They themselves are makers of themselves” by virtue of the thoughts which they choose and encourage; that mind is the master weaver, both of the inner garment of character and the outer garment of circumstance, and that, as they may have hitherto woven in ignorance and pain they may now weave in enlightenment and happiness. ~ James Allen
Where do we put our attention?
When we are awake our thoughts go to wherever we put our attention. If lightning strikes and a loud bang of thunder rings, our thoughts may turn to whether we are safe and we may feel scared or excited? Or, we may think about Benjamin Franklin and how he discovered that lighting was an electric current.
Needless to say, the moment before the lightning struck our thoughts were most likely not on lightning, and after the lightning struck they most definitely were on lightning.
The fuel of our thoughts is attention
wherever we put our attention our thoughts will follow. For example, if lightning continues to strike and the thunder becomes louder and louder, we will indubitably put more and more attention on the real and potential dangers of lightning.
Attention Grabber (lightning and thunder) –> Thoughts (Am I safe?) –> Emotions (I am feeling scared.) –> Actions (Stay Indoors) (morph, rinse and repeat)
Everything is Vying for Your Attention (Your Energy)
The challenge is that everything — our body, our emotions, our friends, our families, all the screens in our lives (computers, iPhone, televisions) and that Starbucks down the street — are vying for our attention at the same time.
I often beat myself up when I get to the end of the day and realize that nothing I wanted to do was accomplish. We need to ask ourselves two questions: (1) Where am I putting my attention? and (2) What needs is this fulfilling?
For example, if we keep going to NYTimes to read the news, or flip through some television channels or check our iPhone for emails. Why are we doing this? Is there some piece of news that is very important that we need to stay up-to-speed on? Is there some TV show we are looking for? Is there some important email we are expecting? Or, is it because we do not want to be doing what we are doing? Or, is it because we are bored? Or, is it because we are scared and we want relief from the feeling of fear?
We arrived. The Garrison Institute grounds and building were healing. The contract of the hustle of NYC compared to the calm greenery and stoic buildings felt right. The accommodations were simple and minimalistic. No plush pillows. No fancy duvet cover. No flat panel TV. And, no locks on the doors. It helped clear my mind. I put my phone in airplane mode, and put it in my bag. I was committed to no calls, no emails and no text messages the whole weekend. After all, the retreat was called disconnect to connect.
The Wisdom 2.0 Disconnect to Connect retreat began Friday evening in the cathedral — cushions were spaciously and perfectly centered around a rectangular carpet. Each of us had our tiny little island. I was happy to be there, but the layout created a sense that we were each distant and out-of-reach.
Soren opened the session by sharing that this space is a container for our inner growth and to see what naturally emerges. We were invited to share: What brought us here? And, what are each of our intentions?
I sat with what my intentions were, and initially wanted something profound to say, but nothing came to mind. The feeling was relief and a warmth in chest, and the need for me was rest. As everyone shared, it seemed as though rest and rejuvenation and healing were common themes throughout the group. But, I also heard so many things that stuck with me:
+ Gratitude: What you appreciate, appreciates. I have been continually told that gratitude is so crucial to our lives, but for some reasons this comment from a gentleman made me pause.
+ Meditation: We promise nothing, and we deliver. Soren spoke about this around meditation retreats. I couldn’t help but find this hilarious as I reflected on the many meditation retreats I have been to.
+ Technology: What is a reasonable amount of information for human being to comprehend? As a part of the businesses I run, I have been delving into digital marketing and am often being overwhelmed by the hundreds of pieces of information.
By the end of the evening — all of our meditation cushions were disorganized and closer to one and other. The perfect circle of meditation cushions became a bit messier and real. The one thought that kept coming up for me: breathe and let go.
The following day began with 30 minutes of meditation. I came and most were already sitting, and my body dropped to the floor like a log. I sat so comfortably for that sit, and enjoyed going to my breath.
Throughout the second day, the group naturally and the group activities connected with one and other. Here were some thoughts and lessons that were emerging:
+ Self-Love/Self-Acceptance and the realities for growth and progression. I am feeling a pulling from the center of my chest to share with an open heart, and for each of us to put our mud in the center of the table.
+ Healing: I spoke about the businesses that I am working on and the great healing that is occurring of me and everyone around us. And, the ultimate reality, that it is not a money problem; rather, it is a need for healing.
+ Being What Is; Being What You Want: There is an aspect to feeling what is going on (e.g., fear and sadness) and then there is opening up to what you want and desire.
+ Letting things Fall Apart: We can either be putting up resistance and trying to hold every piece from falling apart. Or, we can feel comfortable with it all falling apart. And, this is a practice. To feel the fear and be okay with it and then keep moving forward. Perhaps, this ideal vision of the promised land will be a reality, and perhaps not. Being open to an extended set of possibilities is a heart opening exercise.
In the afternoon, the gifts of so many were shared. In the great cathedral hall, I entered and heard beautiful kirtan. I pulled up some meditation cushions and let the singing take me to sleep. And, in the late evening, Carin Winter, a fellow retreat participant, led a group of us in an ecstatic dance class — to say the least I felt free and enjoyed every moment.
It was 7AM the next day, and It had been over 1 full day since I had turned off my phone. It had been months since I had felt this lightness in my chest, and freedom from not being tied to my phone.
I wanted to call my mom for Mother’s Day. The moment I turned on my phone, I received a slew of text messages, emails and beeps. I felt a tightening in my chest and this vision of a ever expanding to do lists in the emails. It was then, that I learned a very important lesson for myself:
If I don’t have the time or space to respond to emails, don’t check them.
The day ended with shares from the group, the one that has stayed with weeks after was about Teru Imai who walked around the world. Soren spoke about joining her for portions of her walk, and how she believed in “trusting the road.”
It was to live not by trying to know everything at all times but by trusting in the mystery of not knowing. Since members spent practically all day walking alongside highways, this fearlessness was often referred to as “trusting the road.” Walkers would say, “Don’t worry, the road will provide food for us. Just trust it.” Just who this road was or how it worked could not be explained, but work it did. ~ Trusting the Road by Soren Gordhamer
The day seemed to end with this idea of trusting the unknown… trusting the road ahead outside of this safe container of kind individuals and this oasis in upstate New York.
After seeing the film from HBO, Into the Storm, I realized my great respect for the resilience and grit of Winston Churchill during WWII.
Here are some excellent quotes to get you think:
It is no use saying, ‘We are doing our best.’ You have got to succeed in doing what is necessary.
To build may have to be the slow and laborious task of years. To destroy can be the thoughtless act of a single day.
Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.
To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.
A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.
Lady Astor: “Winston, if I were your wife I’d put poison in your coffee.”
Winston Churchill: “Nancy, if I were your husband I’d drink it.”
Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.
An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile—hoping it will eat him last.
Courage is the first of human qualities because it is the quality that guarantees all the others.
If you are going through hell, keep going.
You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.
The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.
Never give in–never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.