes penetrating my being. The purple crocuses hidden under a bush cry out for attention. I can't rush to class and miss them. All around is this beauty reminding me that I am alive. When I enter this space of now, I understand everything at once.

What have you witnessed about life lately?