06:45 am // Hello, my friend! And Happy March! Yeah, I know, I didn’t get this letter out on our “This Is Me retreat” Wednesdays, but I had a work thing. No, for real. I really did. And that work thing unexpectedly stretched long into the night, which mean I didn’t have any alone time, so this letter didn’t happen.
But, it’s Thursday morning as I write this + I am ready for work early so I can spend some time alone writing to you. In all reality, this won’t get sent until later in the day (because it’s not THAT early), but I’m getting a jump on it.
So, how has your retreat week been? And, most importantly, have you created space (physical or simply with time) to be with yourself? Space and/or time to step away, pull back, and begin to ponder who you are + what you want?
It’s not easy, is it? Getting comfortable in that quiet space. When we retreat + get quiet, we find ourselves first + foremost, alone. And, then, inevitably, we discover we are not really alone, are we? We have all of our thoughts to keep us company. And, those thoughts are not the most cozy, uplifting, empowering thoughts, am I right? It’s not like we sit in our amazing little retreat space and think about all of the ways we are wonderful. Instead, those terrible, horrible, things that we think are wrong with us creep into our mind. And, immediately, our retreat becomes a frightening, depressing, scary space.
But, you know what? That’s all part of the journey. It’s all part of the discovery of who we are, what we want, and how we want to live our lives. It’s just the reality. I mean, think about it. Transformation, growth, development, change, understanding doesn’t happen overnight in a magical happy place. Think back over your life. It’s those tough, challenging, frightening, out-of-your-comfort zone moments that thrust us forward. That help us to reach higher heights and become more evolved people. Evolution, change, transformation is a natural (and I’d say spiritual), somewhat challenging, process.
However, in order to evolve, we have to live right here, right now. We have to focus on what’s right in front of us. Out thoughts, our feelings, our truth, our reality. We have to know where we are + who we are in order to move forward.
I am a contemplative mystic in my heart. That means that I crave solitude, silence, mystery, magic. I’m ok with the questions + not knowing the answers. I need a life that is slow + intentional. And it is most definitely how I seek to live our my life, in the middle of my everyday routines and activities. Part of my desire to live a slow, mindful, spiritual life is just in my DNA. You could say I was born this way. I’ve always been pulled to this way of living. And since I have that pull, that feeling of “this is who I am + how I want to live”, I am obviously drawn to others who have lived this way. My mentors + role models, you could say.
And these other contemplative, mystical people that I look up to all seem to live life focused on the here + now. They choose to pull away, sit alone, face their fears, and emerge transformed. Not just once, but over + over again. Ever evolving + growing.
Think Buddha (under a tree), Mother Theresa (in India), Jesus (in the wilderness for 40 days), monks (a lifetime spent alone in community), Julian of Norwich (a counselor in a cell), nature-based religions, Native Americans (vision quests + sweat lodges), Thomas Merton (a contemplative monk), writers, artists, theologians + philosophers, Joseph Campbell (a scholar on myths + journeys), Jack Kerouac (a writer wanderer), Patti Smith (a musician poet)… to name a few of my personal contemplative, mystic greats.
9:45 pm // Back again. Waaaaay later than I had imagined, but amazing little life moments postponed my planned afternoon continuation. Nevertheless, here I am now. In bed, with wine. Trying to stay warm..
me + lina at a patti smith concert in nyc. july 2016. amaaaaazing to see one of my heroes.
Back to my contemplative heroes. All of them live/have lived life in their own way. It doesn’t mean that I want to be them, or live exactly like them; but all are willing + seeking opportunities to step away, draw back, draw inward, and wrestle with their present moments in the hopes that they will then grow even more, becoming more + more of who they really are. All of them are, in some way, seeking. Searching. Living. Experiencing. And reflecting on it all.
It doesn’t do us any good, no matter how amazing our moments are, if we experience things just for the sake of experiencing them. The key is the reflection. The focus on what’s happening right here, right now. On where we are. Because only with that perspective can we see + understand where we’ve been, acknowledge where we are now, all so we can begin to chart our way forward.
It may seem counterproductive to sit + think under a tree. Or to go out into the wilderness for days or weeks. Or wander the open road. Or hunker down in a coffeeshop with only a pen + paper. But, it is an incredibly powerful, transforming part of our journey, I believe. It’s when the shit hits the fan. When stuff pours out of us. When we come face to face with our demons + temptations. We we see ourselves for who we really are (the good + the not so good). When we receive, well, enlightenment.
Being alone. Sitting alone. Spending time alone. Focusing on the present moment. It’s all we really need. It’s definitely where we need to start. It doesn’t mean sitting in meditation or prayer trying to empty our minds. That ain’t gonna happen. Or at least it doesn’t with me. But, it does mean being fully aware. Observing all that is around us + within us. Feeling it all. Facing it all. Surrendering to it all. Because, when we sit with ourselves, we get to the heart of who we really are, as I’ve said before. And, who we are is a bunch fucking amazing individuals meant for a life of meaning + magic. That’s at the very deep core of who we are. Our essence.
And it is in the silent, deep, sacred, so very good place in the depths of our soul that we meet + feel + discover our true self. After that, it’s all about deciding how we want to live our life. But, that’s for another week…
For now, for this week, all I want is for you to step away. You’ve created your retreat space. You’ve perhaps even used it some. Now, this week, it’s all about just sitting. It’s about really getting away and getting alone. Every single day. For at least a short little while.
And I don’t want you to do anything. Sit. Breathe. Wander. Gaze. But, that’s it. No writing. No praying. No nothing. Just sit. Let whatever comes, come. Just be in the present moment. And trust that it is exactly where you need to be right now.
Because it is, wild soul. Even when it becomes a struggle. Just keep sitting. Keep breathing. Keep listening. Sit with your thoughts*. And let your inner voice, your intuition, your spirit guide you.
Until next week, lovely you. Happy sitting. xoxo. liz
Have you missed the previous This Is Me retreat posts?! You can find them here:
* (I just want to clarify that I am talking about sitting with yourself. I do not ever mean/intend to imply that anyone should just to sit in a situation or relationship that is violent or abusive or painful). I am talking about this sacred retreat time with yourself… the digging deep to feel your soul stuff. Just so you know what I mean).