I recently ran a transformational retreat in Molokai, Hawaii (The Re-Imagined Self). I have been planning this retreat for the last 9 months and have been dreaming about it for the last 5 years, and finally it was time.
I was that kind of Christmas-morning-excited! I had created something that allowed my intellect, artistry, experience and passions to come together in alchemy. This felt like my gift, my offering, my contribution.
Throughout the design process, I was propelled by the joy of what I was creating, in the feeling of living in the sweet spot of my purpose and my gift. I was like the photographer, not worried about the next shot, but falling in love with what she saw through the lens. It had been months of intense work and I loved every minute of it.
And now I was finally here, the eve of the retreat I was taking in a moment of quiet contemplation, about to climb into a gorgeous outdoor bath I had run under a starlit sky - a few moments of grace and peace before it all began.
Suddenly I was caught off guard.... overcome....vulnerable....sucker punched.
You know the kind of doubt that sneaks in between your ribs, steals your breath, doubles you over in the flash of a thought? I felt the unbidden questions emerge. Though they hadn’t been present through the proceeding months, they decided to visit all at once.
Will it be enough?
Will I be enough?
“Who are YOU to believe you can offer something that is transformational?”
(Who am I indeed? I replied....I have worked earnestly...I have credentials, I have a high standard of integrity, I have my belief in my gifts and my genius! But all of that landed hollow...who am I indeed?)
The intensity of the discomfort gnawed.
I tried to shift my attention but it seemed I just succeeded in opening the dam...
What if I am wrong?
What if what I care about doesn’t matter?
What right do I have to claim that I have a talent?
According to whom?
The gripping in my stomach turned into a cold sweat.
What had just moments ago been a sweet feeling of anticipation was now the vulnerable feeling of fear.
The worst part, I panicked, is that people would see me. My creation was the turning inside-out of my heart. There was nothing hidden, I had not used and thus could not hide behind anyone else’s theories or stories. I was about to be exposed and I felt like I wanted to crawl into a crevice.
Stay on the Mat.
Make a different choice.
(Honestly don’t you hate instructions like that? Sure, sure they seem comforting in the light of day, but in the middle of a panic-attack it is just a whole bunch of mumbo-jumbo said by someone who is clearly NOT in the middle of the onslaught of doubt).
But seeing as there really was no other option - I am after all in a tub on a remote island - it is what I did. I fought to make another choice. What if I didn’t choose fear? What if I chose something that was at the very source of my being here? I reflected on what started this journey, which was my friendship with Dewitt...
“Celebrate What’s Right” is what he has always asked of me, of all of us.
It is what I chose to hold onto in that moment. What could I celebrate in this moment?
I remember the urging of a drama class teacher “Do the work, tell the story, create the experience and forget about trying to make them like you.” Later when I took an exacting Cordon Bleu cooking class, I was taught to rely on my technique and my artistry and simply “lay the buffet”. Celebrate what you put into it, not what they will get out of it.
And that became my focus, to lay the most abundant, creative, thoughtful buffet that I could, to invite them to try and enjoy my creations while I relinquished control of their experience. To support them when they loved it and equally so when it was not to their taste. To stand behind my craft and to, as Dewitt reminds us, publish it in my life, with a bold humbleness that allowed them to fall in love with what I had created, or not, depending on what moved them.
To “celebrate what’s right” is not about finding the good and the beautiful things, it is about the practice of CHOICE. For me, it is a discipline, when tempted by fears, familiar doubts, ego-based concerns, to step away from the worry-fondling that we do, like small children stroking the satin lining on a stuffed rabbit’s ear, and choose something else.
Choose to celebrate.
Choose to be bold in our vulnerability.
Who am I to bring this to them? Just me.
And they will take from it what they wish.
And I will have offered the best of what I am.
I added more hot water to the bath and looked up at the starlit sky.
She too was offering the best of what she was.
And I simply lay back again, and surrendered to the choice of Celebrating What’s Right and felt the grip of doubt submerge.
(The retreat was a resounding success, according to the participants, I left content in knowing that I had, with Dewitt’s help, created an offering I was proud of. Want to join us on this retreat next year? Sign up for the announcement here, we’ll open registration in February 2018)