One thing I have learned, from being a long-time student and active practitioner of leadership training in nature for many years with teachers like John P. Milton, Ohki S. Forest, and others, is the importance of gifting myself with some kind of private retreat to relax and revitalize myself. I often call these renewal retreats, as I always feel like a new person afterwards. Since moving to L.A. a few yeas back, I have done fewer of the longer solo vision quests retreats but more of the spontaneous, short and simple private retreats that I just make up as I go along, when I feel called. Last year, for example, I spent a couple of nights out on the sacred land of the Way of Nature Fellowship in Crestone, CO, after spending a few days alone prior in a beautiful sanctuary in the Baca Grande area in Crestone, unwinding, reflecting, and re-examining my life’s purpose and vision. After the two solo days on the land, I spent a few more days in the same sanctuary as before to integrate and process my insights and learning.
Do Something Different
Last year I did something I hadn’t done before — I took a number of two-day road trips between Santa Fe, NM on one end, and either L.A. or the San Francisco area on the other. I loved driving in silence through the Mojave Desert, taking in the stunning desert elements and allowing my Spirit to soar in the expansiveness of the surroundings. It was very freeing somehow, and my inner existence was filled with joy, exuberance, and happiness.
Heed the Stop Signs?
So far this year the busy-ness of exploring and activating new partnerships with aligned collaborators, as well as revamping my own platform for the next chapter of my Conscious Leadership work, has taken precedence. However, my body and my inner guide do always let me know when it is time to simply STOP. When tuning into how to celebrate this 4th of July weekend, I felt the stop sign blinking at me and knew I needed to give my inner guide “carte blanche” to play in whatever way she desired for at least a day. That meant that I made sure to have no commitments with others, no work or projects to complete, no e-mails to answer, no phone calls to return, and no errands to run. No technology, basta! That is what it takes to create a successful self-care retreat — simply give yourself a break from outside stimuli. I decided I would just wake up on that dedicated day and ask the question “What do I want to do today?” And that’s exactly what I did.
Start the Adventure
Upon waking, the first thing my body wanted was plenty of water to activate its magnetic energy. When we sleep, we become like drooping plants that haven’t been watered for a while. Once watered, their leaves take on a brighter color and perk up. It is the same with us humans. The next request was to put on one of my favorite CDs, “Ancient Voices,” and to light an incense, something that always calms and lifts me to a peaceful place. Then I read a chapter in a book I had wanted to get to for a while. After breakfast I asked again, “What would you like to do today?” The answer came immediately. Go to the beach and sit on my favorite rock where I can watch the rowboats, motorboats, and sailboats, the kayaks, paddlers, surfers, swimmers, waders, frolickers, sunbathers, and the little ones in the forms of children and dogs. I heeded the call.
What Gives You Joy?
As I walked along the beach in the water towards my rock clusters, I was reminded of the many priceless experiences I have had in the past, being in, on, or at the ocean which is always extremely healing to me. Bottom line, one of my favorite things to do is to be near the water. Before moving to the USA in 1996, I often spent weeks, sometimes months, at the ocean in many beautiful places like the south of France, Italy, the southern part of Spain – including islands like Ibiza, Majorca and the Canary Islands — and Greece… windsurfing, swimming, boating, relaxing with a book on a beach bench, playing with the kids in the sand, or enjoying myself with family and friends. Not to mention my permanent connection I had with the ocean in Reykjavik, where I lived, as both my house and offices were close to the water and I would drive along the sea-shore every day. On top of that I enjoyed the view from my office window overlooking the sea. Since being on this side of the Atlantic, I have most often enjoyed the beaches of Baja California in Mexico, the various oceanfronts in Maui, Hawaii, and now in California, both north and south. As these memories flooded through my mind, the feeling of love and appreciation for her – Grandmother Ocean — overtook me as I neared my destination.
Appreciate Where You Are, Wherever You Are
Once I was settled on my familiar stone, which is in the shape of a lounge chair and makes me feel like I am literally sitting on a throne in the ocean, I took in my surroundings, appreciating seeing adults and kids having fun doing various beach activities. I also noticed the animals — the various birds, the crabs, and all the little critters crawling on the rocks all around me and swimming in the water, something we learn to appreciate when we are out on a leadership solo – or vision quest as many call it.
After filling myself with the joy of seeing all that was happening around me, I asked again “What do you want to do now?” The answer was to pick up my notebook and pen (as a writer I never go anywhere without those tools) and start writing about my STOP experience — and that is how this post came about. What frequently happens when I slow down and take a break is that my creativity kicks in and wants to be expressed, very often through writing. Giving yourself a self-care retreat, even just a mini one, is sure to increase your creativity. Mark my words.
Are You Missing Something?
The reason that I want to share this experience with you is that we are so very good at nurturing our needs for outer excitement and adventure with family, friends, and community. We plan activities that feed our need of belonging or the need for an adrenal rush, or whatever has become our habitual patterns over the years. But don’t misunderstand me. There is nothing wrong with that. We need it all. However, there might be other parts of our whole selves that are being starved and truly need our attention for us to flourish fully as our true selves.
