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|by KD Farris, Ph.D. |
Discover Going On Retreat
The most delightful and effective process Iíve engaged in for living a more relaxed life is to take myself on retreat and as a ritual when returning home, integrate some aspect of my retreat-time into my work-a-day life.
It started with my favorite film, which took place in a coastal region of Northern California. One of the reasons I enjoyed the film so much was its beautiful scenic setting. I realized one day that the location in the movie must exist in real life and that I could drive or fly there, if I only knew where it was!
So, I went to the bookstore, and into the travel section, and began thumbing through the bed and breakfast books until I found pictures of coastline that looked like the images Iíd seen in the film. I called the B&B listed, made reservations for the following fall and invited my best friend who lives in Colorado to join me.
We made a plan to meet at the San Francisco airport, rent a car from there, and then drive the rest of the way along the beautiful Pacific coast. It worked out perfectly. The drive gave us some travel time together and made it easier to reconnect. By the time we arrived at our hide-away, we were moving in rhythm.
After that first trip, we returned every year, usually in the fall. Each time we went we explored other bed and breakfasts in the area so that we could have some variety. A few years into our ritual, we planned our trip for the spring. We left our coastal paradise on the final day and headed south along the gorgeous coastline. On the second or third bend of our switchback journey, we turned a corner and discovered the most beautiful gardens either of us had ever come across! It was another bed and breakfast and the land surrounding it was so lovely, it was radiating color! We wound up spending the afternoon on the property having lunch, browsing the bookstore, taking in the gardens, and of course, checking out the rooms!
Before leaving that day, I sat and wrote a card to the innkeepers. I wrote of how affected I had been by the environment they had created. How the books in the bookstore were like my dream library. How the atmosphere and setting felt like home to me. How the rooms were arranged and decorated as I would want my own, were I to know how to create such beauty and balance. The place seemed to reflect all of my most sacred aspects and hold a space for me to fall into myself on a deeper level.
The guest rooms, the property, the shop and restaurant, stirred my love for Hawaii, my instinct for solitude, my interest in psychology, metaphysics, and spirituality. My physical desire to build a fire and bone-felt need to sleep in down and cotton; my dream to experience comfort and security while living amidst wood and glass - everything seemed to be included. It was like the best of my inner being, balanced with the needs and instincts of my physical body contained within a colorful dancing setting of crawling Nasturtium, waving bright blue and deep violet Camassia, and scores of multicolored Freesia.
When I got home, I bought plants similar in color and feel and made a small flowerbed as rich in texture as I had seen at the inn. I couldnít get the place out my mind or heart, something about it really stuck with me. So I called up a few months later and made reservations for a solitary trip. Just me and my inner being.
I decided to drive all the way this time. Depending on the route, it would be a ten to fourteen hour journey - fourteen if I took the coast the entire way there. I split the difference and headed up from Los Angeles through Big Sur country, hugging the coast as far as San Francisco, then switched to the main highway for a few hours until finally cutting across wine country where I eventually hit water again. Because the drive was so long I decided to stay an extra few days. I brought along journals and oracles, a good book, and a travelerís mind....
In my private practice, I specialize in people in transition. Transitions can be wondrous spaces. We are no longer where we were, and not yet quite where we are going. For myself, I am able to be comfortable in the movement between these two places, because I love the part where I am not meant to be anywhere quite yet. How can I worry about the past, when it is complete? And how can I worry about the future, when it has not yet begun? In between is a time filled with freedom and exploration.
The way my mind works, if Iím not where I was and not yet where I am going to be, then everything in between, including where Iím going to end up, is a complete mystery. I get to trust and wander, respond and explore. I love it! I canít put any expectations on myself for there is no way of knowing what is needed ahead. I have no judgment for the past, rather a completion process is in my wake.
The times in my life when I have completed what has come and not yet started what is to be, have been my most present, joyful states. The travelerís mind, for me, is just like this. Itís not the maps, or the compass, or the reservations up ahead that are needed. It is, instead, an open heart and open mind. If I tidy up my responsibilities at home and have plenty of food and gas in the car, everything ahead of me is a wondrous journey.
So, a travelerís mind was in my heart as I drove up the coast one beautiful fall day.... When I arrived at the inn, the night sky was clear and filled with stars, the air light and breezy, and the ground was moist with late-night dew. I lit a fire in the fireplace and stoked the logs endlessly. I brought a Native American tarot deck with me, threw spreads, journaled, and at times just lay across the bed taking in the room.
Up to that point, I had traveled a lot in my life. Traveled alone, traveled with partners, traveled with family, but Iíd always gone somewhere for some specific purpose and had an agenda to tend to and complete once I arrived. Even when I went on vacation I went to visit, to swim and snorkel, or to sightsee. I had never gone anywhere for the purpose of simply being present with myself. This was very different.
The time I spent at the inn was magical. I slept better than I had in years. The days seemed to slip into nights and rise again into days as I walked the beach, explored new restaurants, gazed at the sea, and perched myself on cliffs for hours at a time. I was quiet, yet full and peaceful. It was like a long luscious drink of acknowledgement from someone you love. Only it was the acknowledgement from my relationship with myself and with life that I was drinking in. It was splendid and gentle and everything it needed to be.
On the drive home, I took the shortcuts to the Bay area that the innkeeper suggested and the fast highway south from there. I was still inside, and yet stocked with happy feelings. I drove easily and stresslessly home, reflecting on the rhythm of my days, the physical environment that assisted me so, and the feelings within that were gliding through this long drive home. When I got back, it was natural and instinctual for me to adjust my home life and work schedule to reflect the patterns of movement I had found to be so supportive while I was away on my retreat.
