The Singular Longing

May 9, 2018

I’m just back from leading a writing retreat in Taos where I’ve been hosting retreats for seventeen years.

Seventeen years of learning what creates a strong and deep container for the work.
Seventeen years of learning what women need to re-mojo their creative hearts.
Seventeen years of learning to lead and not hide behind someone else.
Seventeen years of learning to hold strong, clear boundaries when participants are frightened of their own words.
Seventeen years.

Writers come back to my retreats year after year – some since my very first retreat (I’m smiling at you Sarah). They have watched me grow as a leader. They have watched me go from hiding, wobbling and over-providing (“let me carry your suitcase for you”) to confident, grounded and brimming with self-trust.

To be witnessed in my growing once would have shamed me. I thought good leaders and teachers were amazing right from the start.

Oh how long that thought kept me stuck.

Watching the writers gathered open to their individual learning, each humbly remembering that it was normal, necessary and even fun to learn, I was reminded that it is up to each of us to open to the life we want to create.

It’s so much easier than we think. All it takes it allowing ourselves to soften and say, “I’m curious” or “I don’t know” or “Let’s experiment!”

We do so by saying yes to learning. In all its myriad forms.

Below are the brief learnings from the Taos retreat. Read them as a message to your own creative spirit as if you had written them after the retreat to remind yourself. Use them to design the time and conditions you need to do your great work.

“My writing asks for my time, my devotion, and my vulnerability. That’s the least I can do for my writing. And magically, that is enough.” – Marcia Smalley

“My most precious take-away from a week of just focusing on me was asking myself every morning, ‘What do you desire?” – Sara Dickison Taylor, Executive and Leadership Coach

“It was about gaining a wide array of new “lenses” from which to experience the story I need to tell.” – Kathi

“I have written many manuals, software, and business processes. As I start my journey as a creative writer I have any skills to learn. This retreat brought that concept to the forefront of my consciousness, which has brought joy to this journey. I’m excited. I am a writer.” – Cindy Knechtges

“The ‘not giving feedback or praise’ at the retreat was so helpful. It gave me a safe space to work through giving myself the praise I want.” – Leigh Lawson

“Don’t start a project by ‘sense making’ – by looking for the perfect kernel that’s smart or a brilliant insight. Start with the feeling, the purpose in your deepest being. When you think you have it, go even deeper. And deeper still.” – Emily Empel,

“My takeaway was how important time away from my daily grind is for my creativity. Focused discipline was another ah-ha — I can accomplish so much by staying in my seat, phone off, and writing non-stop.” – Gina Bender, The Reinvention Studio,

“This retreat transformed my relationship with my writing. Number one realization: my writing is not a task.” – Lauren Taylor, Defend Yourself,

“Creating an advice-free, support heavy environment isn’t soft. It is not unrealistic. It’s not being precious with my art. Rather it is the fastest, deepest way to grow love, trust, and the right kind of creative soil: to believe in myself, my voice.” – Sherri Cannon,

“Add something to your life that can become a ritual before you let go of something you don’t need in your life. Jen’s retreat offers so many beautiful practices and rituals to add to your life around creativity, writing and movement. It will be easy to let go of what is no longer needed.” – Annie Gray

“Though I have heard it a thousand times before, I’m finally coming to realize small steps will get me where I am going.” – Amaryllis Tilley

“One thing I took from the retreat is there is so much to learn about this way of expressing myself and I have time to learn it.” – Deb Dawson-Dunn,

“I came away from this retreat feeling brave for allowing myself to be seen and grateful for the space which allowed me to feel safe while being seen.” – Mary

“I’m a bumper sticker person so I plan to make two stickers that are inspired by this retreat: Conditions of Enoughness and Stop polishing and honing – Jennifer Bryan,

Conditions of Enoughness

“Even though there is no word for that moment in which the rest of the retreat meant the panic of moving into the non-retreat space, my takeaway is to sit with that and ask, ‘What do I want?’ And sit until I know the answer.” – Leah

“My writing was transformed through the wonderful exercises Jen shared along with her teaching. The experiences of directly applying the writing in a prompt helped me to incorporate it into my writing right away. Jen created a safe container to explore my writing openly and honestly. Magic happened in our circle.” – Karen Miraldi,

“The retreat allowed me to totally sit with and in my project for the entire week. It allowed me to totally immerse myself without having to think about or do anything else.” – Luann

“The retreat provided a safe place to expand my thoughts and ideas as a writer – and to totally change tracks with not only no criticism but complete support. The silence and writing times along with prompts and conversations provided the perfect fertile soil to plant the tiny seeds of ideas.” – Nancy Jeffery

“Here is what I am taking home: a certainty it’s never too late but it can be. This retreat challenged and inspired me to know the difference and follow the compass of my old heart.” – Crone Kathy

“At the heart of each own singular longing is the longing, also of the depths. The world wants to ‘nature’ through each one of us, for us to tell its story. The writer’s work, contrary to popular myth, is not done alone. Spirits are always bending over us, whispering.” – Kate Eccles, find Kate on Facebook

May you love and trust and be devoted to your creative voice. And thanks Taos circle for the recap!

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