I'm learning so much about running a small business, and I have to say, it’s almost all fun. This month marks three years of the creative and deeply satisfying challenge of running LifeArt Studio. I feel super busy, highly productive, engaged in good work, committed to my calling. In many ways, this is the best job I've ever had. I bow to the universe in gratitude. As I watch myself climb the steep learning curve of running a small business, I've noticed how much of my life seems to be output. Do you notice that in the cycles of your work life? We give, we produce, we manage, we organize, we support, we create. All necessary activities, for sure, and sometimes, simply unavoidable if the business is to stay afloat. The crying baby cannot be ignored. And believe me, my baby has been quite fussy at times.
I’ve noticed, though, that it takes me a long time to recognize I've been in output mode too long. I ignore the clear indicators output exhaustion: poor sleep, mid-afternoon fatigue, lack of focus, low grade anxiety, succumbing to food cravings, and the downgrading of quality in what I produce. These are messages that it's time to fill the tank again (or be sorry). To restore and replenish. To soothe and subdue my inclination to be in output mode. I need to intentionally put myself into input mode.
Research in creativity and high performance tells us that moving out of output mode and into input mode is absolutely vital for a healthy functioning being. I have written before about my mentor, Jeffrey Davis, and the admirable dedication he has to giving himself time and space to retreat. In the course of a year, he takes a variety of retreats to re-boot his energy, his focus, and his intention. One version comes in the form of extended periods (maybe 5-10 days) in which he goes away from his regular routine and flow of life and business, and sequesters himself in a remote place where he can read, meditate, write, and revel in nature. But he also takes what he calls "in-house retreats." Periodically, his wife takes over all duties for the children and household for two or three days, while Jeffrey holes up in his office for reflection and re-focusing. (And in turn, Jeffrey takes over while his wife enters her own in-house retreat.)
Both forms of retreat can re-charge our creative lives, taking us out of the need to produce, and allowing us to get quiet enough to recognize the part of ourselves that has no need to produce, prove, accomplish, achieve. That part is already at ease, already peaceful, already complete and whole unto itself. Resting in that part of ourselves is the best form of re-fueling we can do. It builds confidence. It instills equanimity. It aligns us with our higher purpose. It gives us clarity to move forward. And most importantly, it gives us access to our natural wisdom, intellect, and creativity.
I want that.
Retreat opportunities abound in the Central Florida area. Before you start coming up with reasons as to why it would be impossible for you to go on retreat, I urge you to just start thinking about how nice it would be, how good a retreat would make you feel, how much happier your life might be if you really gave yourself such deep attention to the well-being of mind, body, and spirit. Simply allowing the thought to hover in your mind will open possibilities for retreat in the next few months. Just watch how they start popping into your line of vision, and into your sense of possibility.
And you know—because I've been talking about it non-stop—next month I'm heading out for a week-long retreat in Nicaragua. The retreat is led by Grace Van Berkum, an amazing young woman dedicated to helping people make healthy changes in their lifestyle. This is a major retreat for me, one that will take me to a new place, give me new experiences, feed my body with nutrient-rich foods, and challenge me to live life more joyfully, richly, and abundantly. And, I get to teach workshops using the LifeArt protocol for enhancing creative living.
I would love for you to join me and a few other Orlando folks on this extraordinary journey of re-fueling, re-focusing, re-designing, re-aligning, and re-dedicating. You can see all the details here.
But if this kind of retreat is not possible for you right now, I urge you to begin watching for small, intentional ways you can stop business as usual, and give yourself time to get away and get quiet for a while. Leave all your technology at home and spend a day at the beach, an afternoon at Leu Gardens, two hours at Wekiva Springs. Unplug. Get quiet. Dive deep. Open your heart. Be willing to receive. And then. . . just watch the miracles happen.