A secret (or maybe not?)
I’ll just say it.
I have never really connected with the word ‘retreat’.
Is that an unlikely-approaching-preposterous thing for me to say, given that I am someone who has run three different retreat centers, and who has been holding retreat-like events for oh, the past thirteen years? Sure. I mean, that’s fair.
Running without running
Or as I prefer to say it, because haha I also don’t like running, it’s not so much that I run retreats, I [verb] them.
Ruminating on Names
Yes, I design and cultivate peaceful magical spaces for people to retreat, but what is retreating and why is it good and what would I call it if I got to be the namer who names?
It is funny that both RETREAT and RUN are giving me this visceral energy-level allergic reaction right now, both words that remind me of running away.
Somehow they are both (for me, in this moment) psychologically related to the kind of escape that is not fun.
If I am escaping it is because something is not right, something is in pursuit.
What I actually want is not-that. What does movement become when it is deliciously unhurried, intentional, not running away? I want Anticipation and Exhilaration.
What is the opposite of away?
TOWARDS. I want to be headed towards.
Escape, run, retreat, these are all words about exiting, while for me retreat time is really all about ENTERING.
Entering and Becoming.
Retreat time is where I can feel what it’s like to be focused on FLOW TOWARDS.
Feeling how it feels when we move in the direction of what we do want, instead of fighting against what we don’t want, which is how daily life often feels, right?
(I do not in any way mean that we should ignore intel about what is no for us, of course all our anger and frustration is real and legitimate, nor do we look away from the injustice in the world, I am talking about shifting our focus, to reorient towards clarity and intention.)
Retreat is for making that switch, it’s where (and how) we soften into ourselves, get quiet enough to even hear/feel/perceive/receive the new yeses.
Face the way you want to go. This is also called looking towards the turn.
This is a motorcycle concept and a dance concept, but also this is how I want to enter retreat time: glowing anticipation for my yeses, meeting myself with love…
Putting the treat back in retreat
Let’s put names aside for a moment. In fact, let’s put this mystery of naming into a compass-cauldron and let it percolate for a bit, we will find a way to put the treat back in retreat!
Instead, I want to tell you about how I retreat when I retreat. Maybe it will spark something for you.
How I [insert name for retreat]
There are three different forms of [retreat-like experiences] I work with in my own life, and I have been practicing all of these for many years.
First and foremost is the kind that happens when I need urgent Replenishing & Recovery. This is about deep rest and returning to myself, reconnecting, getting back to creativity and beginner’s mind and joy when I have lost my ability to remember how any of that works. Emergency Recovery!
Then there’s what I call Chrysalis, which is when I want to meet an Incoming Self, or the aspect of me who embodies a quality I need. Let’s go meet Assertive Me!
And then there’s making a container of time & space to make meaningful-to-me progress on a project that is dear to my heart (or that just needs to get done), and this is what I call Rally.
Let’s talk more about how these all work.
Replenishing & Recovery
When I first started doing these for myself it was out of necessity and burnout. I’d push too hard, get overwhelmed, go into sensory overload, collapse, and have to run away to my uncle’s in the woods, check into a hotel or go hide at the Vicarage.
I needed to stare into space, look out at trees or water or even a deliciously blank wall, and do lots of nothing.
Nap, look at the horizon, repeat until I could function again. Maybe read a book, but usually at the beginning even this was too much.
Each time this happened, I observed that after about four days of giving myself this good-for-me form of being nature with the superpower of tabula rasa, my creative spark would return with a vengeance.
I’d return refreshed and absolutely spilling over with excitement, ideas and new writing projects!
Eventually I realized I could actually take a Replenishing & Recovery before arriving at total collapse. Whoa.
Guess what, you don’t have to wait for a breakdown to rest!
Whaaaaaat. I know. Revolutionary.
It took me even longer to reach an even more exciting realization…
Even better than a pre-emptive avoid-catastrophic-breakdown retreat? Just go rest FOR NO REASON AT ALL.
This is wildly subversive because our entire culture rewards doing and over-doing, it’s all about push and achieve and ass-in-chair, and You Don’t Deserve Rest Until You’ve Earned It Through All The Accomplishments.
Rest first is like the superpower of dessert first but turned up to eleven.
