Rushing into a week-long meditation retreat last minute is not the usual pathway to relaxation for me—I much prefer to plan ahead.
However, this particular situation called for speed and spontaneity.
Allow me to explain.
It had been a fruitful year so far, 2016. From New Year’s Eve through the first two months of the year, I had nothing but exciting new opportunities and happenings. First, I met someone new—I suddenly had a new boyfriend for the first time in a long time. I was gushing and glowing everywhere I went. I was being asked to sing and perform in special events, my writing was getting published for the first time, and I was doing the ele-prenticeship with elephant journal. I was on the job search with lots of new and different opportunities, and I had been offered temporary full-time work at a local business that would help keep me afloat while seeking longer-term work.
I couldn’t have been happier.
Then in March, things fell apart.
My new boyfriend and I realized that while we were perfectly happy right now, our futures were probably not in alignment. This realization broke my heart suddenly and painfully. Not only was this person precious to me and our connection rare, but, it also had been years since I had these types of feelings with and for another person. I cried for a solid week after that, though we came to no definite decisions.
Then, the two most recent jobs that I had invested countless hours into pursuing finally came back to me with negative responses—they hired other people.
And then—the job that I had been working for full-time for the past month came to an end suddenly through no fault of my own.
This all happened in a period of about two weeks.
All of a sudden, I went from feeling full—almost uncomfortably full—to feeling bereft, lonely, poor, and frustrated at having to start the job search all over again after months of interviews and no-gos.
My mind and heart were all over the place. I was crying a lot. I lost my footing and my center.
I was worn out and knocked down.
All the while, before and during these weeks, a good friend of mine had been asking me if I wanted to attend a weekend retreat that he and his friends were hosting locally—a meditation retreat that included art, chanting and more.
It sounded wonderful, I told him, but I just had too much going on in my life at the moment. Plus, I would need special accommodations. Everything was total chaos and I’d have to wait until the last minute to decide.
My friend rebutted all my arguments and assured me that all my special needs would be met.
And yet I kept resisting.
I told myself that I needed the comfort of my own bed. That I needed to be at home. That I needed to be alone. That the people on the retreat might be egotistical or weird. That I just needed some quiet time.
I was neurotic and scared.
And then—I’m not sure exactly what changed. Maybe it was that I had cried all of the tears I could cry and still had no answers. Maybe it was that I wound up suddenly getting hired for a new writing job that would start the following Monday and thus wouldn’t have to job search. Or maybe it was that my boyfriend/maybe-not-boyfriend was going to be away all weekend anyway, so I there was not much for me to do or solve with him during that time.
“Just come,” my friend insisted.
And so I did.
But, going on the weekend retreat is not the big deal that I’m writing this blog about.
No—the big deal was that the evening I arrived, I got such a good feeling after the first hour or two from the open-heartedness of the people, the physical space of the retreat and the general yin/nurturing/loving atmosphere.
I found out that there was the option to stay for the entire week.
Then, I remembered I had to start work starting on that Monday. I couldn’t call my brand new boss who I hadn’t even met in person yet the Friday evening before I was supposed to start work and ask if I could start my job a week later!
I was discussing and debating this very question with a room full of 11 strangers—retreat participants and facilitators—who I had just met over the past two hours. There were about 20 minutes left before we were “going into silence” for the rest of the weekend (or week, if things panned out for me).
The moment to decide was now.
One wise older woman said, “You should just ask. They’ll say yes. And you want to know why? Because they want you to work there.”
I ran upstairs to my room, grabbed my cell phone, called my new employer, and asked how he would feel about me starting work a week later.
He said yes.
Suffice it to say, I excitedly ran downstairs to tell all of my new friends, “I’m staying!”
I hugged everybody with the reckless abandon and joy of a child. There was a feeling of mutual excitement and support everywhere. I felt so lucky.
What I realized during those first two hours at the retreat, after so much resistance leading up to it—was just how much I needed something for me. For my heart.
I had lost connection with myself, my center and my inspiration over the past few months. I had been becoming too dependent on circumstance and other people. I had been drowning in my own neurosis, fears and sorrow.
I needed to get my center back and connect with my self, or all of these other situations were going to continue to seem impossible.
I needed stillness. A routine. Ritual. Creativity. Community. Eleven amazing open-hearted people who were going to do all of this with me. In silence.
I needed to be in touch with my heart and inner being again.
This is a story about listening to your heart and nurturing it when you have the opportunity.
This is a blog about how when you decide to ask, all obstacles fall away.
This is a piece about believing you are worthy to give yourself what you need when you need it.
Because I am certain that there will be those of you who will say, “Hey, I can’t just up and leave—I have a job!” Or, “I have children!” Or, “I have a partner who I can’t just leave at a moment’s notice.”
Well, I have news for you—yes, you can.
After the initial excitement of my spontaneous decision wore off and I went up to my room at the end of that first evening, I realized that I had just decided to be off the grid for the next week but had packed only a weekend’s worth of stuff.
Did I feel uncomfortable? Yes.
Did I get severely anxious when I got no response from my boyfriend after telling him I would be out of touch for the next week with no notice? Sure did. I could barely sleep that night.
Did I have to write a million emails and texts to make sure that my week was going to be clusterf*ck-free? You betcha.
Did I have to take the risk of seeming flakey and unpredictable to my new employer by calling and ask if I could start work a week later? I did indeed.
But guess what—it all worked out, and I have never made a better choice.
What I finally realized after my first 24 hours at the retreat was that most of my initial resistance about going on the original weekend retreat was about my perceived inability to let go.
I was actually afraid to leave the daily grind of emails, texts, cell phones, Facebook, running around, job-searching, a new job that I wasn’t even sure I was excited about, boyfriend trouble and hustling to pay the bills.
I was addicted to stress because it had become my new normal.
I was afraid to check in with my own heart.
What strange creatures we humans are.
What obstacles or beliefs do you create that prevent you from giving yourself what you need?
What trips, retreats, vacations or gifts do you resist giving yourself under the guise of “now is not the time but maybe later when things calm down?”
Who do you think will be mad at you if you leave them behind to take care of yourself?
Take the time to ask yourself these questions and see if you think you are worth taking the risk to find out the answers in real time.
Work will be there waiting for you.
So will Facebook.
And so will everyone and everything else.
And remember my two friends’ great advice: “Just come.” And “Just ask.”
You won’t regret it.
Author: Rachel Leber
Editor: Emily Bartran
Photo: Lucía Puertas/Flickr