Bringing your retreat home

WHY DO WE RETREAT?  

We retreat to get away from it all and collect our energy that is otherwise spread out in multiple directions for inner growth. All the stress, noise, responsibilities and distractions of everyday life melt away and we are able to get back in touch with who we are and what is important to us. We use the fresh perspective that a new environment provides to reconnect with ourselves and find our flow. Sometimes we learn something new or understand a situation that has been troubling us. Sometimes we meet someone who inspires us. Most often we are simply reset and reinvigorated and return home hoping to keep this fresh perspective alive.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE RETURN HOME?

We leave our retreat with clarity, an open heart and mind, and renewed energy.  We can’t help but want to bring these qualities home with us and perhaps share our experience with those we love. The first few hours and days back at home can be spent in a blissful state of possibility. We recite our mantras, we practice gratitude and we look at life through a retreat lens…for a while. Unfortunately, for most of us, this blissful state wanes too soon after we walk in the door of our normal life and over time, life as usual takes over. Our daily environment, work, stress, responsibilities, relationship pressures, old habits, well-worn routines and distractions of all sorts swallow up our best intentions to bring our retreat experience home.  

Wait a minute! The whole point of the retreat experience is to gain clarity and yet we somehow lose touch with this clarity as we move away from the experience?? Why do our best intentions to remain open and bring our retreat experience home so often fail?  While there are a variety of reasons we are challenged to cultivate our retreat experiences at home, I am going to highlight what I feel are the two most important and offer tips to integrate our retreat experience into our daily lives.

#1 Our home environment is not set up for success. What if we prepared to come home as much as we prepared for our journey? In order to bring our retreat experiences home, we need to start preparing before we ever pack our bags.

TIPS TO HELP BRING OUR RETREAT EXPERIENCE HOME BEFORE YOU  LEAVE:

  • Fix what is not working. Make a list of things in your environment that are broken and no longer working…the things that you are just putting up with like systems that are broken, relationships that need care or repair, piles of stuff waiting to be organized, actual broken things, etc. Pick 3-5 of these to eliminate or resolve before your retreat.
  • Stay healthy in your current environment. Start healthy routines and self-care before you go on your retreat. Just as we tend to eat poorly before starting a diet, we can let our health go in the days and weeks leading up to our retreat. Creating a strong and healthy foundation in your life before you retreat will support your changes when you return.
  • Slow down and pay attention. Become curious about your internal experience and take time for self-reflection. Cultivate a practice of getting in tune with yourself for a few moments each day.

#2 The retreat is only a small part of the clarity we seek.  Clarity is the culmination of all that is learned but not yet integrated. On retreat, without the backdrop of the daily routine of life, we are able to see themes and patterns of growth that were going on in small baby steps. These baby growth steps bring us to an “aha moment” or a moment of clarity when we can look back and understand all of the necessary steps that it took to get us here. Part of the problem is that we view the aha as a singular solitary moment when it is actually the culmination of everything that came before. The aha moment is, in essence, the “peak of critical knowledge.” Standing at the peak, we can see the progression of experiences that lead us here and the confusion that we lived in before the aha. We can also see what is not working and what we need to change in order to live the life we desire.

TIP TO HELP BRING OUR RETREAT EXPERIENCE HOME RIGHT BEFORE YOU  LEAVE:

  • Ground the experience in your body to take it with you! Yes, you need to find a way to physically take this experience with you. One way is to ground the experience in your belly center; your center of power and intuition. In Japanese martial arts this is the reservoir of vital energy as well as the center of gravity called the Hara. You can visualize the change you wish to make or the insight you gained living in this center of the body located in your abdomen just below your belly button.

TIPS TO HELP BRING OUR RETREAT EXPERIENCE HOME AFTER THE RETREAT:

  • Strengthen the clarity gained on retreat. These insights begin deep inside of you and feel that they have been around (however uncovered) for a long time. Take some time to amplify their meaning through mediation, journaling, or focused action.
  • Choose an activity that you enjoyed on the retreat to practice at least once a week at home. It is also fun to introduce your friends and family to these new activities!
  • Talk about what is going on inside of you with someone who is present and grounding. This will help you to relive and remember your retreat in detail and integrate the meaningful moments.

WHAT IF I NEED HELP?

I understand that none of these steps are easy. Integrating change requires us to overcome stabilizing forces and inhibitors within our everyday environment. The daily environment can easily swallow up our best efforts with work, family, friends, stress, pressures and responsibilities. Fortunately, I am here to help. If you have a recent aha moment that you would like to integrate at any stage, I would love to help you brainstorm ideas, create strategies or keep you on track to fully realize your aha vision.

Cultivating Executive Presence: What it is, Why you need it and 5 steps to get it!

I have a purposeful walk. I have heard this statement many times in my life and sometimes I reflect on how my walk is perceived as purposeful. My head is held high, my gait is quick and I am often not taking in all of my surroundings. I have somewhere to go and I am focused on getting there. People perceive that I am in alignment with my purpose to get there.

But what if my response to the statement was, “Really? I don’t have anywhere to be. I was just walking.” 

The observer who made the comment about my purposeful walk may feel uneasy.  My cavalier response may cause them to question my authenticity. Social science has taught us that when we meet someone, we almost instantaneously begin to create stories about them. We are experts at reading faces and stereotyping based on appearance. But we don’t often discuss that we are also perceiving how aligned someone is with their authentic self. If we meet someone dressed in a formal wear we assign them a certain amount of power and influence. Inside this person may be feeling insecure, tired, or otherwise off, but if they maintain eye contact and have a firm handshake, we buy into their power.

