The power of retreat: Allowing your soul to catch up.

The story is told of a South American tribe that went on a long march, day after day, when all of a sudden they would stop walking, sit down to rest for a while, and then make camp for a couple of days before going any further. They explained that they needed time to rest so that their souls could catch up with them.
— Wayne Muller

I stumbled upon this quote as I was flipping through Wayne Muller’s book, Sabbath, in December and the words really struck me. The idea of just staying in one place for a few days, with the sole purpose of allowing my soul to catch up sounded so alluring to me. It had been a crazy but interesting fall, and despite the infusion of mindfulness and slowness in my day-to-day, there was still an influx of frenetic energy going into the various projects and plans for my business. When I read this quote, it sunk inside me like a stone as I realized (once again!) that I was living too far in the future and I needed to stop and let my soul catch up.  

So, at the beginning of the new year, I decided to book a rustic cabin in the mountains (no electricity, water or heat!) for a retreat of sorts; an opportunity for me to get away from the distractions of my day-to-day life and really slow down and get clear about what was really important to me. My days were spent mostly in silence as I allowed myself to settle. Beyond the tasks of keeping myself warm and fed (which on the first night seemed rather onerous...but, luckily became easier!) I did whatever I felt like doing (a departure from my usual adherence to the day’s ‘to do’ list). I slept in. I tended the fire. I sipped tea. I drew in my journal and I read. I also wandered the bison ranch that the cabin was situated on and found myself soaking up a breathtaking mixture of mountain landscape, cold temperatures and low angled sun and I felt inextricably connected to to it all. As I walked around the ranch, I stood at different points around the paddock and watched the bison as they went about the business of being bison. On that day, they were in no rush. The movements of these magnificent animals were slow and sparse, matching the quietude of the expansive landscape we found ourselves in.

Do you have the patience to wait
Till your mud settles and the water is clear?
Can you remain unmoving
Till the right action arises by itself?
— Tao Te Ching

Slowly, as if keeping pace with the bison in the paddock, the constant and usually hyperactive chatter in my mind started to slow down. In its place, I found the space grow around and between my thoughts. The often overwhelming compulsion to do started to loosen, and on the final morning I found myself simply staring at the wall in the small cabin (If anyone else had been around, it would have likely been determined that it was for an awkwardly long period of time!) But, rather than thinking about what was next, or what I needed to do, I found myself appreciating the simple beauty of the cabin I was sitting in: the rustic cabinet, the angel-winged tea light holder, the antique chair, the wood grain of the sauna, the small statue in the window…

It was all so simple and I was in no hurry to be anywhere else. 

Perhaps, this is what it feels like to have your soul catch up. To sit in a place and know that there is nothing else you need to do to make the moment more perfect.