Last Thursday I woke up from a deep sleep with a line from a poem in my head: “What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” This line from Mary Oliver’s “The Summer Day” has been quoted countless times in a myriad of ways. And now my own brain was whispering it to me.
That day I was headed out for my quarterly retreat at Josephine’s Cabin, a one-room cabin in Los Altos that sits atop a hill with a wide view of a beautiful valley. There’s a tiny kitchen, a bed, a desk and a lovely wooden deck that is perfect for getting perspective.
If you’ve been following my posts on Kind Over Matter, you know that In February I wrote an article about “Why You Need – and Deserve – a Personal Retreat.” Then last month, I gave all the nitty-gritty details of how to set up a retreat for yourself in “Planning a One-Day Personal Retreat to Create, Rejuvenate, and Celebrate.”
I wasn’t planning a third in the series. But then I woke up with that poetry in my head and later that same day I found myself sitting on the deck at the cabin, thinking about intention. It just seemed like there was more to write about the importance of personal retreats.
I believe the Universe was saying “Listen.” Sometimes things are so popular or we hear them so much, they lose their aha-ness. They lose their meaning. That’s how the Mary Oliver line had become for me. Maybe it is the same for you. I realized that the line wasn’t just a gift for me; it was likely one for you, also.
That line is all about intention. It is about clarity. It is about stopping to truly consider the miracle that we are here on earth for a short time and that it is up to us to live the life that is only ours to live.
There is a book I love called “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less” by Greg McKeown. Here is a quote about what essentialism means: “It is about making the wisest possible investment of your time and energy in order to operate at our highest point of contribution by doing only what is essential.”
How do we know what is essential in our lives? How do we know what to pursue, where to put our time and energy, what matters to us? I believe we can find the answers to these questions by getting quiet and listening. That is why I am such an advocate for personal retreats.
Our world is so loud, fast and crowded. Everywhere we turn, someone or something is clamoring for our attention. A whole life can pass in the wink of an eye and we find ourselves on our deathbed, wishing we had spent more time with the people we loved or that we had pursued the dream that kept tapping us on the shoulder. I don’t want that to happen – for myself or for you.
Here’s another quote from Essentialism: “’Once an Australian nurse named Bronnie Ware, who cared for people in the last twelve weeks of their lives, recorded their most often discussed regrets. At the top of the list: ‘I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.’ This requires, not just haphazardly saying no, but purposefully, deliberately, and strategically eliminating the non-essentials, and not just getting rid of the obvious time wasters, but cutting out some really good opportunities as well.”
What is happening for you as you read this? Is something whispering to you? Are you stirred to want to be more intentional about your life? If not, that’s okay, no problem. Just set this aside and move along to whatever you were doing or had previously planned to do.
But if, like me, something awakens in you when you read that Bonnie Ware quote about having the courage to live a life true to yourself, then I invite you to spend a few minutes right now, writing down these questions and carrying them in your heart:
Who do I want to love?
What do I want to create?
What brings me joy?
What brings me meaning?
How do I want to serve?
What things do I feel I must do/see/create/become before I die?
What really matters to me?
If you haven’t already planned a personal retreat for yourself, you do it now to give yourself a chance to answer these questions. It doesn’t have to look like my retreat. You don’t even have to leave the town you live in or pack a single bag.
It might be that you choose a day and mark your calendar “ME TIME.” Whatever hours are marked, keep as sacred time for yourself. Maybe you commit to every Wednesday morning waking up at 6am and spending two hours hiking and journaling. It could be that you call a friend and set up a series of buddy meetings during which you take long walks and talk about your lives. It might mean taking the leap and signing up with a life coach, knowing you will have a call every week to explore what it means to live a life that is true and meaningful for you.
The form doesn’t matter. What matters is that you have a space (or ongoing spaces!) of time when you gift yourself with listening to that still small voice inside you. What matters is that you choose to live into the answer to the questions above – and to this one: “What is it that you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”