You'd be amazed what you can learn hosting a women's retreat. Following the inaugural weekend of FEnomenon, I was blessed to receive with crystal clarity any number of realizations. As the transcendent experiences of the weekend began to coalesce, I could easily see that only in my allowing, refusing that long-held habit of throttling every detail in the chokehold of control, was a perfectly synchronous message able to emerge from the hearts and mouths of ten diverse presenters. While I am excellent at managing details and creating organized structure, I could never have hoped to plan something so organically flawless. Only through surrender was this available--not just to me, but to the women who attended.
In fact, the entire process of creating this event was equally effortless and graceful. Everything with divinely guided and deliriously easy. I experienced no stress (ish...more on that shortly) leading up to the event. This, from a woman who once stressed over every detail of every thing. While there were minor hiccups and some areas we'll improve for future dates, overall the weekend was an unqualified success. This was a powerful lesson for me, rather like receiving an A on my final essay in "Surrender 101."
I say to myself, see, it's working! Things can be created beyond control that simply cannot be generated by force. This evidence fills me with pride, peace, and a wild and wonderful sense of power.
The experience my team and I were able to create for the women who attended was beyond my wildest imaginings. We brought our sisters deep, asking challenging questions, turning their eyes to uncomfortable truths, asking them to act before they felt ready. We pushed them, with love but also with unyielding firmness. And every single woman in that room showed up and stepped up, for themselves and each other. They took their shoes off, literally, dug their toes into the rich topsoil of their own experiences, shot down massive roots, and blossomed fiercely and freely. They shared bold, authentic, heart-wrenching, soul-stirring parts of themselves. They took big risks, and experienced bigger rewards, just within the few hours we were together. What awaits them in the near future is so inspiring to consider. I could not be more proud, of them or of myself.
The entire experience was magical for me. Within the retreat there existed a truly unique symbiosis, formed by sharing this experience with these women as the one who created the container and held the space for their work and revelations, while simultaneously being immersed in the very same container alongside them. This aspect still defies description, beyond saying it was otherworldly.
But magic comes in many forms. Some is flash and glitter, bright costumes and delightful surprises. Awe-inspiring enchantment that sparkles in the stage lights. This is, beyond a doubt, the magic I experienced professionally. But other sorcery is less brilliant, more cunning. Sometimes the supernatural worms its way up through your soul while you're not looking. This magic is equally awe-inspiring, but in a much more savage fashion. It's no less transformative, but certainly less pleasant to behold. This is the magic that I experienced personally.
While I was dazzled with the bright, shining magic of my success, greater opportunities for achievement were brewing. By the end of the weekend I would be offered healing and expansion of tremendous proportions. But this spell required a price. To accept the magic, I would have to face my own demons in a way I've never done before. I would be given the charm, but would have to find the courage to put it into practice on my own.
As woman after woman stood before us and presented topics related to reclaiming the feminine experience, I found myself withdrawing deeper and deeper into my own darkness. While on the surface I celebrated the unquestionable success of this event, in my depths I began to freeze, solidifying in a terrified mass of resistance. The realizations being offered to me could not be true; their truth was too painful to contemplate. As my professional world expanded, my personal world imploded.
With each light shone from the heart of my sisters, the truth I was holding in my darkness become harder to ignore. Those things I've been working on--surrender, making friends with fear, weaning myself off of the life-long habit of trying to control Every. Fucking. Thing--weren't going as well as I'd been telling myself they were. Yes, I had allowed grace and ease to lead me to this powerful space. But now that I was there, women of all ages, from all backgrounds, full of all different kinds of tools, were challenging me every bit as much as I was challenging them.
The challenge was the magic. The potion was before me, "Drink Me" printed in blood red cursive letters. But along with the knowledge of how the magic could play out, I was filled with the fear of what accepting the charm would mean. Because in order for the magic to work, I had to believe, not in fairies, but in my own inner goddess. Worse, I would have to admit that I'd known this deity but had been denying her all along.
As I peered at this magical vessel I realized I'd been lied to, by none other than myself. I am not surrendered. I am held captive by fear. I continue to force and control, pushing for the outcomes I still believe can be created through the sheer force of my will. I am still doing precisely what I have worked so hard to cease, what I've been shown with such clarity limits me in every way.
This realization was devastating. I felt utterly betrayed, the worst kind of betrayal--that of self. No knife slipped between your ribs burns like the one you put there. The ache spread through my soul and I contracted, pulling away. I grew rigid, refusing to see. Instead of surrendering and allowing the knife to be removed, instead of leaning in to grace and healing, I caved to fear. I denied the presence of the wound, and commenced bleeding out.
