Last weekend I had a mini escape from my whirlwind world, to the idyllic Tribewanted getaway; Monestevole in Umbria, Italy. Escape the City were running a weekend long workshop and it didn’t take much convincing to book my spot. Knowing Escape it would be exactly what I needed, even though I wasn’t exactly sure what that was. Romy one of my fellow escapees writes wonderfully about some of the experiences we shared here, and I also wanted to share some of the things I learnt.
You are the average of the people you surround yourself with
Do not underestimate this one. Being surrounded by open, like-minded, inspiring people all weekend, made me feel centred and invincible, like I could take on the world and I was going to laugh until it hurt while I did it. The right people energise you, support and encourage you and make you feel like all your crazy ideas are possible. The wrong people drain you, make you doubt yourself and your ambition and stir up all of your deeply buried insecurities. Think carefully about who you choose to spend your time with and be ruthless. This reminded me of something I’d heard of from Tim Ferriss, an 80/20 emotional inventory. What are the 20% of things in your life that are causing 80% of your stress, worry or sadness? What 20% is causing 80% of your joy and excitement? Can you avoid that bad 20% and plan more of the good 20% into your life? I did this recently and its shocking to see where the bulk of my frustrations come from, and it helped me refocus my energy. (Bad mornings=bad days, so one of my goals is to wake up 1h earlier each day).
It is the little things
Umbrian life was simple. We slept, we ate, we drank, we stroked the kittens, we chatted and plotted, we laughed, and it was perfect. The big group trip of the weekend was to the local Chestnut Festival in Preggio. We ate chestnuts, drank 1 euro red wine and laughed uncontrollably at the guy with the phallic, homemade instrument. We all have a tendency to overcomplicate our lives until it becomes unclear why we’re doing what we’re doing. Happiness and contentment are always within touching distance if we stop for a second and remind ourselves whats truly important.
Frequently mentioned over the weekend was #smallsteps. Each tiny step we take in the direction we want to go in adds up to a life long journey of endless miles of memories and achievements. We all made a commitment to making a number of small and not so small steps and promised to hold each other accountable to them.
Get some perspective
Before I left for Umbria I felt trapped inside an exhausted mind and body with no idea what I wanted or even needed. Thankfully, a wise chapter in The One Thing by Gary Keller, had reminded me to plan my rest/break/recovery time first. So back in September, I knew having just pulled off TEDx Brixton the weekend before, I’d need some space to process and rest, so I booked my spot on Escape to Umbria. Thank god I did. Inside my normal life I was feeling uninspired and stressed by work, tired and overwhelmed with TEDx finishing. From Umbria I saw that this was just the way I was feeling at a point in time. I had the space, the people and the right questions to process everything that had happened and think about what was next. I urge you to think about when you might need some space, some perspective and block that time out now. Its hard to find the time when you’re in the middle of it all. Also, know the difference between a restful break and one that leaves you more tired than when you left! (My next break will be a 10 day Vipassana meditation retreat in January!)
We all need warmth and validation
Sometimes I like to think that I’m emotionally strong and stable and independent. I’m all good on my own and I’ll get on with my life just fine, with or without the support of others. Up to a point that’s true, but trust me… when you’re welcomed warmly and openly into Monestevole by Adrienne, the general manager, when you hear someone else share your story positively and impressed, when someone tells you that your ideas are interesting and that they could help you maybe, when you’re told you can do whatever makes you comfortable and don’t have to explain yourself here, when you get a fist full of personal post it notes telling you how awesome you are, that warm feeling of being accepted and validated is incredible and like no other. You can’t recreate it on your own. Lucy, one of the escapees, described it as the moment when your ‘shoulders drop‘. You relax, you open up, you stop trying so hard to do it all yourself and you let others in. There is such power in finding a place where your ‘shoulders drop’, where you are free to be vulnerable and honest and yourself, and then miraculously accepted and even liked! In our busy lives I think we forget that this is what most of us spend our whole lives in search of, a place to be our whole self and be unconditionally accepted for it.
You already know the answers
This one came up in a number of forms, through various discussions over the weekend. Over and over again when we all tried to explain what we wanted and some of our thoughts of how we were going to get it, we apologised for our vague, incoherent ramblings. And time and time again everyone else responded by noticing the remarkable coherency of our dreams and plans. It felt as though our answers were basically fully formed, but they only revealed themselves when we were asked the right questions.
Linked to this were the discussions we had over dinner about some of our experiences as Samaritans listening volunteers. The rigorous training you receive as a volunteer focuses on the art of active listening and the fundamental principle of self-determination. You’ll never understand fully another person’s situation and therefore can’t offer them any advice, only reflect back whats been said to you, to help them come to their own understanding and plan. This is an act of empowerment and it applies to all of us. We know what we have to do, sometimes we just need an encouraging sounding board and the right questions to bring it in to our consciousness.
It never stops
We all varied in ages, experiences, backgrounds, industries, passions, achievements. Yet not one person felt that they had reached a point where they had achieved everything they wanted to. We were all impressed and inspired by each others stories, what we’d all achieved so far, what our plans for world domination were for the future, but each of us down played it and felt like we had infinitely further still to go. Rightly so in many ways. As a wise lady and fellow escapee Shari, from MP Cosmetics writes, ‘Anything that does not grow is dead‘.
I’d encourage all of us to be proud of everything we’ve done to date. Own it, shout about it, sure. We’ve all come so far and achieved so much. But we can’t stop here, we’re not done yet. We have so much more to give to the world. We need to keep growing, creating, giving together until there’s nothing left to give. The more we do, the more we can and must do. This might sound competitive, ambitious, tireless and it is, but we are not competing with anyone else out there, we are only competing with ourselves, to be the fullest, truest versions of ourselves. Do it. Do it afraid, but just do it.
‘Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.‘ Marianne Williamson
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