The world is a noisy place. And life has its own noisiness to it too. It’s a rare thing to be able to escape all of this and hit reset, but last month I had the chance to do just that when I snuck away to Bowen Island for a few days. This idyllic little island is just off the coast of Vancouver, BC and accessible by a short ferry ride.
While I was indeed retreating from the world, it was less of a running away from and more of a running towards something in that retreat. This retreat was my taking a time to reconnect with myself away from the distractions of daily responsibilities and my phone and technology. While it was certainly a weekend of self care, I hesitate to use that term because “self-care” is such a buzz word these days. I’ve written a lot about it previously, but am adamant that self-care is not a bubble bath. It sure can be, but that is not the core of what self-care is. Self care is simply that: caring for your whole self.
Maybe you can relate to this, but 2023 has been a year. The year started out with me receiving a break-up email from my then boyfriend at 3:00am January 1st. Needless to say that was NOT the way I expected my year to start and 2023 has since provided many more twists and turns–all of which have me in a place I was not expecting to be as this year begins to wind down to a close. It has been a year filled with a lot of ups and downs, a lot of noise and overwhelm, and I began to lose that ability to center myself and connect.
I don’t say that as a bad thing, just as a reflection on the year gone by. This year I’ve left relationships that no longer served me; I’ve fostered new relationships that excite me; and I’ve deepened some long-term relationships that bring heart-warming connection to my life. I’ve also had the chance to take some courses and start a new career. It’s been a full year and we’ve still got time left to go!
While I can look back and love each twist and turn, each heartache and joyful moment, I had been feeling more and more like the busyness of life was taking over my brain. When that happens, I feel disconnected from myself and my surroundings, which makes it hard to feel grounded in my everyday life. I begin to feel listless and crave an escape from life even though it’s a full and wonderful life that I am grateful for.
In my time away I hoped to have honest reflection with myself, which is also kind of the purpose of this blog post–just a chance to be open and share a bit more of a personal reflection than maybe we normally do on our little blog. On the one hand it could feel a bit pointless to do because it is just one person’s ramblings in a world wide web of words; but, on the other hand, points of personal connection have always been so meaningful to me in my life, so that’s what I often feel the need to lead with.
Goals of Reconnection
I feel that doing a retreat such as this is essential not only for my overall personal wellness, but also for the wellness of my greater connection to the world. A concept such as climate change, for example, can be an absolutely overwhelming topic and is even more so when I’m mired down in the worries of daily life, of the piles of tasks I need to complete, of the relationships I’m navigating, of the bills and rising cost of living and every other thing that comes with this adulting situation. But taking time to step back, disconnect from all those worries, and reconnect with myself has allowed me the space to see a greater picture of this life and the world. We only have so much time here. For better or worse, our moments matter.
Nature Makes a Way
Setting aside my phone and being present in the moment is not an easy thing for me. I’d like to say that it is, but I can be easily distracted. On my first retreat morning I decided to attend the mindfulness group session in the lodge’s sanctuary. I got myself up and rushed out the door for the early morning and was stopped in my tracks.
Standing between me and the sanctuary door was an adult deer who looked at me and then kept looking behind her as if waiting on someone. I didn’t want to move and risk scaring the deer as I felt the space belonged more to her than it did to me. I was a visitor in their space after all. After a few moments of standing and waiting with the deer, her little one came trotting down the path to stand with her.
The two proceeded to hang out with each other and spent some time bathing each other. They then moved closer to me and a grassy area and had some breakfast. At one point, the baby was around 5 feet away from me slurping up leaves from the ground.
The entire time I’m standing frozen, not wanting to scare them, and am being forced to be present with them as they go through their morning routine. I get a little emotional thinking about what a gift it was to experience nature up close like that. It isn’t that I’ve never seen deer before, but I’ve never seen them in such a personal way.
I had a half an hour standing and sharing in the deer’s morning, getting to admire them and the simplicity of their lives. And, of course, I didn’t have my phone, so I was forced to simply observe and not attempt to document what was happening. That was a gift too. Because how often am I separated from my environment as I try to document its beauty instead of simply experiencing and appreciating it?
The idea of being present and experiencing the moment instead of attempting to orchestrate or document my time became a goal for me. It wasn’t an easy thing to do and I can’t say I successfully achieved it, but from the moment I was driving up to the retreat, I knew I needed it.
As I was driving up the road and driveway to the retreat center where I was staying, I almost broke down in tears at the view: an expansive forests with a lake nestled in the middle and the ocean over the ridgeline beyond it. It was stunning and, as corny as it may sound, it made my heart ache at the beauty of it.
I’m very lucky to live in a beautiful place. I don’t have to go far to see mountains, forests, or oceans and I like to believe that I regularly appreciate the beauty of it all. I do feel there is a difference between simply appreciating it, though, and letting the grandeur of it all impact me in a deep way. While I don’t have time to stand in awe at things all the time, perhaps I need to do so more often.
What’s the point?
So what’s the point of all this reflecting and retreating and reconnecting? For me, I needed to drown out the noise so I could reconnect to what was important. When busyness and chaos take over, as life tends to do, I can enter a task-oriented mode where I’m simply checking off boxes and getting what needs to be done, done.
That’s not terrible, but it lacks a rootedness in meaning—whatever that meaning is for a person. What is life if it’s simply a bunch of tasks we’re rushing to accomplish? I need a lot more than that. I value purpose and meaning. It’s why Krista and I write about sustainability; because we wanted our words to have meaning and be making a difference.
It’s easy, even when things originally had meaning, for them to turn into tasks on a to do list. This retreat journey inward, for me, is allowing me to be more present in my outward actions, which will not only impact my relationships with people, but also my relationship with our planet.
The Climate Change Collective
This post is the lead post for November’s Climate Change Collective conversation.
The Climate Change Collective was born out of an exchange that took place between Michelle and Jamie in the comments section of a Jamie Ad Stories blog post. Jamie and Michelle both care deeply about the impact of human activity on our planet and wanted to find a way to keep the climate change message top of mind for everyone. A tweet was sent out, bloggers responded, and we’ve all now teamed up to create the Climate Change Collective!
The idea is simple. The members of the collective will take turns writing a monthly blog post sharing their concerns and unique perspective about climate change. After the post is published, the rest of the group will keep the conversation going by sharing a link to the post on their blogs along with their thoughts and ideas. If you’re a like-minded blogger and would like to join our collective, please get in touch. The more the merrier!
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