Prologue: A joy retreat

I wrote this in January of 2012 in a different format and I am adding it here so it is a part of this collection.

“Congratulations, you’ve won!”, said a voice from my computer, taking both my client and me very much by surprise. It was half way through the session, I was working on her feet, and we were both feeling calm and soothed by pretty piano music. From the corner of the room a man’s cheerful voice announced, “Congratulations, You’ve won!”. That was all he said. She burst out laughing, and I was so relieved by her reaction, feeling somewhat mortified that I had let something like that happen in her session.  Then we both thought about it a little bit and decided that was one of the coolest things that could have happened. But what does it mean, “I’ve won.”?

I think for me it means I have found “love and happiness” like what’s his name sings about.  The real thing.  I don’t even know where to begin.  It started longer ago, but everything really solidified during my retreat last week.  In the end of 2011, as I was looking forward to a winter of hibernating, playing, making art, resting, etc.  I reflected on previous years where I had also had that intention, and noticed that they had not often gone the way that I had planned.  This thing would come up, or that thing, and I would never actually get around to the art or the reading or writing, or whatever, so I decided to schedule it all in – for the whole winter, and then I would know there was time set aside for this or that hibernation endeavor.  The only reason it really worked and didn’t make me feel too claustrophobic, or hemmed in was that I have learned that plans are made in order to have something to work towards, but that they are made to be bendable and broken, re-shaped and re-directed.  I also decided I might as well schedule in a week long retreat while the winter was wide open, or better yet, make it two!  So I did.  And last week was the first one, and it was the most amazing week of my life, so far.  Here are a few of the things that I wrote to people about how I spent my days, and specifically about the book I have been reading that made it such an amazing time:

“It (the book) has turned my life right-side-up in the last week.  In a way it is similar to the experience I had at Landmark Education, but with a lot more velocity, less stress, effort, righteousness and inadvertent pressure.  This book is all about rest, play, and finding Joy, and the “technologies of magic” to use along the way.  It is called Finding Your Way in a Wild New World, by Martha Beck, and I suggest that you order it from Amazon as soon as you possibly can.  You might as well get two copies, cause you are going to want all of your friends to read it, but you aren’t going to want to give up your copy.”

“I started (writing) my book today, totally shackles off.  In fact, fingers with wings.”

” It (the book, Wild New World) had me laughing out loud, and often.  In the last week I have become one of those people who will randomly burst out in debilitating laughter, at myself, or just for the fun of it.  I have also had another insane round of body un-winding that has left me with no current aches and pains, and jaw and cranial bones that are still trying to set themselves straight.  I’ve been going on two-hour long adventure walks in my new Vibram shoes, and have started writing three different books.  I have also done a whole lot of reading, making sauerkraut, going through my stuff and throwing out junk, writing letters, and dancing around the house.  The wood stove and I have become pretty good friends, and this morning a young deer and I had a staring contest. ”

I think the coolest thing about the retreat was that it wasn’t a meditation retreat, or a silent retreat, or a writing retreat, or a work retreat – it was a joy retreat.  It was about finding the things that made me feel joyful. It was about resting and playing and resting and playing and continuing to repeat the cycle until…well, I hope I never stop.  For the first time in a long time, if not never before, I went at my life full speed ahead.  I didn’t have to put the breaks on… I just went for it.  The feeling is almost indescribable and so different from the way I had been living life for most of my life.  Finally in the last year or so, I had been able to identify the feeling, and noticed how much energy it seemed to be burning, like driving your car around with the emergency brake already on – in case there was an emergency and you needed to stop suddenly.  It reminds me of a metaphor that one of my teachers at IIN shared about how treating disease that has already wreaked havoc on the body is sort of like beginning to dig a well once you are already thirsty.  Well, this scenario is the opposite.  It is like spending all day, every day, digging wells wherever you are in case at some point you get thirsty.  There is not much time or energy to do anything else. It is obviously an insane way to drive, much less live life, and I was beginning to feel similarly insane by living my life in that way.

I have found a way to release the brakes, and am now flying through the air, balancing on the wings of love and joy, and have even been able to remember to breathe and open my eyes wide enough to see the view from up here.  It is indescribable.  As in, regular words can’t be used to describe the way it feels to break free from the bonds of “should” and “have to” and soar around on the wings of “play”, “rest”, “freedom” and “love”.  Care to join me?

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