Feed All Your Children
I have an old friend in my native country of Iceland, Gunnlaugur Gudmundsson — or Gulli Stjarna, as he is most often called — who is the best-known and -beloved astrologer of the nation. Gulli was born the same year as I, and our grand entries into this world were only a few weeks apart. He taught me a lot about the energies of the era we were born into, and so much more. I’ll never forget when Gulli explained to me that our inner landscape – our whole self – can be seen as made up of many children that all need to be fed and cared for. I remember him saying, “Imagine having seven children but you feed only five of them and starve the other two. Or when Christmas comes along, you give gifts to only six of them and leaves one out. How would that feel? We need to feed, nurture, and love all of our children”, he said. We are most often so driven and focused on the go, go, go in our attempt to achieve our outer goals, that we overlook the fact that our biggest, truest, longest-lasting, and most fulfilling successes come from within.
Who is in Charge?
With that said, I am spending my time with my inner self today, allowing her to be in charge instead of following the orders from my outer self — my ego self or false personality – demanding I pay attention to all the other things I “should” be doing to achieve my goals. This is not something we are taught in school, but we would be better off if we were. This is a constant practice for me.
You Can do this Anywhere
My mentor John P. Milton always stresses that wherever we are, we can find a way to attend to our connection to our inner self by working in the garden or going out into nature for a walk or a hike, sitting next to a lake, or doing sky meditation. Sky meditation is where we lie on the earth or on a big stone, or bench, or whatever is available to safely and comfortably rest on. We watch the clouds, their movement and formation and colors… or their absence, we watch the brightness of the sun or the dimming as the dusk arrives, and the expansiveness of the open sky.
Exercise Your Imagination
Use your imagination to come up with creative ideas about what to do — the sky is the limit. If you live in a city like L.A., as I do, you can find a park, the ocean, the desert, or the mountains around the city for your mini, self-care, renewal retreat. Or there could be hidden gems in your own back yard. I recently made a discovery of a little place in the middle of L.A., and close to where I live, called the Peace Labyrinth and Gardens which is like an oasis for just the kind of experiences I am talking about. I am sure that if you put your intention on discovering one in your area, you will start noticing places that could serve this purpose well.
Your Keys to Greater Productivity
Robin Sharma, the well-known leadership guru, has a number of lists of productivity tips. Aren’t we all constantly seeking to be more productive and effective? Look at his tip number 6 on 17 Tips to Double Your Productivity In 14 Days. It says to take one day a week as a recovery day to refuel and renew. Voila! That is in a nutshell what we are talking about. I would also add — give that day to your inner self to do with it what it wants. Don’t allow your mind to plan your mini-retreat for you. Instead, make a commitment to the intention of following your inner guidance — your intuition. Ask the question and listen. Your inner never steers you wrong.
Where is Your Quiet?
When working with CEOs and senior executives, my friend and colleague Cheryl Esposito always asks, “Where is your quiet?” And I add to that “Are you aware of your own need to connect to a deeper part of yourself? Do you know that if you do, some of your stress, anxiety, and suffering might simply melt away and leave you with more calm, peace, and creativity?”
What is the Result?
You probably want to know how my mini self-care retreat ended? Well, after coming home from the beach and showering off sweat and sand, I asked again, “What do you want to do for the rest of the day?” What came up was to check out the Latin Sounds at the LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) outdoor area. I recently moved to the Museum district on Mid-Wilshire Blvd. in L.A. and have been meaning to check out this popular, festival-like event but hadn’t taken the time to do so yet. I walked over in the late afternoon to find the area filled with people of all ages, all colors, and all nationalities dancing, talking, laughing, playing, resting, and relaxing together. I joined them and was again filled with aliveness and joy. In one day I got to enjoy the ocean, music, and dancing – all favorite things of mine. What more could my inner guide want? It was clear from the way I FELT that she (my inner) was happy as a kite. She had been honored, listened to, and nurtured in a way that was meaningful, healing, and revitalizing. This was a perfect day created from a little bit of space, repeatedly asking a simple question, listening, and honoring the answers – my unique mini self-care retreat.
Make it an Experiment Fueled by Curiosity
If you want to test out this wisdom, today, or in the next week or two, create some space and intention to listen to your inner whispers and spontaneously take action to fulfill your deeper needs? Look at it as an experiment, your own discovery channel. You might be surprised about the energy, aliveness, and awe of the wonders available to you by simply stepping out of your own habits and changing your priorities. Put yourself first for a change! If you read this and take on the experiment, we would be curious to learn what comes out of it. Or you might already have done something similar and can share what were your findings. Or you might simply tell us why you think this is a good idea, if you do. My purpose with the sharing is to awaken us to our abundant creativity, productivity, joy, love, fulfillment and meaning, health and well-being, and overall gift of being of service to others by being a beacon of passion and genuine enthusiasm for life.