Sometimes when we get out of our own way, magic happens.
This past weekend I was a presenter at Chrysalis, a 4-day Presbyterian woman’s retreat outside of Brainerd. These women are serious about both their interior lives and their sense of play. The retreat is designed to take you inside to explore and examine this human and spiritual life, but they have such a sense of fun. There was singing, art, dancing, tie dye, beads, and lots and lots of laughter. One morning I was in danger of sleeping in when I heard all of these women laughing on the front lawn. What an amazing alarm clock.
For me, the experience was very special. I did not “stand above” as the keynote, but joined the journey simply sharing stories and my learning with them. The topic for all four days was “We are All Related.” We started by exploring the relationship with our own selves and then moved out like a ripple on the lake to relationships with others, family, community and finally spirit.
At one point I was explaining how the brain learns, the neurons forming dendrites and reaching out toward one another. To illustrate I had everyone imagine that each round table was a neuron in the brain and sitting around the neuron are the nubs of learning, potential dendrites—the women themselves. They began to “grow” and reach other across the room toward one another, never touching, only reaching. In the brain, the mystery happens in the space between these dendrites called “the synapse.” It sounds like a heady topic, but illustrating it this way was fun, and we got it. The brain loves to learn. (See the picture for this image of a “human” brain. Do I look like I am having fun?)
The high moment for me was when I asked all of the women to stand and feel the power and resilience of their ancestral lineage behind them, gaining strength from it without feeling a need to “fix” anything—in fact understanding that it is not our “place” to fix the suffering of those who came before. If that wasn’t powerful enough, Geralyn, one of the musicians, raced up and said we needed to sing a song. She led the room full of women into the song. The lyrics were:
Steady as a rock, Rooted as a tree,
I am here, Standing strong in my right place
I think everyone in the room felt the power of that moment. We are women, standing strong in our right place.
We spent some time talking about suffering. In an earlier post (Grace . . . and suffering) I had the realization that suffering cannot be removed as long as we love. So, during the retreat I had explained that we all wear our medals of suffering on our chests–the medals of childbirth, child loss, loss of loved ones, illness . . . death. We all have our shining medals, and they are a symbol of all we have survived and stood strong with.
Our exploration gained real depth as the long weekend unfolded. People shared their stories with me, came to give me a hug, thanked me for sharing myself with them. It was an emotional experience for me. I have often wondered since moving to northern MN if my teaching this way was done. Each time I considered that it may be over, I’ve felt such a deep sadness. I love working with others, men and women both, and would feel such a loss if it were done just because I had chosen to live in the north woods. This past weekend was so affirming to me that it is not over—just in transition and perhaps even growing in a new direction. I felt so empowered to be able to freely talk about our spirit in relationship to our overall development. I realized that just talking about brains and bodies is kind of empty unless we are wrapping the whole thing with spirit. So maybe there is a new path opening up for me. Too often I stay shy of the topic of spiritual development—such a hornet’s nest–and yet for me all development is spiritual development.
In this retreat I turned on my blender and made a smoothie of all the things I had learned. I talked NLP and constellation and structural tension and brain development . . . and spirit.
By Sunday when I was driving home, I was exhausted but deeply satisfied. I had made new friends, journeyed together into that mysterious place–the heart–and had a lot of fun doing it all.
One evening toward the end of the retreat, I sat out on the dock at dusk watching the lake. The minnows and small fish were feeding on something just on the surface. Each time a little minnow popped up to grab something it created a circle that rippled outwardly. The ripples met each other and formed an intricate pattern. The surface of the lake was alive with circles within circles within circles and I thought of “we are all related.” Our sphere of energy goes out from us and intersects with others in a mysterious linking up that goes on and on through time and space. It was both peaceful and reassuring. Hidden in the ripples is the message, “you are never alone.”
Like I said. Magic.
Oh, by the way, did I tell you that Clearwater Forest Retreat Center is gorgeous?
It is a Presbyterian retreat center, but these women’s retreats are inclusive and not exclusive. They do them twice a year for women who want to deepen their lives. Here is a link to the Chrysalis site in case you are interested. http://www.clearwaterforest.org/chrysalis.htm
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