Quieting the mind, listening to my heart
Today I write from a beautiful cabin in the woods on the edge of Lake Superior – my place of personal retreat for the long weekend, thanks to the generosity of some cool people. I decided to take a three-day time out from life to quiet my mind and listen to my heart.
This is not easy to do. It requires detaching from the outside world — including all technology — and sitting quietly…just you and your every thought. It takes time to quiet the outside voices long enough to hear your own. To get in touch with your deepest desires. But when you do, well, it’s pretty remarkable.
For me, this exercise has become crucial to reaching my full potential and living from the center of my equation. If you haven’t tried a solo retreat, I highly recommend it. I promise you will emerge more self-aware, grounded, intentional, focused, and refreshed. I now schedule a solo retreat at least twice per year for a minimum of a few days.
This one was overdue and that had become quite apparent in my day-to-day life. Things have been hectic, almost chaotic, and I’ve been fighting to stay in my equation on a daily basis. Like most of you reading this, I felt the tug of people and things in my life clamoring for my attention and the to-do list growing, along with the “shoulds.” I noticed that I was procrastinating on some big personal decisions – perhaps out of lack of time and focus on the right priorities. Perhaps out of hidden fear. Regardless, these were all signs.
My biggest clue was last week when I watched the Missy Higgins’ video, “Everyone’s Waiting,” and cried through the entire thing. It was a therapeutic cry but nonetheless it was a sign that I was overdue for Lori time. It was if her words were written exactly for me. “Everyone’s waiting, but it’s getting harder to hear what my heart is saying.” … “I hear that answers appear when you just stand still…but make it all, how do you make it all stop…when everyone’s waiting.”
And so, from my place of retreat, I write. Yes, this blog is for me.
Day one. It was cold, rainy, cloudy and foggy all day – just like my brain when I arrived at the cabin. I struggled more than usual to let go of the “shoulds” and the “to dos.” The outside voices were winning. I felt out of sorts and had trouble settling in.
So, I took to nature venturing out in the pouring rain to tackle a new section of my beloved Superior Hiking Trail. I embarked on a section from Castle Danger to Gooseberry Falls that required climbing some major boulders on the ridgeline overlooking the Crow Creek Valley with Lake Superior in the distance. I hiked and climbed in the pouring rain for nearly three hours. When all was said and done, I was soaked, covered in mud from head to toe, energized and exhausted by the physical experience — all at the same time.
It was the perfect hike and the perfect antidote to a cluttered mind. And it even included a harrowing moment. Toward the end of the hike as it got wetter and wetter, my shoe got stuck in a deep mud puddle and I went forward without the shoe, slipping and falling in the mud. Awesome! I loved it. I felt alive. Then, as I climbed wet, very slippery boulders alone without my real hiking shoes (yikes), I nearly fell off the edge of a cliff on the ridgeline (a metaphor for life?). Holy crap my heart stopped on this one.
It turns out, I inadvertently got off trail and found myself clinging to a boulder with both hands. I finally pulled myself up and back on the rock (something I could not have done two years ago), cutting my hand and losing my water bottle in the process. But I made it to safe ground. A bit scared, exhilarated and relieved, I wondered how many people are as directionally challenged as me. Or, simply aren’t paying close attention to the signs and go off trail, making it harder on themselves. (Again, a metaphor for life?) Hmmmmm.
I got back to the cabin after my 8+ mile trek safe, wet and muddy from head to toe. To reward myself, I took a long hot bath and tried to relax into my retreat. Breathe. Pause. Make it stop. How about some wine? Still struggling to let go, I took my wine to the screened in porch in my PJs where I would pretty much live for the rest of the weekend.
Now, I was warm and dry but still couldn’t feel anything. I couldn’t think anything. I couldn’t hear my heart. I don’t remember having this much trouble unwinding and settling in last time. I just sat quietly on the porch in nature and listened to the rain softly fall in the woods. I watched the fireflies dance. I want to dance, I thought. And so I did.
Day two. I had a restless sleep but finally awoke just after 6 a.m. to beautiful , sunny and clear skies. Surprised that I could see the horizon over Lake Superior in the distance, I sprang out of bed to enjoy morning coffee on the porch in my PJs. I think I could live on this porch in my PJs. I love this place!
