Six Things I Learned On Retreat

“The capacity to be alone is the capacity to love. It may look paradoxical to you, but it is not. It is existential truth: only those people who are capable of being alone are capable of love, of sharing, of going into the deepest core of the other person – without possessing the other, without becoming dependent on the other, without reducing the other to a thing, and without becoming addicted to the other. They allow the other absolute freedom, because they know that if the other leaves, they will be as happy as they are now. Their happiness cannot be taken by the other, because it is not given by the other.” ~ OSHO, Being In Love

 I went on a ten-day self-led artist’s retreat in Connecticut at my friend’s reconverted barn. Below us lived the master tenants – five rescued wild horses. Above was the main floor and one spiral staircase up was a loft. There were four of us on the retreat with varying desires for the time – to follow, to withdraw, to create, to dissect, to work, to flow. And so, each to his or her own.

Casual and focused, the time was a welcomed container to unwind and uncover my own heartsong, my personal melody of a moment. If I were feeling lost or quiet or contemplative instead of creative would that be enough? Turns out, it was. This was a very different experience from the meditation retreats I’ve done in the past where the schedule and structure was designed to roast you from the inside out. But here, I felt free to be bored, to let myself drift and see where (or when) I surfaced without it being a thing.

Here’s a few reminders that came in those ten days.

1.     You’re allowed to behave differently.

With nothing to be accountable for and nothing to prove, I naturally woke up early each morning. I would rise between 5 and 5:30 am, refreshed and ready to meet the day. Although I was the first one up in the house, the world had been ready for hours. The plants and the birds, the horses, the bugs didn’t mind that I was just getting to the party. Waking up early made a subtle shift in my relationship to food, to time, to people, and to space.

2.     No ambition can be a goal in itself.

I had absolutely zero desire to lead. Whether it was a meal, a practice, or a conversation, I wasn’t interested in orchestrating a thing. What a relief. As the first-born and a Capricorn, leading comes naturally. Too naturally. But here, I gave it up for the week. I told myself, no one needed saving. And if I did cook a meal (and there were many creations I made) it was an impromptu offering, an expression of creativity and not a commitment fulfilled. It was liberating to feel the difference.

3.     Eating from the garden changes you.

Vegetables took on a whole new meaning for me when I could pick them myself from the garden daily. And eggs became holy when I went into the coop, basket in hand, to see what had been laid that morning. I felt blessed to be surrounded by so much natural abundance.

4.     There is medicine in solitude.

As much as I love the company and rich conversations, it takes something out of me. Solo time is where I get it all back.

5.     Clarity does come.

I’ve been working on a project for years thinking that I just wasn’t working hard enough or wasn’t focused enough which is why its taken so long. But here, being in a space dedicated to a more natural calling, I realized the truth. It’s not a project that I felt compelled to create. I set out to do it because of ongoing encouragement – but it was misdirected work.  So I let myself drop the project (for now) and pick up something new, present, a topic I was dying to talk about.

6.     In silence, love grows deeper and space gets bigger.

Each day we were in silence from sun up to 2 pm. The home was a loft style space so, privacy came in the form of a quiet. And because breakfast and lunch were independent, there never felt a need to engage in small talk when we would pass each other by. I could become close to my own voice and even closer to my own felt sense and when the silence ended, it often continued for several more hours because it just felt so damn good.

Although the retreat is over, in many ways its still continuing. I’m closer to my intuitive process, to the small ways I let others direct my impulses, and to being able to walk away from noise. Now, I just need to start growing my vegetables and learning how to raise a few chickens in my backyard.

is the founder and CEO of Earthbody. She is a writer, artist, therapist, and coach. You can reach Denmo This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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