Friday, June 10, 2011

Summer retreat

This is for all you creative types (including me). I have read the “Crazy Sexy Life” blog by Kris Carr for several years now, and I love to read her inspirational posts, often by guest bloggers, because they align with my own philosophy, and sometimes it is good to get a reminder and refresher. If you don’t know Kris, she is a 30-something woman who was diagnosed with an incurable cancer about 7 years ago. Since then she has been on a quest to heal herself with holistic medicine, eating often raw and plant-based and taking care of emotional and spiritual hygiene. She is still alive, the cancer has not gone away but does not grow either, and on top of it all, she is pretty funny and hilarious.

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This is a guest post on her blog today by Jen Luden. She focuses on what to expect (and not expect) if going on a writer’s retreat. However, many of those thoughts apply to a daily creative life. You can find her full post on Kris’s blog, and my emphasized (self reminders) below.

Jen Louden: “A creative retreat is the quintessential artist’s or writer’s dream. Time to tend your creative spark, think long, interrupted thoughts, meander, recharge and burrow into that project you’ve been flirting with.

Here are the five principles I use when I lead — or take — a retreat.

Lower Your Standards

When asked how he managed to write a poem almost every day (including the day he died!), the poet William Stafford replied, “I lowered my standards.”

The opposite tends to happen... All that striving and impossible goal setting…kills the retreat vibe and the possibility of getting your truest work done — and certainly kills the creative renewal you are seeking.

You know that good advice when you’re packing for a trip to take out half of what you just put in your suitcase? Same thing goes for what you plan to do on a retreat. Cut it in half. And then in half again. I beg you.

Clearly State What Will Be Enough

Last year I was gifted a week’s writing retreat by the venerable Fetzer Institute, and I set very clear “conditions of enoughness,” as I call them, for my week: no email, no Twitter, no Facebook; finishing a first draft of a new project; connecting with the other writers by being present and listening fully each evening. Naming these tangible facts created a foundation that allowed me to do the kind of deep writing and thinking I had been craving, as well as nap, take walks with my new friends and leave wildly inspired and renewed.

Declare a Time Element

On retreat […or otherwise..], it’s vital you follow your desires, enjoy plenty of rest and play, and by deciding when and for how long you will work, you give yourself a gentle framework of satisfaction and containment. Otherwise, the endless expanse of time can be paralyzing. So maybe you paint from 9 a.m. to12 p.m. everyday, and meander the rest of the time. Or you write in 15-minute timed intervals with 1-minute breaks for one hour, then take a 1-hour photography break.

Be sure to lower the bar on your time element! Just because you have 14 hours or so of being awake doesn’t mean you can create for 13 1/2 of them.

Declare Yourself Satisfied Even if You Don’t Feel Satisfied

This is one of the most powerful ideas I teach. You did what you said you would do — say, write for 2 hours, no checking email, then take a “noticing” walk with your camera, then read poetry and meditate. You get to the end of your day and you feel disappointed, or worried you aren’t using your retreat wisely if you aren’t wringing every bit of writing life out of it. You are so adorably normal!

The very best way to deal with this feeling is to say, out loud (yes, you feel silly doing this — so what?), “I did what I said I would and that it is enough. I am satisfied even if I don’t feel satisfied.” One of the most insidious — and common — ways we undermine our creativity is by belittling what we did. Learn to rest in what you have accomplished, honor it, and you’ll be infused with new energy and well-being. Train your awareness to notice the good and the real.

…..But most precious of all, they remind you of why you create: how creating brings you in contact with the very heartbeat of life, the connection to all that is, and the overwhelming delight of being alive.”

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