A few weeks ago I had the immense blessing of spending a long weekend at Omega Institute to be a participant in the workshop “A Seeker’s Guide”. The workshop was led by Elizabeth Lesser whose books The Seeker’s Guide:Making Your Life a Spiritual Adventure and Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow have made a tremendous impact on me. What made this workshop particularly special was its timing for me. I chose to attend fairly last minute as a gift to myself following the difficult and painful events with my Mom’s illness and death just a few weeks prior. While the workshop spoke to me earlier in the year when I received the workshop catalog, it resonated even more strongly with me now. I saw it as a way for me to immerse myself in this deeply spiritual yet practical work and be in a very nourishing environment for a few days far away from all the external details of running a business and dealing with these immense changes in my life and simply BE.
Co-leading the workshop with Elizabeth were David Wilcox and Nance Pettit. The musical medicine that David brought to the experience was a very visceral way to tap into the depth of the work. From a simply musician and music lover point of view I have enjoyed David’s music in the past; this time, though it held a key to opening some of the floodgates of emotion that were pent up from all that had happened over the last few months. Nance brought her own expertise about the body to the mix and not only held such a strong space for us all but guided us often and gently to reconnect in with the body.
The workshop followed the flow of the book “The Seeker’s Guide: Making Your Life a Spiritual Adventure” and I’d highly recommend reading this book for insight, comfort, practical advice, and warmth that is truly a gift. I might add that in person Elizabeth is equally gifted as a powerful leader who is so easy to connect with and truly believes we are all walking this path and is quick to share her own experiences. In the book and workshop she breaks down the spiritual journey into four landscapes:
The Landscape of the Mind – this is the realm that focuses on our ability to bring presence to our moments and ease anxiety and stress by harnessing the power of our minds. We focused a lot on the practice of meditation and the games our minds play during this part of the workshop.
The Landscape of the Heart – truly connecting with our hearts so we can be fully alive. Being fully open to our hearts means being willing to be broken open by the sorrows and grief that finds us and use it as a catalyst in our lives. How we deal with grief, loss, and pain will determine whether we shut down or open up to ourselves, our lives, and others. Needless to say the exercises in this part of the workshop hit a very raw spot inside of me but I welcomed it all in…
The Landscape of the Body – we live in our bodies, so why are they so often banished from the spiritual conversation? They are our homes for however long we are on the planet, so let’s engage them in our practice, shall we? Elizabeth led us through some very powerful discussions and exercises dealing specifically with the fear of death and what it might teach us.
The Landscape of the Soul – how to experience each day as it is full of mystery and meaning. What can our soul teach us about living? How might we move through our lives differently if we listened to our souls?
I walked away from a weekend of depth and an awful lot of sorrow (for me as I could open more fully to what I was feeling) really feeling cared for (by myself and the amazing workshop leaders and support team) and grateful for the journey. I was reminded again that so often we need to retreat in order to move forward. We’re just not meant to sweep our fully human self that comes complete with foibles, deep emotions, and needs that don’t fit neatly into the day-to-day axe grind environment we live and work in. That is the real challenge for the everyday spiritual warrior – leaning in to being fully alive and doing what it takes to nourish that very important part of oneself that yearns to disconnect from all the buzzing, beepers, and doing – to create breathing space – to connect in to self, to nature to others – and to be alive and aware along the journey.