Always in denial there is greater betrayal, deeper hurt. I indulged in seething anger towards myself, driving the knife in deeper. I passed judgement on myself, called the woman I am today a fake, a charlatan. I ridiculed her for offering to help other women see their truth, in private sessions and now in a conference room full of two dozen women. I questioned her right, her ability, to lead these souls. In turning away from the powerful offering before me, I spoke black magic over my own soul, condemning, screeching a harpie's curse about lack and limits, shame and suffering.
I allowed doubt to grow in the space where I was denying the blossoming of my own potential. In this fertile ground I sowed suspicion around my truth, my power, my abilities and my gifts. I questioned myself personally, professionally, spiritually, twisting the knife.
The more I suffered this wound, the more withdrawn and rigid I became. The farther I withdrew, the less I was willing to consider the power of the spell I'd been offered. The more I believed myself a liar, the more completely I bought into the true lie...that I had ever been anywhere besides precisely where I was meant to be. That I had ever, for one moment, been unable to work the magic for myself. That I was anything less than divine.
This truth was far more powerful than any misperception I might have created for myself, and as I began to accept it, the bleeding slowed. As I loosened my hold, eased back towards surrender, and found the courage to face fear once again, I was offered further clarity.
I did lie to myself. I was refusing to look at where I was still applying force with a vengeance, where surrender wasn't happening. I am, I realize now, rather completely removed from my emotional reality. So much so that the day before the event began, I felt tremendous anxiety in my body...but my mind would acknowledge no stress. It was such a bizarre disconnect that I actually messaged my own coach--look at this odd thing going on over here. I'm not stressed, but my body is. It didn't occur to me until after the retreat that my body had been speaking a truth my brain was unwilling to acknowledge.
And they said denial was a river in Egypt!
I have also learned that I've denied myself the chance to mourn the loss of my previously robust physical health and the way I was able to inhabit my body when I had it. Here I have continued to force blindly, pushing always for healing with no recognition of how it feels to be less than well. How ironic, considering that forcing is what made me sick to begin with. Seeing this brings up guilt, shame, frustration, and judgement to be healed. Physical healing is only a part of what I need. This, too, has been my lie.
But my truth is so much greater. These lies have happened...but they do not negate the veracity that I HAVE surrendered. I have faced fear. I have lessened the amount of force I'm applying in this world. The magic I've been offered is the chance to realize that growth is not defined by "or," but rather by "and." I have done these things, AND I need to do them again. In new areas. And in the same areas. This time, and next time.
One of the most powerful images given to me at the retreat was the concept of progress as a spiral, a circular pattern always increasing in volume, retracing the same ground, while simultaneously expanding and ascending. AND. Yes, I have done work. And I need to continue the same work. This is not a cause for shame or guilt, anger or judgement. It is simply the nature of female growth, the elegant pattern of evolution which I am walking now. Where I pictured failure, retracing as a cause for panic, I merely need to continue walking with grace.
Now that I've accepted this truth, the real work begins. Because I have made progress, AND there is more to do. I've so completely distanced myself from my emotional reality that my brain refuses to give credence to anything going on in my body. When I am tired, I deny myself rest. When I am playful, I deny myself the freedom to play. When I am anxious, I deny myself expression. In order to continue my ascension, this must stop. I can learn to allow my feelings by listening to my body, which clearly knows when to rest, when to play, where there is fear, and what brings joy. I must use my conscious mind to tune in to these bodily signals, overriding the subconscious urge to turn away.
I must mourn the body that is lost to me now, and release my attachment to what healing will look like. As I learn to listen to the emotions in my body, I will also learn to listen to its needs--food, rest, prayer, water, dirt, laughter, movement. The more I can honor these messages coming from the temple of my soul, the more easily I can ascend the spiral. The emotional experiences of guilt, shame, and frustration must be given space, grace, gratitude, the room to move about and through me so that I can return to peace, with and within the body that I have today.
There is so much work ahead of me now that I've accepted the charms my FEnomenon sisters offered for me. But I am, once again, out of resistance and in alignment. I look forward to allowing my inner goddess the space to fill me with wisdom and wealth, and to learning how to honor her as she truly deserves. The work no longer seems painful, frightening. Instead it feels like coming home. Out of the darkness, I can easily see the real truth, that I am more beautiful, less liar.