I’ve been home for four days and I still feel like I’m away.
A solid circle practice starts with a check-in, a simple way for everyone to arrive and tune in to both self and the group. It can be as simple as one word, or several minutes each, and it is an essential activity that allows me to “arrive” to a gathering, rather than be there physically, but not mentally, emotionally or spiritually. Today, I feel the need to check in with myself.
Last week I was on wet, Whidbey Island, north of Seattle, Washington and south of Victoria and Vancouver, British Columbia, for a writing retreat. I circled up with 11 fellow writers and 2 hosts/guides in our writing journey. As I often spend many days quietly on my own, writing, this didn’t feel too unusual, yet something was different, because I am discombobulated. So I’m here to think out loud – write out loud – to see what it is.
We spent the week digging into personal stories. We had chunks of community time to learn about different ways stories are told, different elements of story, and various ways to find our way in to the stories we carry around in us. And, of course, we had chunks of time to spend on our own, to write and explore. My time alone was wonderful. I was in a small 12′ x 12′ cabin, a wee bit separate from the group, where I treasured a tiny wood stove that needed a constant supply of small pieces of wood. It was a little playhouse in which I engaged in parallel play; I was writing and firing myself up.
The gist of the retreat was to explore self as the source of the story, which for most people means creating a piece of creative non-fiction writing. For all of us, we explored stories we hold deep down inside that need to be unearthed so we better understand who we are. Some will turn what they found into a formal piece of writing to share with a small circle of family and friends. Others will grow what they have into a book. All of these scenarios are welcome and meaningful. My objective was the former; by digging into my sense of self I am digging into the Me that wants to come out in the non-fiction writing I am undertaking about cities (Nest City).
My struggle this week is this: I feel drained this week because I feel completely and totally distracted from where my energy wants to take me. I do not want to meet with people and do office tasks. I do not want to clean up around the house and get organized for Christmas. All I want to do is sit down and write. Anything. Even a blog post (this one) will do.
Before this retreat, I had lost energy for further work on Nest City. Now, I am reinvigorated and desperate to get at it. I have three chapters to reorganize and I now know the ‘place’ in me from which they will come. I have a lot of work to do to figure out the new shape, and the Hermit in me is happy to go there. The Hermit in me is not happy to have to go out and about into the world.
The name of my wee cabin is Spirit House, and it seems to name the challenge I face upon my return:
How do I find a way to carry the Hermit in me out into the world?
How can I embody the Spirit House experience and be my own spirit house while I reach both inward and out into the world?
A recall the words said to a good friend this summer: “You’re not going on a retreat, you’re going on an advance.” I feel the tension of the advance pulling me and not being able – yet – to let myself be pulled.
I have spoken.
Check in complete.