The retreat center was located on the water overlooking a particularly lovely setting in the Puget Sound. Our vista was the westward, Olympic Mountains view and the weather was hot with crisp blue skies each day.
The nature of the retreat was about getting some clarity around who I am, what makes me tick and then, celebrating that essence, that spirit. Sounds hokey, right? I thought so, too. My initial thought was, "Yeah great, but so what? I don't care about my Being-ness....I care about knowing my Doing-ness."
But what I realized, in retrospect (and it took me five days to 'get' this) - was that cutting to the doing-ness part is a little like putting the cart before the horse. I needed to get at the animal of my Spirit. And incidentally, as I think about that - the animal of my spirit - the animal that comes to mind for me is raven. But that's neither here nor there.
I can't lie and say the retreat was all fun and games. We were a group of 17 in communitas away from our larger communities, and as is the case with throwing any 17 people together into a relatively controlled environment, we were all vastly different in our worldviews, demeanors and energies. And yet what connected us was Love, arguably the only true Real thing that exists. And therein lies the magic and beauty of connection.
The retreat was also about finally stepping into my own shoes. Think Cinderella and the glass slipper minus the fairy prince and imagined fantasy life thereafter. I can't tell you how massively powerful that ownership and affirmation of Beingness is. All I can say is wow. It's huge, huge, priceless stuff. Finally daring to look deep enough to examine who I am, how I show up in the world, what I value most, and what my role in the larger tribe of life is. It was hard, freakin' work, let me tell you and for awhile I doubted if I had dug deep enough.
But finally, finally, self-acknowledgement came. It came to me late on the last night of the program. It spoke to me in code, actually. I went to bed that final evening with an incredibly sore and constricted throat. And it wasn't until I was able to process this in retrospect the next day, that I finally got it. The essence of who I am, since time immemorial, is about voice.
Prior to that, I had spent much of the weekend focused on what I perceived others might think of or define me to be. Was I too this or that? Was I maybe not enough that or the other thing? It was driving me crazy - most especially when coupled with my rejection filter. And more importantly, it was inhibiting me from doing the real excavation work. Once I stopped doing that and acknowledged and fully embodied that it is none of my business what others think of me, then and only then did I finally get to the real work. I got alone with me and I got real.
Who I am is Inukshuk Speaks, which is esoteric-speak for a wealth of things. I chose to be visual and spiritually totemic in identifying my essence because well duh....I'm a visual and spiritual kinda gal.
An Inukshuk, for the non-Canadians in the audience, is an Inuit stone figure, akin to a mountain cairn, that looks eerily human in shape. It is a sacred show and teller, of sorts. It serves to mark and commemorate the site of key tribal events and it also acts as a silent navigator, guide and way-shower for those lost upon the roads less travelled in Canada's netherland Arctic.
It's no accident I should choose this. I've always been hugely attracted to all things northern and Eskimo. My maiden name is Quinn and my favourite song growing up was The Mighty Quinn (when Quinn the Eskimo gets here, everybody's gonna jump for joy). I used to sing it whenever we played Eskimo on the playground as kids (what else was there to do on a minus forty day in northern Alberta, I ask of you?). One of the things I miss most about living in Alberta is being able to see and be dazzled by the Northern Lights.
But the affinity doesn't stop there. I am, if nothing else, the voice of truth and justice in the dark, the epitome of the road less travelled, and I am the commemorator in my family of all things sacred and profane. Being a guide or navigator is what I've always done in life ~ it has just taken many forms, is all.
I was one of two college class valedictorians honoured with being able to commemorate our time by cracking a joke or two. I have always worked in tourism ~ doing destination tour guiding, hotel show 'n tell site inspections and business consulting on next-step kinds of directions. My business name - how's this for a little northern altitude/attitude syncronicity? - is Summitup. And my current role, a la this particular era of my life, is as Speed Demon Driver and Satellite Radio Controller of the Honda Pilot, as well as Chief Cheerleader and Guidance Counsellor to the small Schmidts.
Anyways, I share this long diabribe - not because it's profound but because it's affirming. I have been running from affirmation all my life. Affirmations scare the living hell out of me, I guess because there's so much power in affirmation and because I've heard through the grapevine that they work. It's like being the ventriloquist's puppet who after a long time lying crumpled and lifeless on the shelf, comes to life when the breath of the great Animator breathes sound through the pipes. Scary stuff. Amazing schmidt happens (my nose no longer grows and I stop punishing myself and running off with the burlesque crowd), when I finally speak my truth and claim Who I am.
I finally owned a week or two back that I am here to Speak and give voice to my essence as Still navigator and way-shower.
After trying on so many odd pairs of shoes, I finally found the One(s) that fit and I feel like I've finally found that missing piece of me that got lost with my placental matter at birth.My wise-sage daughter, who is all of 8, asked me when I got back Sunday night ~ after having lived on much laughter, many tears, and very little sleep during the course of five days that felt more like a year and the journey of a thousand miles ~ "what was it like, Mommy?"
And I said, "Well...it was a little like being thrown into an old-fashioned wringer-style washing machine and then chucked into a dryer on gentle cycle with a bunch of warm, fuzzy towels." I'm not sure she got it and that's OK. I did. Finally!
Which brings me to my final thought. This spring, during a similar but more profoundly cathartic retreat, I wrote these words to myself: "I live happily ever after on a moment-by-moment basis, and die erect like the trees to the same ~ death will kill me standing up."
Those words meant several things to me - that happiness lies in the Now, that all life is rebirth, and that my actions will pen my epitaph. But now, in light of my new self-vision, I can honestly attest that "death will kill me standing up" has renewed meaning and vitality for me.
I now see the ground upon which I stand ~ where I have lived and upon where I shall die. It is where I have always stood. My legs no longer feel shakey when I stand there.
I now understand the notion of be-longing. It's that primordial place I've longed to Be. It's my solid ground and my stake in the world and I am eternally grateful that I got to do this soul-search before I died, instead of croaking and then getting called in for death detention into the office of The Maker, who would have sternly asked me, "It's a little late now, Missy, but do you have any idea or inkling of Who you were supposed to Be?" and then having to mumble in shame, "no friggin' clue, oh Hallowed Universe ~ please, do tell!"
The End but to be continued...as always.