And, get this, I don’t even do it for the increased productivity that comes later. I do it for pleasure and to fill up on [me], to get my glow powers glowing with such steady certainty that it doesn’t even matter what I do next because it is sure to be amazing.
Chrysalis is my absolute favorite kind of retreat, and I am always looking forward to my next one.
Chrysalis is what happens when I go somewhere quiet to meet, commune with and integrate an Incoming Self.
Sometimes I have lots of information about this incoming, other times all I have to go on is a quality or a clue, a wish or an icon.
A quality, a clue, a wish, an icon
Example of a quality: Fierce. Who is the me who knows how to be Fierce?
Example of a clue: Do you know that Mary Oliver line where she says “joy is not meant to be a crumb”, that line made me gasp the first time I read it, who is the me who does not ever treat joy like a crumb?!
Example of a wish: I want to learn new inverts in silk, and I don’t know how to approach yet, who is the me who loves hanging upside down?
Example of an icon: Linda Hamilton in Terminator, or that woman I saw in South Dakota who was this total motorcycle babe in her late 40s, so sexy and self-assured, and her boots, oh my lord those boots…
When I am on Chrysalis, I do two things and I do them at the same time and all the time. I talk to my Incoming, trying to learn everything about them. I ask them about everything.
Where do you want to sit? How do you sit? Is this location still yes? I know what I would order from this menu but what grabs your attention?
And then I try them on. Hmmm. How do I explain this?
I try on my incoming self
I wear this self, or I let them wear me.
I act the part. I wear what they would wear, eat what they want to eat if it sounds appealing to me, follow their instincts.
When I was Adrianna the Italian heiress, she only liked this one particular pen so we wrote with that. When I was Harmony, I listened to her favorite melodies on repeat and we hummed in the shower.
Glamorous Me is the reason my eyelashes always look amazing. Jet Bell bought motorcycle boots that I still wear every day.
(Playlists to play, for play!)
I make a playlist for each incoming, and the only rule of the playlist is “is this a song this self loves or no”, which leads to the most seemingly random collections of music, and I love them all.
Honestly I feel so much joy now when I listen to one and think, ah yes, Stella loved Jill Scott but also so much country music, or oh wow haha I forgot that the Vixen wanted to listen to EVERY SINGLE COVER EVER of I’m On Fire.
Coconut, for example
I recently learned that my current incoming, my Fierce self, the wild witchy wonder who goes by the name Bond and is both a sorceress and a spy, does not like chocolate.
(I love chocolate, though I forgot I did until I was Stella, but Bond loves all things coconut, and doesn’t care about chocolate at all.)
Bond is uninterested in most of the clothing I own, preferring a uniform of tight black jeans and a black silk camisole. We wear the same thing every day now.
You roll with it.
Sometimes at the beginning, you don’t have a ton of information to go on.
Sometimes they just show up, a fully formed persona.
Just like when you are writing a character (if that’s a thing you do), they begin to reveal lives of their own, preferences of their own, back stories, details you never would have guessed and certainly would not have made up.
They tell you who they are, if you let them.
Until it just becomes normal
I formally chrysalis a couple times a year but over time I’ve gotten so practiced and comfortable in working with Incomings that honestly at this point I am pretty much always in steady communication with whoever’s next.
That might even be the greatest and most beneficial (fun! joyful!) part of having taken the time to really learn how to chrysalis.
And Rally of course is for Mysterious Projects
I call a Rally when I have a project I want to play with.
Sometimes it’s something tangible (I want to finish this ebook), and sometimes I do not know what my mysterious project is at all, I just have a sense that it’s time to commune with my creative self and see what comes up.
Sometimes the project turns out to be much-needed napping and catching up on reading. I was in need of a Replenishing and wasn’t paying attention!
Sometimes the project turns out to involve a new incoming self. I was in need of a chrysalis and didn’t know it.
Sometimes the project is just to find out what the next project is.
Back to names
Retreating and holding retreats is what I do, yes, both as my job and my primary form of self-care, self-study, self-treasuring, and self-fluency, and yet I don’t connect with the word.
But regardless of what we call them…
Here is what I want
I want so badly to spend 2020 (I know, it still kind of sounds like the future, what is even happening with time) sharing everything I know with you about how these retreats work, I want a whole world of fellow secret agents declaring Replenishings and Chrysalis and Rally for ourselves.
