Autumn Retreat is just over one month away. I’m already excited to share in the joy of inquiry with all those who attend. It’s so powerful, so safe, and so joyful. Read about it here.
Last night I had a dream.
I was waiting for my first husband (who died this past summer from cancer). My car was parked on his street, but not near his house. I was waiting for him to walk past, and since he didn’t expect me, I didn’t want to miss him and was watching closely, gazing out into the street and the tall evergreen trees all around.
Then here he came, up the gently sloping hill. He was striding with lots of energy, a younger version of himself. His steps were big, strong and full, more so than I ever remembered him in real life.
I tapped my horn, as I sat in the driver’s seat of my parked car.
He didn’t notice. He only looked ahead, like he was on a mission.
Then, he was walking right in front of me, passing by. I rolled down my window and called out to him with a friendly tone.
Now, I was seeing the back of his head and his thick full head of hair.
I shouted and silence was coming out of me–he couldn’t hear me, and I couldn’t hear myself. He strode on up the hill towards his home, even though I was fumbling for the door to open it and almost panicking about getting out and calling to him, but there was no sound.
I woke up with a slight heart beat, and feeling pretty sad.
I also knew it was a dream of course, and sort of fascinated with the scene. Aren’t dreams incredible? So vivid!
So my mind was actually playing a made-up movie, and I was having a reaction physically in my feelings within the body.
The fascinating thing about dreams is you already know absolutely they are not true, but the body is nevertheless still reacting. This shows how the body responds, fully present to the story, fully a believer.
What’s funny is the mind doesn’t discriminate. It watches a movie, has a dream, makes up things all day (and all night apparently) and is a brilliant creative.
It doesn’t really care if you like it or not.
The mind doesn’t seem to pull from all the pictures and data and apply ONLY what’s for your own pleasure, apparently.
We all know what it’s like to see visions of dire outcomes, disturbing options, terribly frightening results.
We get scared, anxious, sad, lonely, angry or irritated about things that happened in the past. Even though the incident is over, it’s haunting us. We keep going back to it.
Then mind also goes to work on how to fix it and have alternate options, how to resolve it, how to change so it never happens again. It’s chewing on this predicament, wondering how to approach it and manage it.
In any case, it does seem like the mind is randomly flitting about from thing to thing, working on all the problems you’ve ever encountered, or gnawing on just one.
It doesn’t always seem friendly, kind, supportive or useful.
WHAT TO DO??!
You probably already know what I’m going to say.
But here’s the thing; I can say it, but can we all actually DO it?
What “it” is…..is of course questioning the thoughts we’re believing are true. Pondering them more deeply instead of following the mind to the next creation.
Doing The Work! The most powerful, useful, profound meditation on stories I’ve ever encountered.
Where we begin is pretty easy, really. We begin with the effects of our stories, pictures, dreams, images, memories: our FEELINGS.
In my dream I felt sadness. Distance, loss, inability to communicate, desperation even, grief, disappointment.
When I really sit with that dream snippet, that little movie in my mind, I notice how dreadfully sad I felt to not be able to reach my former husband. This was perhaps true in our marriage, and then when he said he didn’t want to be married anymore, then through the divorce, and sometimes in the relationship we then had as loving co-parents to our children for the past twelve years.
So I sit with the feeling, paused, and feel it without running from it–sometimes even more strongly than if I got up out of bed and went on with my day.
That first part of The Work appears to take some pause and willingness to look at something disturbing. The feelings might grow instead of diminish.
The only reason I’ve become so willing to be with uncomfortable feelings is because I know the place I can go if I look very closely, and the immense relief of wondering what it’s like without my story.
Who would I be without my belief “I can’t reach him”?
But it seems so true. He’s not here anymore physically, he’s gone. (Although, not true–he’s very much alive in my mind).
Without the belief I can’t reach him? Even from before, when he was alive, or from the more distant past when we were in each other’s company much more often….
….who would I be without the concept that I can’t reach him?
Amazing. I notice a small light of relief from that story.
A spark of awareness of not having all the answers about what “reaching” someone looks like. How do I know that reaching him is not happening? Maybe it is.
Most important, though, is that without the belief, suddenly the feelings of disappointment or failure or desperation are way reduced. It’s more like “huh”….interesting.
Turning the thought around: I can’t reach myself in this situation. He can’t reach me. I CAN reach him.
Could all these turnarounds be possible? Can I find examples of each one?
I can’t reach myself: In the moment I woke up, I’m in a dream, not here in reality in my cozy bed on planet earth in the quiet morning. I failed to notice the safety, kindness and support of this moment.
He can’t reach me: My vision of him is he’s not even caring or noticing or trying. But can I know that’s true? My own story and barriers of hurt about him prevent him from reaching me. We had wonderful conversations when he knew he was dying, especially one a few months before on the phone, where he expressed his great appreciation for me. Funny how I slide right by that one, to keep the story of abandonment alive.
I CAN reach him: why not? I can live this turnaround. I can do this work today, even if it came out of a dream I already knew wasn’t “true”. I can write him a letter. I can talk to him out loud right now, like I talk to my dad who died so many years ago. It could be just as true that I can reach him as I can’t.
I find this kind of work can’t be done unless I write this out, or sit with other people to investigate and feel and wonder.
I am very introverted in my daily life (so I say) but my best and most wonderful work that’s deep, honest, allowing is with other people. Like you.
This work just wouldn’t be the same without others. It’s strange how much connection it creates, how connection with others even appears to be required to experience a depth in this work–even when I’m such a quiet, private person much of the time.
It’s like the inside comes to the outside. We’re looking, noticing, feeling and being with the internal world, and through this vulnerability of exposure, we find strength.
Thanks for the journey today, and for all your comments and reading and connection and replies over the years or months or weeks you’ve been a part of Grace Notes.
And if it seems like time to gather in real physical form to do and share The Work, then come join me and amazing others in questioning troubling stories this autumn: October 17-21.
What a beautiful adventure to go on, like the band of unlikely characters in the Lord of The Rings. Off we go into the scary or sad realms of our inner lives, and take them through the four questions, beginning with “is it true?”
If financial resources are the only thing holding you back, please don’t hesitate to write with what you can offer and we’ll see if it’s possible.
Rooms to stay onsite are still available (a glorious king sized bed upstairs, and a queen size cozy room on the lower level). Write to ask. Plenty of room for commuters.
Participants receive 12 credits for those in ITW, or 27 CEUs for mental health practitioners through the Washington State Society for Clinical Social Work.
Learn more about the retreat (and sign up) here.
“Phenomenal. Grace’s style and skill are so gentle yet clearly leading each person and the group through the process. I have a new understanding of an experience in childhood I’ve been bitter about for my entire life. I’m not sure where it’s going, but it’s good.”
“I came to retreat from across the country because I knew I needed a few days instead of 90 minutes in a teleclass to understand this–it just wasn’t clicking and more in my head than in my body. I was right. I get it now. I can’t thank you enough.”
“I’ve never gone through an entire Judge Your Neighbor worksheet before. It was agonizing–haha. But profound. That situation has come up in my life many times, even with different people or players who reminded me of eachother. I feel like a boulder lifted off my shoulders for the first time in 30 years.”
“When I came to retreat I was so scared, you would have thought I was traveling to the moon. I never left my kids before. That person who first came no longer exists. I’m different now, and so grateful. I love The Work.”
Join me in Seattle with the small group (max 16) who gather to share in this extraordinary journey of bringing our stories to understanding, and rest. Read more and sign up here. If you have questions, just hit reply to this email.