In the past week alone, five people have asked me what spring retreat is like?
Schedule, pace, environment, group, breaks, meals, exercises…. what’s it all like anyway?
At first, I saw in my mind’s eye a bigger picture response. The 30,000 foot view from the airplane way above in the sky–where we can see the whole landscape:
Spring “Mental” Cleaning. Unraveling our stressful thinking by questioning what we think is absolutely true. Undoing the repetitive processes we get into that build up like scummy soap film or grime in the bathroom.
We’re cleaning up our thinking, slowly and steadily answering four questions and finding turnarounds.
It’s giving the mind a bit of a scrub. Things become clearer.
In the airplane all-expansive view, I thought of the new brilliant craze of decluttering brought forth by Marie Kondo and her lovely quintessential Japanese approach to junk clearing.
We’re doing this with our minds, spending some time with situations we’ve found kind-of disturbing….or deeply traumatic.
We lay the whole thing out before us (the way Marie has everyone lay their entire wardrobe out on the bed).
There it all is, that situation we feel troubled by. We’re starting by simply looking at the whole situation.
We write down what we most objected to, what we wanted, what should have happened instead, what we really needed and maybe still need now, our most frustrating or anguished thoughts, who we blame.
And then, we begin to take each item–each thought or story-form or concept about that particular contact with Reality–and investigate. We’re checking to see what’s genuinely True for us.
Marie tells her customers to say “thank you” to the items they’re sending to Goodwill, or to the dump.
It’s pretty hard for us to let some things go, or to empty the storage container….even if it’s been a bad or anxiety-producing memory.
“I have to remember this! I have to hold on to it! I have to fix it! I have to get rid of this awful thing! I don’t know how else to think!”
There’s quite a bit of psychic “stuff” and memories to wade through when it comes to some situations, right?
Thank you, goodbye.
It seems to happen naturally when we give ourselves space and time, with other people, to consider our thoughts so deliberately and attentively.
Some people leave retreat feeling like 100 pounds of weight have lifted. No longer storing and carrying that painful story. They know what to do the next time something comes up: The Work.
So, what’s spring retreat like in Seattle, in the trenches?
Well, first of all, it’s not exactly “trenches”. LOL.
We’re not going to war. It feels much more like we’re declaring peace. It is a retreat from daily life, but concentrating with a sharp focus on our minds.
We gather in a circle in a rather ornate living room of a place I discovered a few years ago for retreats and weddings. It’s less than a mile from my cottage, where I used to offer spring cleaning retreat. Nowadays, the cottage is just too small.
The retreat house, built in 1918, has an elegant and quirky feel; old push-button light switches, statues of fairies and woodland creatures throughout the gardens, a meditation space outside, Alice-in-Wonderful little benches and hammocks scattered about.
Plus, a hot tub. With a towel warmer.
I loved it when I saw it because much of what this work is about is using our imaginations to see complete opposites, other possibilities, and the magic that can happen when we question our subjective reality.
Why not this new way? Did that statue of an angel just move?
The support of the circle is brilliant. Somehow because we’re together and we know our thoughts affect the way we’re navigating life….together we can understand more how our thoughts have patterned themselves.
People always seem to have the right questions, at the right times, even in the right order. It’s a bit cliche, but it really does appear that every retreat is unique; the perfect people have come together to inspire one another’s work.
I learn every time from listening to someone else’s work or insights. Inspiration comes alive. New endings to old stories.
Curious about retreat logistics?
We start most days at 9:30 am. Saturday we begin at 8:30 am as we have a special outing to move the body your way–or sit still or walk (you’ll get to decide exactly what’s right for you. Nothing is mandatory).
Meal breaks are on your own, and since we have our own kitchen, people use the fridge for groceries and cooking, or venture out to the town center for something good (tons of options). We usually take 90 minutes midday, and 90 minutes again for evening break.
Every evening after dinner except Friday we have a session together. Friday is open for out-of-towners who frequently request one evening to go into Seattle for fun, or to have a night at the retreat house in silence to contemplate and digest their work so far.
Onsite during our retreat, we’ve got a beautiful laundry room, a basement sitting room, a dining room table to gather around. It’s like we all move in for the 4 days together (even though some people commute daily) with all our comfort needs cared for. Tea, cream, coffee is all provided. I set up my little chairs when we need more seats (better than back jacks for most people).
Finally, the feel and the flow….the essence of spring cleaning retreat in The Work with me:
Everyone has a folder with all the handouts supplied that you’ll ever need for doing The Work, and for facilitating The Work.
Many therapists, healers, coaches and holistic practitioners have come to spring cleaning retreat to learn and practice this process step by step.
As I mentioned, you get to begin with one situation you’ve found disturbing when you consider it, or re-consider it, and ponder, and wonder, and wish it had never happened or wish it could have gone another way. Something that feels unfinished. Something troubling about life.
You get to pick what it is you want to work on. You’ll know.
And then, let this fascinating activity begin: stepping into the four questions one by one. Answering, noticing.
During our time together, we pair-off a few times. No expertise, special knowledge, or know-how is needed to be a facilitator. In fact, approaching this work with the innocence of a child, like it’s a brand new moment, is encouraged.
Like all groups coming together, there’s a sense of bonding and cohesion that happens as each time goes by. If you’ve been in retreat with me before, you know I love the way of checking in called “talking stick” style. Instead of discussion, each person gets to share something they discovered, perhaps something they’re wondering about, something they’ve become aware of.
This work is about uncovering blind spots.
It’s like holding a yoga pose in these profound questions: Is it true, the meaning I’ve placed on that incident, or person? Who would I be without these glasses on?
No one is pushed or cajoled, there is no right or wrong way to do it. Curiosity comes up, questions come up. All of them are welcome.
I love offering some unique exercises for practicing living turnarounds and digesting our inner work. We walk almost daily in silence for 30 minutes to one hour in the beautiful exercise called “The Morning Walk” from the School for The Work. We have a special module on saying “no”. We look at body issues for those who want to. We look at common snags in facilitating others.
Everyone who attends spring cleaning retreat comes away with knowing how to do The Work from start to finish, and knowing how to work with others as a facilitator.
But far more important than knowing The Work is feeling the “cleaning” and decluttering that happens, and the lightness of being that floats into the atmosphere.
P.S. For a taster of this process, I’m doing a half-day retreat at my cottage on February 24th. Some knowledge of what The Work is, or fully experienced all welcome. Join me here.