Last weekend I had the joy of attending a member retreat at my favorite spiritual playground Columcille. This place of monoliths, myth, mystery, and general spiritual journeying has been a most special place to me for almost 10 years now. In fact, my partner and I had our commitment ceremony there and have since considered the people we know there an extended family and the land itself home . No matter what is going on in the world or in our lives, we can count on a safe, grounded space with the stones, the land, and the people. I believe everyone needs such a space in their life (in whatever form it might take) to truly thrive and grow deeper.
A little background for you…. As a nonprofit organization and preserved site under conservancy, there exists a board of directors and an extended membership that manages the affairs of the place, maintains the land, and organizes several events throughout the year. The park itself is open to the public year-round from dawn until dusk each day. If you’re ever near the Pocono’s in Pennsylvania I highly recommend paying a visit to discover it for yourself.
Part of the member retreat included a day-long exercise in meditating on and envisioning the future of Columcille. We each spent time on the land alone in silence, walking and meditating. Our charge was to capture whatever ideas we had about what Columcille would be like 20 years from now. All ideas were fair game no matter how wild or outrageous. Later in the day, we came together in small groups to share our visions. From that sharing, each group had to develop a theatrical skit to present their vision to the larger group later that evening as part of “myth and mystery theater”.
I must say this was one of the most interesting, creative, and inspiring exercises I’ve participated in. I was absolutely floored to see what each group created out of thin air in such a short space of time. Not to mention, the diversity of the people involved runs the gamut. It never ceases to amaze me just how different in shapes, sizes, life pursuits, and philosophies this group can be. Yet at the core of the matter, the heart and soul of this collective stands firm and unified in their love of the land and this spiritual space.
By the end of the night each group capitalized on this diversity and presented visions of a future in 2026 that made us all laugh hysterically, dab away tears of deep emotion, and explore our own deep visions for who we want to be as individuals 20 years hence. A most moving evening that demonstrated how “play” can be fruitful and yield tangible results.
What’s the lesson in all of this? I believe there are 7 key elements that came together to foster the magic and innovation.
Each individual trusted in their personal message from the morning meditations. Whether their seemed “good” (under our own self-critical lens) or not, people trusted in the spirit and themselves and had the courage to share it with the larger group. As a group we each inherently trusted each other with our ideas and our vulnerabilities.
While the board and group sometimes has lively discussions on points of contention (as any diverse group might), at the end of the day everyone shares a common vision of wanting to preserve the land and the essence of the place. We believe in it because we each, in our own way, have been moved by our experience at Columcille and have been called to contribute our gifts to it. The strength of a common vision whether that is for our personal or business life can’t be underestimated.
A healthy respect for each other as individuals and for the land itself roots us and allows us all to show up in our full uniqueness. Whether at play or in the midst of a lively discussion, people respect each other first as people. It keeps personality conflicts and clashes to a minimum (hell, no one is perfect, and passionate people sometimes step on each other’s toes!).
The trust and respect that exists creates a safe space in which people can take risks and stretch themselves without fear. People know they will be heard and supported when they express themselves and go out on a limb. Without the support of this safe space, innovation could not manifest itself.
It is OK to be totally who you are in this group. The land does not pass judgment and nor do the people that commit themselves to being involved as a member. Knowing that you can be just who you are allows you to show up fully and authentically. Without the burden of “watching your back”, “people pleasing”, or “trying to be something you’re not” allows your energy to soar and the creative juices to flow.
Space to Play
From day one, Columcille founder Bill Cohea has fostered a space where play and exploration is allowed. Life is too short to be terminally serious. Within this space your spirit can open up and feel like a little kid at play. Whether it is walking the wooded trails or having a conversation with the stones, you can have lightness about you and feel right at home doing so. When your spirit has space to play, decisions become clearer, your vision becomes focused, creativity thrives, and you get a shot of energy that wards off burnout and fuels your endeavors.
Everyone attended because they truly wanted to be there. They didn’t “have to”; it didn’t feel like “work”. When you’re engaged in an activity you enjoy in an environment that nurtures you, it is easy to get in the flow and get in touch with the joy of living and just being. Whenever you can be fully present in the now you can tap into the wonder of what it means to be alive. That brings joy. When you have joy in your heart the possibilities become endless and you enjoy the journey and the destination (if there really ever IS one…).
The greatest thing about these 7 elements is that you can apply it to any business or personal project. Even if your project doesn’t require a team of people, you can apply the concepts to your relationship to yourself and yield results.