I walked into the Arise & Be retreat in January a battered, wounded soul, and immediately I could tell that it was a safe place. I saw it in the way people were smiling at one another, nervous but open. I felt it in the way the Arise & Be team had set up the room so beautifully, and in the way we were greeted individually by the team. I even heard it in the gorgeous music filling the room and tickling my ears.
We were all strangers stepping into this space together. Women at different points in our lives, different stages and ages, who had chosen to come to this retreat. We had each decided to set aside time for us, to take a risk, to hear new things and learn more about ourselves.
And so we gathered around the coffee (yum!) and goodies, chatted and smiled and chose our seats. We looked around the room at all the beautiful things (art supplies at every seat!!) and then converged on a window covered in vivid photographs, each choosing an image that reached out to us, claiming it as our own.
As Heather walked us through the science of right and left brain engagements, and the practices and tools we can use to make decisions and navigate transitions in our lives, I took notes furiously. I couldn’t help it- I’m a knowledge junkie. I circled. I underlined. I scribbled in all my margins. Left brain activated!
But then we spent time in reflection. Drawing. Creating. Exercising (I admit, I was too busy talking to do the exercising… but some people made good use of the adjacent walking trails and rare winter sunlight.) Eating. Laughing. Relaxing. Right brain activated!
Now I’ll be honest. I’ve been to a lot of team building meetings and retreats in the past, and I’ve even been taught some of the same stuff, and done many of the same activities. But each prior time the knowledge and activity was framed within the context of “doing.” We were learning and doing all of those things to get more done. To be better at our jobs. To quickly “refuel” so we could get back into the action and “Go! Go! Go! Do! Do! Do!”
At Arise & Be – one of the first things they said to us was, “You do enough already. This time today is about learning to be.” And for the first time in my life, I felt like I was given permission to just sit and be me. There was no judgement or appraisal of my actions. Just a calm and gentle embrace of my existence.
That was revolutionary to me. I’m a very driven person, and I tend to judge myself very harshly on my ability to “do.” Now I’m spending my time focusing on my being. I am working on my heart and happiness, not my to-do list. The result is that I’m happier, more focused, and even more productive. My husband noticed the change right away, and he’s commented on it more than once.
I could write for hours about that one single day – about the women I met and how they inspired and encouraged me. About the friendships that were strengthened, and the healing that was found. About how I spent the whole next day processing through everything we’d learned, and how my friends and I are still talking about our revelations and life changes that have come as a result of that time. There are so many amazing details to share and so many amazing things still happening!
Needless to say, I’m already signed up for the next retreat, and I’m excited to see where this journey will take me! I’d never have thought this much growth would be possible from one day’s worth of investment of time and space.,.. but it totally is! I dare you to come check it out for yourself… you are so worth it!
– Rachel Clark