This is the foundation of executive presence.

When we are aligned with the image we project, we have presence that is experienced by another human being. I’m not sure how many of you watched Mad Men in it’s heyday..if you did, you know that Don Draper sets the gold standard for executive presence. He embodies power and influence even if he was not feeling it inside.

Now that we know what executive presence is, how do we cultivate it? 

5 tips to cultivate Executive Presence:

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Are you a Multipotentialite?

This morning I was having a conversation with my daughter about college classes as some of her older cousins are going off to college in the Fall. She was wondering how many different classes you could take each semester and suggested that you could take classes in your major and your minor. I suggested the idea of taking a class just because you may be interested in the subject and she informed me that this was not allowed…she is eleven.

How does my daughter at age eleven already feel that you have to choose a course of study in college and follow that course into the world of work?

Cultural norms support the idea that we have one purpose; that we are meant to do one important thing here on this earth over and over again until we achieve mastery. This general cultural bias towards specialization leaves out the opportunity for one to experience a broad range of possibilities.

In some of us, it creates anxiety over the consequences of choosing the wrong major, or taking the wrong job, or wanting to switch career paths in midlife. What if you want to study many subjects or have many careers or would like to pursue many interests? 

What if you’re an e-Ticket kind of person who just wants to do it all!! 

Well, you may be a Multipotentialite: A person with many interests and creative pursuits. And for you, there are likely many paths.

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Have You Met the New You? Updating Your Operating System for the New Year

A new operating system comes out and we rush to update our devices, but what about ourselves?  Are we integrating the newest version of us? This holiday season with all of the rushing around, try to take some time out to update yourself before jumping into a New Year.

Now, you may be one who waits to install the update until you see how it works for others or until the bugs are all worked out. Or maybe you feel you have always been doing something the same way and it is working out for you, like that old chocolate chip cookie recipe that makes everyone happy.  If this is sincerely the case, then keep on doing it the same way! But if you want to do something different or want a different result, you have to update your data to the new you. You have new life experience, new information, new preferences and even new values.  You may wish to work with new people or in a new environment.

Don’t bring the old you to a new situation. Update your operating system before the New Year!

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Unplug

“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.”  -Anne Lamott

Most of us need to make a conscious effort to take a break from technology as our electronic devices are just too addictive to put down. For me, the best break from technology is to be without a WiFi connection. This forced break brings my focus back to the present and allows me to be in touch with my inner self. I recently returned from a backpacking trip into the heart of the North Cascades National Park where I was without a WiFi and cellular connection for five days. At first, it was tough to let go of my desire  to be entertained, distracted and generally attached to my phone. My phone feels like an extension of me and when I cannot find it I can experience a mini panic attack. I was experiencing this panic-like feeling for about the first 24 hours of the trip and then something wonderful happened….I forgot about my phone and I began to interact in an authentic way with my surroundings.

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Are You a Free Agent?

Are you tired of working hard for a company that lacks good leadership?

Are you disenchanted working for an organization that doesn’t share your values, but not quite ready to go it alone?  

I work with many people who are considering working for themselves to make work more fulfilling, but the solitary path is not an easy one and it is certainly not for everyone. For many workers who are feeling stuck, there is a growing movement called the Free Agent economy. Free agents are people who work in flexible environments and set up their own work rules.  They can operate within larger companies on a contract basis, or they can be self-employed. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, an estimated 40% of all U.S. workers now operate on a part-time or contract basis.

What exactly is a “free agent” and what is the advantage of being one?

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Taking the Hit as a Gift

The Hit

About three months ago, my husband was unexpectedly laid off.  It was a huge blow for him and our family as we were unprepared for this situation.  However, as the news started to sink in, I found myself strangely happy and relieved.  I saw his layoff as gift; it presented an opportunity for him to find a more positive environment where his skills and expertise would be utilized and he would feel challenged.

My aikido teacher, George Leonard, called this awareness, “taking the hit as a gift.”  At various times in life we all receive “hits.”  They can take the form of injury or accident, relationship struggles, career pitfalls, family crises or disappointments.  Some are more forceful than others.  When we receive the hit and label it as “bad” or “negative” we lose the opportunity to grow.  If we receive the hit and look at it as a “gift” we can open up to the possibility to change a pattern, belief, behavior or relationship in our life that is no longer serving us.  We are empowered by this wake-up-call to act in a way that improves our health and wholeness thus embracing the pain or challenge for what it is…an opportunity.

Here are a couple of ways that you can take your next “hit” as a gift:

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Positive Procrastination

My house is never cleaner than when I have something really important to do. I am like a Tasmanian devil of de-cluttering and cleaning. I have a standing excuse that I need an uncluttered environment to think, but deep down I feel more benefits to procrastination than a clean work space. Here are a few:

  • You get to put off unpleasant tasks in favor of more enjoyable things
  • Problems may end up getting solved without any effort from you
  • You can delay challenging decisions to gather more information
  • Open space and time enhance creativity
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Setting Goals From the Inside Out

I don’t know about you, but when those year-end magazine issues appear on the newsstands, a feeling of dread comes over me. I know that I will begin to look back and assess the year according to what I did or did not get around to. I will review the best and worst moments and feel guilty for time lost or time ill spent.

My feeling of dread really sinks in when I review my to-do list. I find it interesting that the items left undone are those I am not passionate about or invested in. Further, these items are not linked to any of my goals, but put on the list out of a responsibility

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