I changed a few things in my bedroom. Cleared my mornings for private walking and sitting time. Increased the attention I paid to my garden. And made a reservation at the same bed and breakfast for six months later!
I began to take regular retreats from that point on. Still doing my yearly meeting with my Colorado friend, but adding as many other trips on my own as I could. I found work and trade up there, which made it more affordable, and at the height of my retreat-going went up eight times in one year!
My home and work life changed and evolved with every journey I took. First the lamps, then the furniture, the bedding, the bathroom decor.... I began cooking more, taking more time to prepare and enjoy my meals. It got easier and easier to be alone and feel fulfilled. My relationships got more satisfying as I became more in tune with what made me feel like me.
Just like the MESHE work Iíve written about for months now, I was building my relationship with myself and it was profoundly affecting my relationship to life and to others.
Finding A Retreat Of Your Own
Stress relief and relaxation deal with turning our minds off. Itís achieved by getting out of our heads and into the present moment. Deep relaxation as a lifestyle change is about finding the daily living practices that support you, and turning your world into a place of comfort and support by raising the beauty around you, adjusting the pace of your life, and deciding how you are going to spend your time.
My daily life today reflects the rhythms and environment of years of northern California retreats. I no longer have to leave home to be comforted, inspired, and pampered. The levels of deepening continue to grow as I continue to take retreat time in new locations. Though I still go to my sacred bed and breakfast yearly, I have expanded my journeys to include time spent at Buddhist monasteries, in desert living, and even retreat environments designed to support a sitting meditation practice where you are fed and looked after, and your only job all day long is to alternate between sitting and walking in mediation.
If you have a place of beauty you have always wanted to visit, religious or spiritual grounds you would like to take refuge in. A location in a movie. A site you discovered in a magazine. A spa, hotel or bed and breakfast. Make some plans to get yourself there and bring nothing to do, and no one to share it with. See what you find of your inner being, and what you can bring back to your daily existence that might seed the growth of something relaxing and inspiring in how you live, how you think, how you enjoy your moments in this precious gift of life.
It doesnít have to be an expensive journey, nor a very long one. Religious orders all over the country have opened the doors of their monasteries to lay people and spiritual seekers. Buddhist and Catholic monks are eager to serve the community, and your financial contributions help their monasteries to be self-supporting. No religious participation is required for your stay, no shared beliefs, no discussions about faith at all. What is welcome is your presence. Accommodations can range from rustic and simple, to comfortable, to luxurious, and cost can be from $15 to $75 per day, including meals. Uniformly youíll find beautiful settings and delicious healthy meals coupled with an absence of phones and TV.
If money is available to you, inns, health resorts, and bed and breakfasts offer tranquil, beautiful settings with good food, great views, and quiet surroundings free of television and phones. Prices are higher in some areas, but I have found perfect settings with pristine rooms that Iíve returned to again and again, that have been very modestly priced. Going out of season and during the week can also reduce prices.
The key is to follow your heart, open your mind, complete what is nagging at you, get into the car, and journey your way into a few days of solitary living that can inspire you to transform the way you think of your day-to-day life. Dealing with stress and relaxation from moment to moment is essential. Add to that a broad stroke at the overall lifestyle you maintain and you can take years of stress off by enhancing beauty, finding rhythm and getting in touch with who you are inside of yourself when you are perched on a cliff, sitting in a garden, or stoking a roaring fire that you have built yourself.
So, go on. Find a nice place. And relax with yourself!
© Copyright 2002 KD Farris, Ph.D.. All Rights Reserved.
Read KD's Past Columns:
July 2002 - "Build Your MESHE - Seek the Space: A Process for Reclaiming the Shadow"
June 2002 - Revisiting: "The MESHE Concept - A Path to Soulful Living"
May 2002 - "Bodywork 101"
March 2002 - "Being Present Within Your Prosperous Life"
February 2002 - "HESHE and The Third Bird"
December 2001 - "Manifesting Your Perfect Partner with Personal Truthz"
November 2001 - "Remembering What We Already Know"
September 2001 - "Be Led By What You Are Trying to Avoid"
August 2001 - "Draw Your Way to Clarity, Health & Balance"
June 2001 - "Tending to the Negative Mind"
May 2001 - "Gentle Conscious Living"
April 2001 - "MISON and The Moment"
March 2001 - "The MESHE Concept - A Path to Soulful Living"
KD Farris, Ph.D. is a successful counselor, healer, and bodyworker. For more than twenty years she has taught
extensive workshops based on MESHE, HESHE, MISON & ORBIT as well as many other self-discovery topics.
KD began developing her integrated bodywork and counseling techniques in 1983 under the tutelage of many prominent doctors and healers throughout the United States.
Her education into the spiritual and physical aspects of the human experience served as the foundation for her private practice and the development of a new philosophy. She combined her techniques into four guiding principles, which she shares in her book, MESHE, HESHE,
MISON & ORBIT: What My Grandmother Taught Me About the Universe. She teaches a companion workshop series, where she creates an interactive environment demonstrating the material from her book with tangible, life altering effects. In these workshops, individuals discover a
deepening of their relationship to self, others, and life itself.
Through individual counseling and group workshops, she has taught her results-oriented programs to many different types of people including those confined to mental institutions, substance and food abusers, and generally, people in life transitions, struggling with intimate
relationships, or who lack direction in their lives. Visit www.kdfarris.com.
KD is currently touring a new body of work, Talking About People in Transition, Also Known As
Liminal Space. She will be writing about liminality and its relevance to day-to-day living in upcoming issues of Soulful Living. For more information on this new and exciting topic, or to learn about more her private practice, workshops and lectures, visit
Contact KD at: info@MESHE.com