How unfamiliar I am with stillness when first leaving the office on retreat. How carefully constructed my busyness and the insisting voices of “should’a, would’a, could’a”. As if the world will fall apart without my constant attention.
I’m on the wild and gorgeous Hawaiian island of Molokai, the last morning of our week long women’s wisdom retreat. With a land area of 260 square miles, Molokai 38 miles long and 10 miles wide. Yesterday we hiked to a point where we stood on one coast and easily saw the beach on the other coast 10 miles away!
In 2012 I convened my first Women’s Wisdom Retreat at The Hui Ho’olana Retreat Center. A diverse group, we hailed from corporate, nonprofit, and community leadership positions and discovered together the ways feminine wisdom flourishes in a caring circle of women peers. This wisdom retreat is an annual gathering every May on the island of Molokai. I love hosting retreats and just realized that this is the 15th retreat I’ve co-hosted with esteemed colleagues including Pia Gyger, Anna Gamma, Nikolaus Brantschen, Fay Freed, Tina Kelly Green and Dianne Morrison since 2003 - including Europe, Mexico and California.
This morning, sitting in the predawn chorus of raucous birds, I am spiraling into silence. Never dropping straight into silence, like a stone falling from the top of the well into the dark waters below, I spiral round and round into myself. I guess it’s to be expected. Letting go when I first arrive, I begin to sink, first receiving rush after rush of unfelt, unloved, wobbly voices lurking below the daily press of doing. Mixed memories confuse things, intermix ancient and recent times when I felt cut off, shut down, dismissed or even stretched into more happiness than I could easily digest. Part of me wants to run back into busyness. After 7 days, I’m ready to stay longer in the silence.
Welcoming these wild strangers of memory takes courage. Yet, only by embracing them do they relax their stubborn grip and I sink further into my inner well of wisdom. My heart yearns to soften. My belly hungers to fill with the richness of my creative soul. My desire to more completely own my place in the world grows more powerful than my fear.
Quiet surrender arises in the dawn. Below the excess really does lie authentic essence. Amazing.
Gray light opens my view of Koa, palm, red earth, water, and far off Lanai. Wildness fills my soul.
I begin to retrieve memories of connecting with each woman this week, remembering the moment when our eyes met in mutual recognition, the moment when you broke open and spoke your deepest fear, the moment when you gasped to accept the joy, and the moment when you discovered you’d become funny again.
All of us who are striving to lead from wisdom can benefit from regular doses of inspiration which is one of the reasons why I have developed the women’s retreat. The retreats allow women leaders, entrepreneurs, artists, authors and managers to relax, and begin to develop a more authentic and effective leadership style. This year we also covered 4 steps into personal power that naturally overcome the 3 biggies: self-doubt, shrinking into smallness, or self-dismissal. The discussion rocked.
Click here to see a video of Karen speaking directly to women leaders.
Mahalo to Rikki Cooke for this gorgeous photo!