Mini-Retreat: Day One

Last November, I received a Save-the-Date invitation to a Fabulous Women’s Weekend Retreat in West Palm Beach in February of this year.  I blogged about the joy in receiving it here.  Included in the invite was one of my favorite quotes by Marianne Williamson, which set the tone for the get-together:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.  Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.  It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.  We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God.  Your playing small does not serve the world.  There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do.  We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.  It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.  And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.  As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”  —A Return to Love, Marianne Williamson

The retreat was this past weekend, and there were 17 women in all, including my friend Pernille and her daughter Sine, who both did a beautiful job of organizing the entire thing.

In the next four days, I’m going to give you a glimpse of what we learned, for I believe that in the sharing of it, you may have your own aha moments, just as we all did.

Today, I’m going to share the 4 Room Model that Pernille drew for us the first day.  I’ll explain it the best I can, but know that you can continue returning to it as you evaluate various aspects of your life.  It’s a model that, once learned, can be applied to absolutely any life situation.

You’ll notice there are 4 rooms connected by doors, through which we can freely move.  We can chart our “progress” or “location” by the two axes–how we’re feeling and the changes we’re experiencing.

Let’s start in the upper left room–Contentment.  You’ll notice this is where you’re going through no change (or you don’t want change), and your feelings are positive.  Your mind and body are aligned, and you’re feeling good about how things are going.  It’s a great place to be, don’t you agree?

Move down to the lower left room.  You’ll see that you’re in Denial.  This is where there’s no change, and you’re down-in-the-dumps about the situation.  Your mind and body are not aligned.  You can either be aware or oblivious that you’re here.  Either way, you don’t want to stay here forever, mired in who-knows-what.  [Although sometimes it’s good enough to say, for a time, “I know I’m in denial, but here is where I am, while I’m working on other areas of my life.”]

Here’s the kicker.  It is between these two boxes (moving in and out of them) that most people sit.  In denial one day, contentment the next, they can never seem to move “past” anything, because the situation never seems to get horrid enough to warrant a change.

Once we decide that denial is not good enough, and that something must change, we saunter (timidly, perhaps?) over to the Chaos/Confusion room (I know that sounds scary…and sometimes it is!), where we don’t feel very good, but change is occurring.  I would equate this with the long, drawn-out trek through the spooky forest.  You know you can’t go around it, you know you can’t go over it, you have to go through it.  And there’s light on the other side.  And change!  Wonderful, life-giving change!  [This can last days or weeks or years.  That’s just the way it is.]  I would like to add a personal note here.  Anyone who has ever had to go through extended periods of grief will know that you can’t control it.  It comes in sudden, gushing waves, and you’re paralyzed for a few minutes, or a day, or a week.  You think, “Haven’t I healed from this?” but no, you haven’t…completely.  You’re still going through the process of grief.  But don’t let this be a stumbling block or barrier to you.  You can’t control things like that.  You will feel like you’re back in Chaos/Confusion, but it’s okay.  Things like this take time.  Sometimes you need to hunker down in the Chaos/Confusion room…and live there until things become clearer to you…because you won’t be able to act, until you “see” things or a door “opens” to you.

And soon, you may feel that you have changed…and you’re feeling elated about it…and that would mean that you’ve made the transition to the Inspiration Room!  My feeling is that this is a rare and energizing place to be, because both feeling and change are happening.  I also would guess that it would be a draining place to stay for a long while, since you’re constantly changing.  I think I would want to take a “breather” in the Contentment room, just to catch my breath.

Do you see how this goes?

Take 15 minutes to draw on the chart.  Take a general assessment of your life.  Don’t think or analyze too much.  Where are you?  And why?

Then try breaking your life up into segments: job, marriage, kids, health, etc.  The list can be as general or detailed as you want it to be.  Now try fitting the pieces of you into the rooms.  Ask yourself feeling and change questions to help you more accurately define your position.

One final word: it’s okay to be in any of the four rooms.  You have to give yourself permission to be.  The questions you need to ask yourself are:

Do I want to be here?
What change do I want to see?
Am I willing to live like this?
How do I find what I’m passionate about?
How do I get help on how to move to a different room?
If the thought of risk or failure is too great for me, what do I do next?  How can I move past it?

If you’re having difficulty, grab a non-judgmental friend and tell them your confusion.  They’ll be able to more objectively place you in certain rooms.

Now that you have your life so beautifully organized, what do you want to do about it?  Or do you like it, just the way it is?

What you’ve done is the first step toward self-awareness.

One of our assignments before the retreat was to read Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist.  There is no need to read it for these mini-retreats, but it would enhance your understanding of what I’m trying to say.  It’s a very quick read–an inspiring fable that anyone could enjoy, understand, and apply.

For tomorrow, think about the model.  Think about your life.  Dream of where you would want to be (first, without regard to feasibility, then with every regard to possibility).  Sometimes you need to think HUGE.  Write down these crazy thoughts, then tear the paper into itty bitty pieces and swallow them.

Heaven forbid you should do or think any of these fabulous things.  People will look at you funny.

My little sunshines, trust your heart.  Follow it.  Great things will follow.

I promise.

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The quote I live by

Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language. Do not now look for the answers. They cannot now be given to you because you could not live them. It is a question of experiencing everything. At present you need to live the question. Perhaps you will gradually, without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer, some distant day.
--Rainer Maria Rilke in Letters to a Young Poet

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