Seeing In the Dark
I just returned from hosting my first ever Women’s Nature Retreat in the gorgeous mountains of Colorado.
While this was the first time I facilitated a retreat, I’d never even been on an organized women’s retreat before. The closest I ever came was in early 2008 when I went to Mexico to clear my head and connect to ME during a time of tumult in my marriage.
While I was there, I stayed in a remote hut, wrote every day, meditated, did yoga, and spent lots of time with Mother Nature.
I learned to “see in the dark” during that time.
Each evening, I’d walk a long path from my hut to a gathering place where visitors would enjoy the daily meals. The walk was in an unfamiliar forest on unfamiliar terrain in the dark. I used a flashlight to guide my way.
One evening, I noticed my heart pounding as I walked on the uphill path. It was as if I was afraid of the dark, moving as quickly as I could to get to the dining space. I heard a strong inner voice say to me, “Stop! Turn off your flashlight and be with the darkness.”
I paused, turned off the light, and allowed myself to be right there on the middle of the forest path, in the middle of the darkness.
Before long, my eyes adjusted. I immediately noticed so much around me.
With the previous artificial light, I could only see what was right in front of me. Everything on the periphery was completely dark. Yet without the artificial light, there was just enough moonlight and attunement within my own being for me to see the path clearly and continue moving forward.
After that evening, I never used the flashlight again, and learned to trust my own inner guidance system.
Watch a video of me sharing how I learned to see in the dark below.
A Source of Anxiety
Seeing in the dark goes beyond finding our way without a flashlight. There are so many ways in which we keep ourselves blinded to all that’s available to us while we’re busy focused on one thing, in one way.
We ignore the periphery, removing ourselves from the opportunity to see from many perspectives. We disregard our inner guidance system in favor of being shown what to do or where to go via outer influences.
We end up unintentionally adding to the feeling of being in the dark, even while struggling to find the light.
No wonder we feel so much anxiety in today’s world!
Anxiety comes from a feeling that we’re being “choked off” from something. Indeed, isn’t that what’s happening when we limit our vision to only what’s illuminated from outside of ourselves? We become “choked off” from the great wisdom and knowing that we have within.
When we allow ourselves to become still, and allow our senses to adjust so that we can see and hear from within, so much more is revealed to us.
We might see new paths in front of us. There may be new relationships to connect with on our journey. We may even discover that what was once so unclear or unknown, often a source of significant anxiety, becomes clear and more manageable to us.
Escape or Recalibration
Unfortunately, retreats often serve as an escape from the world, or a way to check out from all that feels uncomfortable in our lives.
Our natural tendency is to move away from what’s uncomfortable, rather than toward it.
For me, while I didn’t go on retreats, I tended to pick up and move jobs or addresses whenever things felt uncomfortable. I figured that moving away from what didn’t feel good would bring the solution.
Of course that was not at all the case. The challenges were within me, and no amount of moving or new jobs or degrees or certifications was going to make me more comfortable.
I’ve noticed many women going on numerous retreats, or enrolling in an endless list of courses and trainings, but never really settling down to integrate their experiences or bring back the treasures to their communities.
My version of this was books. I always felt like I needed to read more and learn more in order to create my first courses. Of course we all need to learn and generate experience in order to offer something from that learning and experience to others.
But there comes a time when more books, retreats, and learning only serve to stop us from getting out there with our own voice.
Women’s voices have been stunted for millennia, and it’s natural that we might get caught in the trap of believing we’re not ready to share ourselves with the world.
We must stop hiding behind the idea that we need to know, learn, be or understand more before sharing our gifts and voices with the world.
Bringing Back the Treasure
The journey of the Soul includes the process of bringing the treasures we find through our travels back into our lives and digesting and integrating them for our growth, as well as sharing them with others.
At the end of my recent Women’s Retreat while listening to the women share their feelings about their experience, what brought me to tears was hearing some of them saying how they would bring the ideas and teachings back to their friends and community.
I very intentionally created an experience that was not simply a bunch of ways to pamper ourselves, escape, or stay immersed in lofty ideas. Though we certainly had lots of wonderful self-care and nourishment.
I created the retreat to be a place where women could gather, connect in community, learn something new, AND have very specific tools and practices to keep them connected to the learning and their newly awakened inner wisdom after returning home.
Too many retreats and conferences are so amazing in the moment, but fail to consider the bumpy re-entry that often happens when one returns to “real life” after the fact.
We need regular reminders of our new learnings, inspirations to activate new practices, and connection with others to help us stay accountable.
For this reason, participants in my retreat received multiple practices, reminders, and inspiration to continue the deeper connection with their Inner Wisdom upon returning home. We also connected in a post-retreat online gathering, and already have a conversation scheduled for a couple of months from now to see how we’re all doing.
I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t take enough down time for myself, and I’m certainly not saying that retreats and learning conferences are a bad thing. In fact, having opportunities to step away from the world for a bit and rejuvenate is super important.
However, I also think it’s important that we ask ourselves if we’re participating to recalibrate ourselves and grow, bringing the treasures and practices back into the world upon our return, or if we’re simply escaping again and again, never really allowing ourselves the discomfort to expand into the fullness of our being.
The world needs what you have to offer.
Your learning, experience, and wisdom are the inner light that will guide you to the next steps in your life, if you’re willing to wrestle with them a bit until they’re fully embodied. Sharing with others is one way to embody them, but so is simply being with the discomfort that often comes with new realizations that arise with our new learning.
May we all find the strength to be with the discomfort of what’s revealed within us, allow it to recalibrate us, and share it through our actions and voices.