And so began four and half days of rediscovering the creative, joyful, ME.
I believe at this moment you should listen to the music and then read the rest of this. Quick, go click on the YouTube link. I want you to feel this. I'll wait...
As I mentioned 10 years ago (Thursday, that's a retreat joke), I read about this retreat, followed along waiting for the sign up, and then absolutely had to be in on it! Why?
Writing: something I think I do fairly well, but certainly something I can always improve upon, facilitated by Jen Louden. I mean seriously, what wasn't to love? The woman herself is a dynamo of joy and strength and truth telling.
Photography: something I don't do very well because: 1) I forget to bring a camera, 2) I forget there's a camera on my phone, or 3) I can't be bothered to take a picture because I am participating in the event. The good fortune to be able to learn that EVERYDAY life experiences are art from an award winning, professional photographer, Tracey Clark, was perfect!
Yoga: something I am SO glad is called a practice, because that is what it takes. Practice, practice and more practice. Can I tell you just how awesome it is to hear the instructions in a New Zealand accent from the renowned Zen Peacekeeper herself, Marianne Elliot. Her movements are grace and beauty and a treat for the eyes to watch. Plus, when she dances, she radiates from within to the outside. It is a sight to see.
The combined creatvity of these three women made it so there were special handmade, heartfelt touches everywhere we looked. They said, "Hi. Welcome. It's fantastic to have you here. Stay. Breathe. Be. Joy awaits you."
It began with the bear hug from Jen as you walked into the dining hall, to the calm that follows Marianne everywhere she goes, to Tracey's complete enthusiasm for life. You knew, without a shadow of a doubt, you were in for a great time.
And then there were the women. From ALL over this vast great country, as well as Canada, Switzerland, New Zealand and England - enjoying the beauty of my neck of the woods. Witnessing autumn in all her glory and overlooking my beloved Hudson River.
AH (!), the women. Oh. My. Word. The beautiful women. With different stories, and different paths, and different reasons for being there, and yet, all with the same exact reason for being there. To find our Creative Joy.
I discovered an interesting thing about myself while there. In order to find the joy, I had to experience pain and sadness and anger. I needed to cry. I needed to laugh and I needed to feel the love. In a room with more than 40 women it felt intimate. It was like a womb. We were safe. We were valued. We were validated. There was laughter and chocolate. There were signs posted throughout the Meditation Hall with words to uplift us and ultimately create smaller, more intimate groups from the many. I had sat in a chair with a card with the word breathe on it. That introduced me to my intimate group within the womb.
We listened. We wept. We nodded. We hugged. We kissed. We were, as I called us, Soul Sisters of Breath. Love across cyber space to Jenny, Judy Anne, Karen and Susan. xoxo You KNOW how I love you all.
We danced. I missed two days and took the photo above from my room feeling equally sad I was missing it and at the same time, so unbelievably grateful to be able to watch the graceful, silent ballet taking place before my very eyes.
I practiced meditation and yoga. There is a legitimate reason it is called practice. It is hard. It is easy. It is SO good for you. It is the perfect way to calm your overrun mind. It is a lifelong practice. I am still in the infancy stage.
I chanted. There's a sentence I didn't think I'd ever write. Click HERE to go to the chant we did.
I took pictures. Lots and lots of pictures. I took over 200 - really? Me? In just four days. I was a picture taking fool. Couple that with the Instagram instruction and I was like a kid in the candy shop. Well, except for the short time my "fucking iPhone was stuck on video." Thank goodness for Google, even while on a retreat.
And I wrote. And I wrote. And I wrote some more. And I listened to the pieces of the other women. And I cried. And I laughed.
I met Lain, who left a day early. I truly felt like a part of me left when she did. I suspect we will be friends, at the very least in cyber land, for a long time. She is that special.
I met Rachel, young, beautiful, vibrant, amazing, wonderful. Tapping into Creative Joy eons before so many of us do.
I met Steph, who is forging a path for herself that is so awesome and brave I marvel at her and send her blessings for the most exciting times to come.
I met Marnie, who has a compassion and kindness that is deep in her soul.
I met Aggy whose, "Good morning Maggie" filled me with joy each day as she said it. And, who sent me a Facebook message this morning with those same words; they filled me with happiness and made my eyes fill up.
I met Jane whose artwork and smile light up a room, whose generous spirit and soul embody creative joy.
I got to meet Sue Ann, who I know from Facebook and now I know in real life.
I met Lisa and Linda within minutes of arriving as we all schlepped our bags up to the third floor while realizing that maybe we packed a little too much.
I met Danielle who hails from New Zealand but has landed in NYC for now. A gorgeous soul from the inside out.
I met Alison and Jen and Erin and Lesley and Toby and Gail and Wendy and Christina and Annie and Isabel and Holly and Cindy and Dena and Kirsten and Linda and Joyce and Sharron and Zee and three different Kathryn's, I think, all spelled differently.
I reconnected with Anne! I loved meeting her wife Connie AND, they live but 20 minutes away from me.
I know I am going to miss someone and for that I feel awful - so I send you ALL love and light and blessings!
I took pictures of the beautiful women. The picture of Sue Ann on the bottom right remains one of my very favorites. I saw Jen standing very close by to me and I needed, utterly needed to hug her. To thank her. To send quiet wishes of gratitude and love. This is her lifework and she does it spectacularly.
As I left the field, I connected with Masha, who said, "My legs feel like they are going to give out on me." I replied, "Well then, I will hold you up," and we walked like lovers towards the front where we blew bubbles for everyone else as they returned. It. Was. Magical.
The closing ceremony was one of the most uplifting, spiritual, generous events I have ever been privy to being a part of. There was not a dry eye to be found; all I could do was marvel at being at exactly the right place, with exactly the right people, at exactly the right time.
My deepest gratitude, love, admiration, and sincere thanks to everyone who participated in the Creative Joy Retreat 2013. You women are astounding, mystical, beautiful, worthy, amazing people and I am honored to have shared time with you. Jen, Marianne and Tracey ~ you each took home a piece of my heart and I yours. I am profoundly and deeply moved to have been a part of this. My love from NY to each of you. xo
PS - YOU. Yes you. Find yourself a retreat and do this FOR yourself. You'll live longer. I mean it.