The Retreat

I am just home from leading my first solo out-of-town Enneagram retreat. It was about a dozen women from my church and we spent the weekend on the bank of the Mississippi – or maybe the St Croix – river – or maybe it was a lake (we spent a fair amount of time sitting in chairs around a fire holding coffees or beers or a glass of wine debating the topic in that fun, easy way you do when no one really cares and no one can’t be bothered to pick up their phone and check).

It was good – at least for me. I know the women enjoyed the time away from daily life and the time together. I hope they got something out of the many, many words that seemed to tumble out of my mouth and my hastily drawn diagrams and my probably far too many handouts. But I met the two goals I always set for myself when I speak: 1) I made people tear up and 2) I made them laugh. Just now I am thinking I need to add another goal for retreats. It’s a goal I always set for myself when taking groups of kids somewhere: I returned with the same number I started with. 

I am working on meeting my doubting nature with trust these days, so let me say I trust they got something out of it. I trust their words of gratitude. I trust the deep conversations that sprang up organically over the weekend. I trust the look in their eyes and on their faces as they listened to me and to each other. I trust the stories they shared.

I use the Narrative Tradition when I teach the Enneagram. There is an emphasis on letting people tell their stories and learn from each other. One of the things that first sold me on the Narrative Tradition is that the instructor learns from the participants, as opposed to just lecturing at them. There is nothing like seeing people talk about what it feels like to be who they are – what it is like to live their lives and to move through the world in their skin and see things through their eyes – to make you deepen your appreciation of how wildly different the types are and yet how the same all people are.

Our last night together we all sat – a bit shell-shocked and tired from the amazing work we’d been doing all day – with our beverage of choice, staring at the fire and pondering one last question. It was put to us by the women who’d organized the retreat and was unrelated to the Enneagram, at least on the surface.

“What gift to you have that you are not currently sharing? And why aren’t you sharing it?”

I’d known the question was coming. At least the first part. But the abruptness of that second question caught me by surprise. We’d talked a bit about the Inner Critic and how to work with it and around it to get to the things you need to do to transform your life. Following that talk, this question seemed like a loving but tough teacher, tapping her watch and cocking an eyebrow at me. “So,” it seemed to say, “All that’s nice in theory. But when are you going to stop playing and do something about it?”

My mind was honestly a blank. That’s probably a statement to how mentally drained I was; usually those questions spend my Six mind reeling with answers that it rejects almost immediately. But I had nothing.

The woman next to me shared how she wanted to get back into blogging, how she loved sharing her thoughts that way, how she had a blog, but for multiple reasons had stopped writing for it. She wanted to get back to writing.

“Me, too,” my mind yelled. I don’t remember what I actually said, but I know I tried really hard to make it something more cogent than “Me, too!”

A two-hour drive along a winding road beside a river edged by trees dropping their fall colors is a good way to ponder things. Things like what I should write, why I don’t write, what’s the point of all this writing anyway and – oh my god was that an eagle I just almost hit???! 

By the time I got home, I decided to take the time I will not being doing NaNoWriMo this year and dedicate it to writing blog posts. Some to post, some to stockpile for a when my time gets tight and my mind gets empty.

I am excited about this, but also wary. Not trusting myself to follow through. Not trusting I have anything to write that’s worth reading. Not trusting that this is even a worthwhile endeavor.

But I am heading into it in the spirit of NaNoWriMo. That none of those things matter. Only words on the page matter. Put enough words on the page and something magical will happen. And if worst comes to worst, it’s all over in 30 days.

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