by Amy Wilbanks, of waking up willa
While it’s true that I don’t shy away from discomfort, I normally don’t go seeking it out. I just don’t like to live my life in fear of being uncomfortable, so I keep my comfort zone boundary loose and flexible.
This past weekend I attended a women’s empowerment/yoga retreat called Camp Catalyst, organized by Shine Global, a non-profit organization that empowers girls and women to be catalysts for change in their lives and in the world. Held at the Caldera Art Center, right outside of Sisters Oregon, the facility is breathtaking, very Frank Lloyd Wright-ish, built right into the wilderness, organic, with little surprises hidden into the landscape. The earth beneath this amazing spot on the planet vibrates with possibilities and you can feel it when you step onto the property. Our lodging was Sioux style tipi’s right next to Blue Lake, the second deepest lake in Oregon.
I signed up not knowing a soul in attendance. Not really ever having done yoga before. The workshops were very appealing to me as someone with a lust for self knowledge, as was the idea of escaping into the wilderness of the unknown. An adventure in being seen, putting myself out there and embracing my authenticity. Feeling whatever came up.
Right away I began to piece together my new social world. Everyone but a few people heralded from Bend, and most everyone knew each other or at least were familiar, as they’d gone to the same yoga studios. There was an ease I felt between the others, which exemplified the awkward space I felt between myself and them. To close the gap, I reached out, I smiled, I engaged strangers, and when I felt like it, I retreated and gave my introvert reassuring pats of love and acceptance. “You’re there….I feel you. We’re okay. Trust me.”
The first night, the journey into the wilderness of the unknown was so intimidating that by the end of it, I was vibrating with so much nervous energy I thought I might burst into a million pieces. The “ice breakers” were more like “comfort zone busters” as we were made to pair randomly with strangers and communicate with deep eye contact, ripping off the shields of self preservation, throwing ourselves into a veritable puppy pile of community; heart, soul and mind. There was no place to hide, no place to blend into the background. We had to expose ourselves with this vulnerability. We had to dance within it. I don’t know if anyone else felt as naked and raw as I did that night, but as awkward as I felt, there was also such energy and power and brilliance in that room, I felt like I could glow in the dark.
The workshops tapped directly to the soul. There was no time to get comfortable. It was very much like diving into the ice cold lake. Shocking and jolting.
More lessons with being completely vulnerable with strangers. Less than strangers now, we had gone through the ritual the night before to become sisters. There was some familiarity growing. My introvert was feeling more peaceful.
Storytelling workshop first with writer, editor, community-builder and storytelling extraordinaire, Chelsea Roff. Spilling out my thoughts into a tumbling flow of words. Talking about them. Seeing the emotions build up in the recipient of my words. Tears even. I was struck at how open the woman I read my story to was. Maybe the ritual of vulnerability the night before was to bring us all to the verge of our feelings so we could communicate more openly and honestly. Stories began to sprout in my mind and I became so inspired to tell them!
Purpose workshop next with Milena Fraccari of What’s Your Tree. More storytelling and exploration into a deeper sense of purpose and passion. As I was opening myself up again to a different woman, who happened to be in all my workshops so far and also shared my tipi, I could see her blinking and nodding in agreement. When I was done, she told me this was her story too. Like, almost exactly like her story. The more we shared, the more common ground we discovered. Suddenly I felt like I realized why I was there. The synchronicity made sense.
Unlocking Your Creativity workshop with amazing artist Julia Marie Junkin. Again, with my new soul sister Beki. The synchronicities kept becoming more evident. Julia was so charismatic and so insightful that at one point I was scared to make eye contact with her, for fear that she could view all of my secrets in one glance. She was insanely connected to each person she talked to. And she talked and looked into the eyes of every single person in that class. I just watched in awe and humility. There is magic in every moment.
Last workshop was Yoga in Action with the Off the Mat team of Claire and Davian. Yoga poses with prompts for deep introspection and stopping to journal every few minutes. I loved it so much! By the end of the workshop I had written down clues to my purpose here on earth. It was *that* good.
That night was more socializing and getting to know my new tribe. My soul sister and I ventured off campus and hit up the local lodge for a bottle of wine and smuggled it back to our tipi for an after dinner adventure. When the dishes were done and people started stumbling back to their lakeside tipi’s, Beki and I gathered up our plastic wine glasses, threw on some warm clothes and sat under the giant moon and stars on the dock and sipped up our wine and feasted on stories and laughter.
The next day we all sat in small circles and did more work towards putting all of the insight from the weekend into a plan of action. One by one we stood before our community and announced what we had become catalysts for. When it was my turn, I walked to the middle of the room and spoke with a smile on my face. “I am Amy, and I’m a catalyst for human connection through storytelling.” My introvert was beaming. There were no more fears of vulnerability. I was proud to share my heart and soul.
Saying goodbye was bittersweet. I was anxious to get home to my family. I missed my husband’s voice and my kid’s snuggles. But I felt so connected to my new tribe, and I was also a little nervous to lose momentum, to forget the lessons, to get distracted by life and forget about the storytelling.
I learned so many things about myself this weekend. About how we are as humans and what makes us feel connected. And that vulnerability is connective and community building.
I was reminded of how we have such a short time on earth as these versions of ourselves and to not wait.for.anything.you.desire. You may only have this one, last moment… so embark on your adventures, satisfy your curiosities, unlock your passions, nurture your loves, share your talents and don’t be intimidated by vulnerabilities. That’s where your truth lies waiting for you to discover it. <3
Be open to yourselves with loving hearts. Life’s an adventure. Lean into discomfort, and listen for what it tells you. I’m already looking forward to next year’s adventure.
Amy resides on seven acres in the country in Battle Ground, WA with her husband, five children and two Nigerian Dwarf goats. As a stay at home mom, she finds creative refuge, (a little bit of sanity), in blogging and photography. She began blogging in 2004 as a way to process the emotional transformation of divorce, and continues to search for her voice and humor in her storytelling and photography. In her spare time (when there is any) she also enjoys hiking, roadtrips, and any adventures that include the use of a parachute, ziplines and snorkels. You can read more of her writing at her blog, waking up willa.