Reflections on Seattle Fall Retreat 2015 by Lynnaea Lumbard

Reflections on Seattle Fall Retreat 2015 by Lynnaea Lumbard

In short, and simply put, being in an In Claritas Retreat is like participating in a three-day improvisational theater piece of alchemical archetypal acupuncture while walking, driving and ferrying oneself through an ever-changing stage set encompassing generations of history and multi-dimensional environments from the tallest corporate towers to the depths of the coniferous forest.

The further I get away from the training, the more brilliant it seems. Having been a group trainer and depth psychologist for most of my adult life, I was initially put off by the minimalist structure. Circle, yes; basic centering practice, ahhh, yes. But no introductions in the usual way, no curriculum vitae stated, ever. Just cut to the chase.

The chase is essentially an inquiry, in this case about Freedom: What does it mean? Where does it begin? Where does it end? Our practice was to stand before the question, as Gurdjieff would say, or more poetically as Rilke guides, “love the questions themselves and gradually…live into the answer.”

The questions were what mattered, all aimed at illuminating a particular archetypal thread in our collective psyche and then experiencing it as it moved through our own life body. The image comes of one of those transparent plastic human forms from fifth grade biology that had a switch where you could light up the different systems of the body: reproductive or circulatory or lymph or bones. We kept lighting up different sets of archetypal systems around the theme of freedom.

We jumped right into the heart of the worldwide pattern of human immigration through the point of view of generations of Asian immigrants into Seattle, which was contemporaneous with the movement of white settlers west. Temporarily housed in the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience in the midst of the International district in Seattle, we worked with the meanings of freedom as it played out in the lives of immigrants–any immigrants, anywhere, anywhen—from wanting/needing to leave a painful place, to seeking something better, to finding resistance, rejection and a different set of trials and tribulations upon arriving in the new place.

Then it was our turn to tell a story about freedom in our own life.

Later, walking a few blocks to the financial district, we rose up 76 stories to the top of the Columbia Tower, where we could look down on the whole pattern of immigrant expansion of Seattle over the years from the now-landfilled marsh that is port to thousands of ships, to the Space Needle from the 1962 World’s Fair, to all of the beautiful green hills dotted with shining homes, schools and churches.

Then, from this same metaphorical overview perspective, we looked down on the timeline of our own lives to see the tapestry of our soul’s journey, focusing on the roads taken and not taken. Now, tell a story of the road not taken, the life unlived and the point at which you chose. Where is that path in you now? Or what’s left in your soul calling that is unfinished or unfulfilled. And if it were fulfilled, what might your life look like?

We were invoking the enantiodromia, Carl Jung’s term for the turning inside out of our lives that often happens in mid-life when our unattended longings begin to clamor for attention–to become the writer or artist or mom or business exec we never were. We also watched for where those lost-to-consciousness threads were already actively, if silently, woven into our lives. And went home to dream.

The next day found us in the heart of the Seattle Center, hearing about the Center’s role in the creation of 23 different annual ethnic festivals, each honoring a different immigrant community. Festivals help humanize the “other”, welcome new people, and dispel stereotypes. They are where the larger community meets itself and embraces its cultural beauty and diversity.

After a short history lesson on FDR’s 1941 State of the Union address on the four freedoms (while he was simultaneously corralling Japanese immigrants in interment camps) we plunged into our next set of questions. Roosevelt insisted that people in all nations of the world shared Americans’ entitlement to four freedoms: the freedom of speech and expression, the freedom to worship God in his own way, freedom from want and freedom from fear. We were now to tell a story about one of the four freedoms that we had wrestled with in our own lives.

Contemplating the realms of freedom, we set out on another venue change voyage, this time across the great water of Puget Sound after driving 25 miles north and taking the ferry to Whidbey Island. Here we found ourselves at the StoryHouse, an archetypal magical cottage in the woods of the Chinook lands adjacent to the Whidbey Institute. 

After a silent walk in the deep forest, we contemplated the structure of place and the pattern language inherent in how humans interact with the environment to create beauty, from the clear-cutter to the restorer. What is right relationship with Earth we asked as we touched on themes of permaculture, complex systems, respect, and no waste.

After a night in the equally magical Aldermarsh Retreat Center, walking the fields of the Maxwelton Valley, we contemplated our future and the roads we will take and not take through the question: It’s two years later and we’re now at a reunion of this group. What are we sharing that happened in that 2015 workshop and since then?  And so we begin to name all of our dreams and fears and we take ourselves through imagining and creating our own future.

As I said earlier, brilliant. I am now 5 months into those two years and I am watching my life subtly changing its core archetypal structure. I find myself slowly withdrawing so much of my energy into my Therapeutic Mother (the one who over care-takes the production of other people’s work—at which I am a master) for what feels like a truer soul path, or maybe just the next stage of life. My Third Act is emerging, where I am more contemplative, harvesting the years of learning and beginning to disseminate what I have learned in my own words, spoken and written. I see that I am freeing myself from fear, fear of not being enough, fear of being attacked for my Woman’s Wisdom.

My life is opening up as a result of the work that I see was activated in the retreat, the way I have felt my energetic body open up when just the right acupuncture point is stimulated. I can feel my whole system light up with more energy, lightness, and trust in myself. How cool is that? Actually it’s very cool to be able to bear witness to the alchemical changes in the archetypal architecture of my life as I am living in it.

I know these are big words, but I really don’t know how else to describe what I experience In Claritas doing, even as I know full well that I am only seeing glimpses of the understandings and transformational principles behind the scenes. Do I recommend doing an In Claritas Retreat? Absolutely, but only if you are willing to see pattern in yourself and in the collective that shocks you into a different perspective AND not have a clue what is happening as it is happening. Trust the flow and go with the process. You are in good hands.

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