25 April 2011

a personal retreat: It's not about what you do, it's how you live

This past weekend, I decided to listen to my heart and go on a personal retreat in Montecito (Santa Barbara).  It was the perfect gift to myself, a way to embrace my darkness and experience my rebirth with Easter.  If you've never been to the Immaculate Heart Center for Spiritual Renewal, go.  It's quite a find.

As soon as I walked into my room with the antique furniture, hardwood floors, and mustard colored curtains, I felt at home.  The walls were covered in original artwork by Corita Kent, the screenprinting artist who inspired me to make my own posters.

I opted to stay in the main house which is a turn of the century estate manor with beautiful architectural details.  Meals were provided, the kitchen was up for use, and Theresa, the chef, made the most incredible wholesome organic meals according to your dietary restrictions.  It was like Chez Panisse meets retreat center with a whole lot of hand made love.  At one point in my stay, I popped a Hershey's special dark chocolate nugget into my mouth and ran to the trash can to spit it out because it tasted so fake.  The food at the center had ruined my palette in a most wondrous way.  One of the highlights was the homemade granola in the mornings--it was so nutty and chewy and mindblowing--I didn't know granola could taste that good.  At dinners, I couldn't help laughing when I would take my first bite of dessert because it was so amazing.  Larry, one of the other retreatants, would break into a laugh too, and we would just look at each other in disbelief.  When I called J. to tell him about my time, he said, "Stay another day if you can.  It sounds like heaven."

I sat at my desk for many hours, journaling, reading, writing and praying.  I took hikes in the San Ysidro trails.  I met with a spiritual director, walked the labrynth, sat by the fountain, and had communal dinners with other retreatants.

Montecito was lush and green and in the mornings, the marine layer would sprinkle mist on you as you walked up the hills.  As I walked up the dirt hiking paths and heaved into the trees and rocks, I became transformed.   I was so anxious and worried about making the right decision and feeling utterly befuddled and heartbroken and discouraged by my inability to see what to do and as I hiked, the books I had brought with me, the words my spiritual director had spoken to me, my own prayers--they converged and hit me.  I realized I had been so focused on what to do with my life that I had completely forgotten how to live.  A mantra emerged--It's not what you do, it's how you live.  As I started to think about how I wanted to live, with joy, with authenticity, with creativity, and with lightheartedness and humour, a path cleared before me.  I asked myself, "Where am I being invited to be authentic?  Where am I being invited to be creative?  Where am I being invited to take courage?" And in an instant, I knew.   It was an experience of grace.

 J. asked me when I came back, "So, you made a decision, huh?" And I said, "It's not so much that I made a decision.  It's more like I just came into being."  I suppose some of the best decisions in life happen that way.  You live into them.  You find simply, that that is where you are.  In gratitude for wisdom and love gained, may you find what you are looking for this week.  xo, h.

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