This past weekend my partner Kim and I had the opportunity to attend a workshop at Kripalu entitled “Beyond Words: Poetry and Music as Passion, Prayer, and Practice” led by Jami Sieber and Kim Rosen. All I can say is that I was totally blown away by the weekend and let me tell you why.
If you’ve been reading along the blog or my newsletters, you know that the last 5 weeks have been “full” (to say the least) between the family medical emergencies, getting laid off, and learning our very best friends were breaking up, it has been a roller coaster of emotions and practicalities all trying to occupy the same space. Back in June before we went on our awesome little Maine adventure, I received one of those little schedule update emails from one of my favorite musicians Jami Sieber. It had details on this workshop being held in August at Kripalu. Now, I hadn’t seen Jami perform live since way back in circa 1994 when she toured with Ferron and I had never even heard of Kim Rosen, but I just knew that this workshop was “the one” I had hoped would appear in my life in 2007, so we took the plunge and “just booked it” as they say.
I didn’t give it much more thought until earlier last week when I met with Susan Rangitsch (who ran the January “Radical Aliveness” retreat that turned my world upside down). We were talking about my irritation with having to still go to work for a few more weeks (even though I’ve been laid off) and my general anger and uncertainty around how I am going to use this event in my life to make it the best thing that ever happened to me and create the business and career of my dreams instead of more of the same (daily corporate dread). In true fashion she listened to me talk on and on and then simply looked me in the eye and informed me that this whole transition is simply rattling me to the core. She challenged me to do something that would allow me to feel the depths of my emotions and truly mark this transition in my life. I spent the week wondering what exactly I might want that to look like following my last day at work and then also entertained the notion that this upcoming weekend workshop was supposed to play a role. And, was I right -these three days cracked me open, allowed me to feel deeply, and have added clarity to my path.
To be honest I had no idea what the workshop would really be like. I haven’t done a ton of workshops in my life and with the wildly powerful experiences I have had in intense workshops and training with Debbie Ford and my recent January retreat, I’ve just learned to trust that the right ones will show up at the right time. That is what happened this weekend.
Get your feet wet and sample the waters? Heck no! This workshop started with jumping into the deep end of the pool and it just got better from there. So quickly did it usher in a torrent of opening in me that I spent much of the first night lying awake in bed tossing and turning. I could hear the strong winds and rain battering the trees and the building. A previously stagnant pattern of muggy hot weather was being replaced by an autumn like chill. A similar stagnant pattern inside of me was also being shaken and stirred. Early the next morning around sunrise I wrote the following two paragraphs in my journal:
A great wind rattled the shutters and trees echoing through the halls of the building and my heart. Bringing with it the declaration of an opening, a shift from stone to the softness of leaning in and letting go to flow.
Music and word brought forth such power that even the clouds were called to move once again.
In my articles and teleclasses, I talk a lot about how my experience with Debbie Ford’s work was my first real encounter with getting out of my head and into my heart in a way I had never known before. Well, this workshop facilitates that same deep heart communication in a way that is hard to describe yet instantly accessible to anyone with ears to hear and a heart to feel, but I’ll take a stab at it.
Have you ever been deeply moved by a piece of music? Have you ever been captured and compelled by a word, phrase, or poem? Now for a moment imagine those experiences combined in a way that is so powerfully delivered by two women that it transcends the physical people involved and alchemizes with a circle of participants to create a space in which magic and miracles can and do occur. Jami’s improvisational and deeply emotive electric cello acted as both a backdrop for the experience as well as a second wordless poet; Kim wove some of the greatest poetry ever written – Rumi, Oliver, Neruda, and her own original work – into a tapestry that guided each of us into our own deeply personal experiences. I must confess that growing up I had never been a big fan of poetry. Perhaps it was institutionalized English teachers that scared me off or the seemingly untouchable poet friends that made me run for the hills. Or, maybe it was simply my left brain mathematical mind that was so ticked off because there was no “right answer” and I couldn’t cope with the ambiguities. It is only in the last decade that I’ve invited it back into my life in fits and starts. There are people who can read poetry or act out a phrase or story, but Kim Rosen isn’t one of those people. The way she has embodied the words she reads and writes is on a deeper level. The words are embedded deep within her DNA which allows her to deliver the goods in such a commanding, accessible, yet highly spontaneous way that it will dumbfound your logical mind and hit you at the core.
The weekend consisted of a series of different poetry deep dives as they called it which invited the circle of participants deep into their own heart. My experience was that some of the dives were intensely painful and emotional while others were highly insightful and still others were filled with boundless joy. That is the beauty of the way they (and the rest of the circle) held the space – all experiences are welcome in the circle. Reading that might scare you. It might make your vulnerable self get defensive or scared. I know in the past I would be right there with you in an instant. Yet what I’ve learned in the process of developing my Comfortable in Your Own Skin(tm) coaching model and actually taking (and continuing to take) that journey myself is that sometimes in order to learn how to be comfortable in your skin you need to spend time being uncomfortable as well. It is a funny dichotomy, but trust me the two are intricately and intimately related.
For me much of the process was rooted in my deep fears around taking the plunge from unhappy corporate slave to full time business owner. Sure I’ve been running my business for several years, but the move from part-time to full-time is a big one filled with uncertainty. In the cradle of cello and voice and a circle almost devoid of time and space I was able to dive deep within and allow overwhelm, fears, grief, loss, and hidden desires wash over me. I took risks with pen and paper, in the sound and expression of my voice, and even in a spontaneous opportunity to let a borrowed guitar be my voice. (Anyone who knows me would know I rarely if ever play my guitar for others other than the old days of highly structured classical guitar performances and sure as hell not in the presence of a professional musician I highly respect. But I took the truly incomprehensible statement “we’re all going to play something in the key of D-minor” in, forgot about every musical fear and expectation I ever had of myself, swallowed hard, and hurled myself off the cliff. It was a bungee jump I’d highly recommend.)
Also part of the process for me was connecting with my partner on a deeper level. She had her own deeply personal experience but we also had a shared one. If there is one thing I know for sure it is that this willingness to communicate, explore, and grow individually and as a couple is the #1 best thing you could ever hope for in a relationship. After over 15 years as a couple it is possible to create a newness and mystery that deepens and enriches if both people are willing to be vulnerable and evolve. I was personally stunned by some of the risks she took this weekend and can share in that dance of joy with her. Very cool indeed!
What I have taken away from this experience is both a knowing and an unknowing that fuels and inspires me. Our lives are really much like this workshop – we can organically create from our feelings and experiences if we are open, willing, and aware. This holds true whether you are an artist or an executive in the boardroom. Living life by your own design is all about painting on the blank canvass before you. What do you most long to see on your canvass? How can you cultivate the soil within yourself to allow the seeds you plant (or wish to plant) to grow and thrive? What experience does your soul long for that will make you uncomfortable so you can transform it into a stronger foundation available to you wherever you go?
I would love to know what you think. I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, or experiences in the comments below.