For many years I have gone on Spiritual Retreat during the month of August. The photo above, taken at a sacred pilgrimage site in India with my roommate, coach and poet S’Marie Young, captures the radiant inner light that being on retreat unfailingly brings. This year, August is quite different. It’s a time of vigorous business advance and fierce (yes, I used the word fierce) commitment to stepping up to offer the wisdom I have nurtured. August is filled with timelines and action items.
How do we bring the energy and lessons of retreat into a time of advance? One answer is cultivating the virtue of Patience. Patience with ourselves as we engage full out. Patience with outcomes and goals. Patience with emergence of creative insight. Patience as we allow things to unfold in a more magnificent way than we are able to foresee and faith that this will indeed happen. Deep faith that there is enough time. The physical embodiment of Patience requires breathing deeply and allowing time to become comfortable before proceeding with any action.
That is the essence of the Retreat to Advance stamp imagery below. Performing the actions that make us available for the sunrise, patiently waiting with full faith and then, when it does rise, drinking in its beauty.
I love this stamp. It reminds me of my years of competitive sailboat racing. I loved the physical challenge, the mental intensity, the teamwork and the beauty of being on the water. On the racecourse I learned that the journey of life is won by those who sense the shifts in the wind and sea and boldly respond, changing course as needed to reach their destination. Unconditional love, forgiveness and compassion are both my bold response and destination. Here’s how these three got connected together.
December 2007. I am in India, down on my knees in a sacred shrine, the warm breezes, gently blowing the scent of jasmine through the open windows. I touch my head to the cool floor before the marble tomb of the saint who’s spirit inhabits this place. I silently pray a monumental life shifting prayer, “Forgive me for whatever it is I’m not doing right. Show me how to worship you. Can we have some kind of relationship, please? ” I silently walk around to the back of the tomb, to the majestic photo and gaze into his eyes, which are sparkling with love. I hear his response, a voice in my head. “Let’s start by you letting me love you just the way you are.” An intoxicating wave of indescribably intense unconditional love washes through me.
Fast forward 2 months to a handwritten scrawled question and answer in my journal: How do I love myself unconditionally? Self Forgiveness. Plain and simple.
Last week the final thread gets woven in. I get to hear His Holiness the Dalai Lama speak. His theme, Compassion. Having empathy for what another is going through and also taking action to ease their suffering.
A mental light bulb flashes! It’s not so easy for me to get over there and have empathy and unconditional love for you, if I’m hiding behind the wall of my wounded ego silently beating myself up with negative self judgments, projecting them on to you. I can’t get over there with you, compassionately, intimately connected until I forgive myself. Try some self forgiveness this week for the sake of you and those you love. Forgive whatever is standing in the way of you loving you, exactly the way you are. Treat yourself to a blended cocktail of unconditional self love, forgiveness and compassion. Let me know how it impacts your journey. Cheers!
Context. “The Road” is a 10 ft wide lane of crumbling blacktop that winds along next to the ashram. OK…here we go:
14 teenage boys on 4 bikes.
A crowd of exuberant Indian children skipping and jabbering away in Hindi, in the night…yelling “Hello” in English. (I’m in silence…so all I can do is smile and nod…which makes it worse as I start laughing and can’t stop. )
A little horse drawn surrey with tiny horses and a whole family packed in the back.
An endless supply of motorcycles, rickshaws, really loud buses and fantastically painted trucks all honking and swerving together with beautiful sari clad women, babies and children hanging precariously everywhere you look. Overloaded? What is overloaded? (Yes, these people are so stunning, I feel like I’m on a movie set.)
Sacred Cows, of course.
A wagon pulled by oxen, again packed with beautiful smiling families.
The flower garland vendors who won’t give up their quest to have me purchase and are convinced I haven’t paid for the one they threw around my neck when I wasn’t paying attention yesterday. Rather than going after me for the rupee’s they have targeted my roommate to pay, who has to dodge them every time she crosses now too.
The guards who are quite handsome in a vibrant sort of way, I do feel safe and protected …and a little light headed in their presence.
An old sadhu covered in Kum Kum who looked into my eyes and for several hours I’m seeing stars and galaxies circling around in my head. And speaking of stars, what is up with the tall smiling, completely amazing European businessman?
A young Indian man, with a wooden box on his head that I am sure has a snake in it.
A parade of chanting pilgrims, complete with megaphones, cymbals, drums and their own teacher carried forward on a garland clad truck.
A truckload of chickens and last but not least….at 3:45am, there is no one but us meditators crossing the road. The end.
I’m retreating at the beach on Whidbey Island with Peg Marckworth, the wonder-personal branding consultant www.marckworth.com and Tucker the wonder-dog. We’re watching the water sparkle in the sun and the first bright green leaves on the rose bushes emerge. It’s been 3 months since my retreat in India. Since I have returned change has been constant. India called forth growth in my life and business, just like the sun is calling forth the wildly alive spring green that is emerging here everywhere.
It’s been magical to witness my outer reality, trying to catch up to the wise inner Knowing that my time in India unvieled. Sometimes it’s been elegant and profound…sometimes it’s been clumsy and physically intense. Big surprise! I expected joyful bliss. It’s been all that AND it’s been heart wrenching, chaotic and messy. Gentle compassion flows through me with silent, peaceful ripples. Often followed by the diesel engine style love that rumbles through with powerful might, expelling every trace of limitation or illusion of control. My heart is 10 times bigger. I’ve noticed that the sorrow of my lifetime has mysteriously gone missing, healed without a trace. No band-aids, no scars remain.
My “Pilgrimage to the Heart” via India was the beginning of Retreat to Advance 2008. It has not been a linear process where I retreated, meditated, had inspiration….then came back, reflected, quietly made a plan and began moving forward. It was more like a tornado of pure Love energy blasted through after which I picked myself up and asked. “What the heck?” Nothing looks or feels the way it once did. Everything is changing from the inside out. I’m wildly, passionately happy and quite proud that I’ve made it this far. I still miss everything about India. My imagination sees, feels, tastes and smells it in sensual detail every day. I’m told that this “missing” is the energy of divine Love. Crazy.
Bottom line. Retreat, surrender to Love, gather your circle of support, be kind to yourself, fasten your seat-belt and get ready to Advance.