All I could hear as I sat in the early morning light were the sounds of nature and the occasional soft clamor of the wind chimes in the gentle breeze. Here, in this moment, I felt gratitude for my amazing life, all the people I love, this incredible opportunity to disconnect, and the nature that surrounded and grounded me in the moment. Suddenly, I could feel my feet on the ground. I breathed deeply and started to write.
At first, what came out was pure randomness… ramblings. But soon I got in touch with my core desires and feelings began to emerge, then ideas. I sat amidst nature on this beautiful porch and wrote for nearly three hours. Finally, I relaxed into my body and mind, and felt a sense of peace.
That afternoon I ventured out to hike the Split Rock River Loop on the Superior Hiking Trail. This hike at only 5 miles was gorgeous, less rigorous than the ridgeline, but somehow felt longer and more difficult. Perhaps because I was hiking on tired, sore legs. I ran hills, crossed many bridges, forged a new trail, helped a young man from Lousiana find his way, and along the way had moments of real clarity, creativity and connection. I LOVE HIKING! It makes me feel alive. And I love forging new ground. It makes me happy.
The longer I hiked and climbed, the more things seemed to sort themselves out. I could hear my heart and it started to sing with enthusiasm and anticipation of what’s on the horizon. Suddenly, I knew my next steps. I knew what to do first. My first exercise in daring greatly. Check. And the second, also clear – I now have a plan. The third…a bit tougher. Not as quite as clear, but the direction is there and the path will reveal itself in time. It’s forming. And I am okay with that.
Today was a great day. I found my way back to my heart. I let the waves wash over me just like in the Missy Higgins video. I could feel my legs beneath me. They are strong and capable and will carry me far. Smiling.
Day Three. On this day, I got my groove on. I again eased into the day with coffee on the porch and the surround sounds of nature. Hope filled the air. The beautiful sunshine and cool breeze energized me. I started to write, and write and write. I filled the notebook with desires, inspirations, dreams and random thoughts all focused on my new purposeful life. The words and ideas poured out of me – out of my open heart as I knew they would. I vowed to do a mini-retreat like this once every six weeks for the rest of the year. Yay! More me time. I wonder what my heart will be sayin next?!
This retreat was about quieting down and listening to my heart and…
Sleeping in. Disconnecting from all things external. Quieting the mind. Finding my center. Becoming grounded in nature. Shutting off the shoulds. Breathing. Letting go. Turning off technology. Hiking my butt off. Standing still. Finding my voice. Dancing. Climbing big boulders and mountainous hills. Going deep. Seeing what bubbles to the surface in any given moment and sitting with it. Writing. Getting in touch with my core desires. Feeling. Counting fireflies as they dance outside the screened porch. Preparing to dare greatly. Taking the leap despite my fear. Eating eggs on the porch. Taking long hot baths with surplus bubble bath. Sipping wine amidst the tears. Reclaiming weekends. Getting dirty. Practicing meditation. Taking naps. Listening to my favorite music. Dreaming. Thinking big. Feeling grateful. Celebrating progress. Finding wisdom. Hiking some more big, tall shit. Imagining new beginnings. Picking wildflowers. Falling for a boy…and telling him. Boycotting the to-do list. Embracing imperfection. Getting in touch with my sensual side. Getting my foot off the shore and on the boat. Coming face-to-face with a deer, literally. Appreciating time and space. Lighting candles. Learning the lyrics to every Missy Higgins song. Eating olives. Waking without an alarm clock. Boycotting makeup. Taking photographs. Appreciating the little ones in my life. Wearing the same clothes two days in a row. Counting the butterflies and naming the transformations as I discover them one, two, three, four…ten on the trail. Learning to navigate on my own. Getting lost. Crossing bridges. Finding my way. Going forward. Exploring where there is no path. Falling but catching myself before I go over the cliff. Finding joy in solitude. Imaging the waves washing over me. Remaining true. Finding my heart…listening. Going for it.
1. “She listened to her heart above all the other voices.” (Wisdom)
2. “She saw every ending as a new beginning. (Letting go. Resiliency)
3. “She pursued big dreams instead of small realities. (Priorities.)
4. “She ran ahead where there is no path.” (Bravery.)
5. “She took the leap and built her wings on the way down.” (Daring)
6. “She designed a life she loved.” (Joy)
7. “She remained true to herself.” (Authenticity)
Yep. This blog is for me. So I remember how to find my way back to my heart…always.
P.S. Thanks to Missy Higgins for her soulful music and for accompanying me on this journey. And thanks to Sandra and her friends for providing the perfect respite at the perfect time.