Reflections from Retreat

Retreat: a period of seclusion for the purposes of prayer and meditation.

Every few months we have the honor of hosting a group of women to get away and explore the question, “How Did I Get Here?” We come together to reflect on why we believe what we believe, why we do what we do and to explore the deep longings, sadness and joy within our lives. This work is big and it is challenging and at the same time, so refreshing and restorative.

Most of us avoid silence and solitude. We fear facing meaningful questions and conversation. We hide from our pain and sadness. We prevent ourselves from experiencing deep connection and real joy. Many of us believe that if we avoid these things, we can’t get hurt. What we don’t realize is by carrying and burying even our small joys and hurts, by avoiding exploration, we are holding ourselves back from living our best life, doing our best work and becoming our best self.

There is no need to wallow, yet to leave things covered up and unacknowledged is like missing out on the most beautiful parts of life. The most beautiful parts of you. One big question we explored is: How many aspects of your life have you chosen vs. inherited?
Some of the frameworks and beliefs I inherited were:

  • No one can be trusted…not even yourself.
  • You aren’t safe.
  • You are a bother when you speak your truth, and a burden when you ask for what you need.
  • Love and respect are earned by sacrificing yourself for everyone else.

You can imagine some of the unhealthy patterns and behaviors that were shaped by these inherited belief systems. You can picture how these unacknowledged beliefs could hold me back from deep and meaningful relationships, and becoming my best self. Now that I am aware, I have the power to shift these patterns and replace them with behaviors that give me the ability to create positive change. How about you? What are your inherited beliefs and frameworks?

Another powerful question was: Where do you put your pain?

This question literally hit me in the gut. Because I realized, that’s what I do with it. I bring it into my body and hold onto it. I use it to motivate me. Pain has been a source of fuel for me for as long as I can remember. I use it to amp me up to compete. I use it to push me through a tough workout. I use it to help me lean into seemingly impossible or difficult scenarios. While this can be healthy in many ways, because I am transforming that pain into something good, it can also be unhealthy.

I have a hard time believing that things should be easy…and when they are then I can believe I’m not on the right path. Except this lie has led me astray for most of my life. If this relationship is this easy, then we must not love each other enough. This LIE almost caused me to miss out on my beautiful marriage. If what I do for work is enjoyable, then it must not be what I’m called to do, I must not be challenged. This LIE has left me doubting and minimizing what we’ve built with The Restoration Project.

My deep realization this retreat: I don’t know how to live without pain. I don’t have answers yet for what that means to me. But it explains why I have a hard time simply enjoying things. I have a hard time with play. I often find myself saying, if I can’t win then why would I play? Yuck…maybe because it’s just fun and a nice way to connect with others?

Maybe I don’t believe I deserve the good that life has to offer. Maybe I equate ease and enjoyment with laziness. Maybe I enjoy the difficult parts of life because they make me feel more alive. I don’t know…these are things I need to continue to explore. This is going to take time to unravel and understand.

I find this equal parts terrifying and exciting. I am learning to understand myself in new and deeper ways, and in the process I am able to grow my curiosity and compassion for others. I am able to connect more deeply with myself, others and the world. What an amazing gift! I also find so much joy and peace in this process. The more aware I become, the more I am able to surrender and let go. The more fully I am able to live without worry and regret.

Still not convinced the exploration is worth it? It was not a coincidence that this was my daily reading for the last day of our retreat experience: “Your pain is deep, and it won’t just go away. It is also uniquely yours, because it is linked to some of your earliest life experiences.

Your call is to bring that pain home. As long as your wounded part remains foreign to your adult self, your pain will injure you as well as others. Yes, you have to incorporate your pain into your self and let it bear fruit in your heart and the hearts of others.

This is what Jesus means when he asks you to take up your cross. He encourages you to recognize and embrace your unique suffering and to trust that your way to salvation lies therein. Taking up your cross means, first of all, befriending your wounds and letting them reveal to you your own truth.

There is great pain and suffering in the world. But the pain hardest to bear is your own. Once you have taken up that cross, you will be able to see clearly the crosses that others have to bear, and you will be able to reveal to them their own ways to joy, peace, and freedom.”
-Henri Nouwen

If you are ready to explore these concepts, reach out. We have several ways you can explore in a way that you feel called and comfortable.

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