And our selves!
And whatever we wish to call these periods of [retreat], I know that this process of making the time-and-space to be in a state of TOWARDS with our wishes, intentions, projects and ourselves will be a grand adventure, full of good surprises.
I like to think of this as the meeting of qualities: Transformation meets Sanctuary. It’s a grand adventure and we take exquisite care of ourselves and make sure we’re practicing Safety First.
A secret or maybe not-secret-at-all wish!
I want to be an ally who supports your ability to hold these retreats for yourselves whether that’s at my Dome In The Desert or in your home or some secret undisclosed location, that part is not important.
I want to applaud your wishes, I want to support the process of you feeling deliciously at home in all these skills, from taking replenishing time to delighting in the process of meeting an incoming and moving towards in your projects and with your wishes.
Let’s explore! What are the elements of what I want?
What is it that I do when I’m [insert word for retreating]?
There is an element of TIME. Time creates the boundaries for the experience. At least three nights and four days for a Rally or a Replenishing.
Anything less than that doesn’t let me immerse at all, and immersing is the whole point.
For a chrysalis I like five nights to a week. It’s always fun to play with an incoming, but if I want a real encounter with this incoming self and let them show me who they are and begin to integrate their qualities and superpowers, we need time and trust.
There is an element of SPACE and SECLUSION. For me that’s usually best in a hotel or at a retreat center or other form of safe house.
If I can’t do those things, I have other ways to magic-up any space and ensure solitude, both of which I can talk more about some other time.
When I used to go to the Vicarage, there was no wifi, and I loved living in that quiet peaceful bubble of airplane mode, listening to my playlist and getting no information from the outside world. Heaven. But there are other ways to establish boundaries that keep your [retreat] time sacred and haha, yes, a treat.
Together, TIME + SPACE + RITUAL/MAGIC create a dedicated container that provides the necessary safety and sanctuary to have a powerful transformative experience that is healing and also fun. But we can talk about that more this coming year as we practice.
I was on a chrysalis at the Dome In The Desert and had a realization about my own retreat center and how I’ve been hosting retreats here.
My incoming pointed out that I have been embodying Bosley when I was supposed to be Charlie. I have been coordinating the secret missions instead of calling them in.
My job is to be hidden, to glow presence but also to be there through not being there, to become even more invisible, to allow the magic of the form to come to the forefront.
I’m supposed to be Charlie.
Form + Intention + Play.
Obviously I still want to be involved in people’s retreats for joy, play and companionship, but I will do that not because I think you need me or some notion of “value-added” or whatever, but because it is fun.
It is fun and exciting and inspiring and rejuvenating and so many other important and delightful things to have a fellow Secret Agent to giggle with and share retreat epiphanies. I want to continue to offer that, just in a new form.
Here is the new form that is emerging.
A secret Agency (Agency 2020) of secret agents.
I want to summon-and-offer a mission (should you choose to accept it!) in which you plan your year around your own retreats and retreat-like experiences, whatever you decide to call them.
I want to invite you to figure out what form of Flowing Towards your wishes and projects you want, and for us to play and be allies in this, whether that’s at a Secret Undisclosed Location or at the dome in the desert.
The Agency itself will be officially announced in a month or so when I return from [secret op in the wilderness], but anyone who wants to get in on this with extra bonuses, this weekend is your time, because there’s a 22% discount for you, as well as some other good stuff, good through Sunday night!
Here’s the link: https://www.fluentself.com/charlie-townsend
—> 22% discount code depends on the day, but try FARRAH or WELCOMEDOME
In the meantime, I wish for us ease of ease, the greatest of ease, and all related superpowers, really whatever will support our process in delineating time and space to get to know our yeses, our movement TOWARDS and a loving commitment to all this.
You are welcome to share any excitement, anything sparked for you while reading, anything about your own experience retreating (or whatever you like to call this).
As always, we make this safe, loving and welcoming space by going on permanent vacation from care-taking and advice-giving, and taking ownership for what’s ours.
I am excited for this coming year, but mainly I am excited to be here with you and share more thoughts and learning from my own experiments in drawing-inwards and moving-towards.
Love as always, for the Beloved Lurkers and for everyone who reads, you’re always invited to comment and play here whenever you like, or to process on your own. ❤