Writing To Awaken, the latest book by bestselling author, Mark Matousek, begins
When you tell the truth, your story changes
When your story changes, your life is transformed.
and that set the stage for the 5-day retreat I attended in mid-August at Hollyhock, Canada’s Lifelong Learning Centre on Cortes Island in beautiful Desolation Sound, British Columbia.
We gathered every day at the Bluff, a comfortable and spacious building nestled in the trees at one of the highest points on the Hollyhock campus. With a wonderfully eclectic group of about 18 thoughtful, open, respectful people, Mark Matousek led us on a journey to explore our own lives, our stories about our lives and, most importantly, how our acceptance of those stories may have blinded us to who we really are and who we were meant to be. It was an intriguing experience, especially for someone like me who has always attacked life from a decidedly pragmatic perspective, taking little time to think or feel, totally focused on deciding and doing.
Exploring Your Story
With only the briefest of introductions to each topic and a question or two posed by Matousek, we wrote and wrote, then wrote some more. In sharing our work, we grew to know a little bit about everyone in the room. We laughed, we cried, we supported each other through sometimes painful, sometimes heartwarming, sometimes hilarious tales of real human experience. We also learned that though we are very different people living our own unique lives all across North America, many aspects of our life stories are markedly similar.
As our teacher and guide, Mark Matousek demonstrated a truly remarkable ability to listen to a lengthy piece written by a participant, recall specific sentences or phrases verbatim, ask questions about them and then make suggestions for deeper inquiry. If we could all learn to listen as he does, that is to listen to really hear and understand rather than just to respond, the world would be a better place. If we could each cultivate his kindness, his compassion, his direct but warm-hearted honesty, his ability to connect with others and his willingness to share what he has learned with people who are still trying to find their way, all of our lives would be infinitely richer.
Challenging Your Story
This retreat was an eye-opener for me. I have spent the past 35+ years running the corporate rat race, the last 17 of those years singlehandedly raising two beautiful daughters. Practically all of my life I have been attending to everyone’s needs but my own. As my children get closer to leaving the nest, I am working to map out a plan for the next phase of my life when I have time to do things just for me, things that add richness and deeper meaning to my life.
I found this workshop, and the book it is based on, to be a concise, clear, non-threatening way of taking a look at where I’ve been, as a necessary first step in deciding where I want to go next even though I am not prone to introspection or to self-examination.
Among the most important things I learned at Writing to Awaken was that at this point in my life I am running out of the energy and the will to keep trying to outrun my past and to keep trying to please other people at the expense of my own happiness.
I have no problem going into battle when that is needed but in future, I will more often refuse to engage in battles that do not serve me. It seems it has taken me a very long time to realize that sometimes you have to retreat to advance, and sometimes you have to surrender. I’m still working on the surrender part; it has never looked good with the Superwoman costume I’ve been wearing for most of my life. However, I am committed to learning more about surrender and to perhaps giving it a try. Perhaps it is time to put the Superwoman costume away.
Continuing To Explore
Writing to Awaken is an excellent tool for those who want to examine their lives thus far and to choose how to make the very best of the time they have left. The book consists of very short chapters, each with a discussion of a specific topic, followed by a list of writing exercises to guide the reader on an exploration of who they really are. The book is an easy, interesting read but it is the deceptively simple questions at the end of each chapter that are most important.
Since returning home, I have set up a small desk and comfy chair in the corner of my bedroom, well away from my home office and my professional work. This is where I will do my personal writing and where I will plan my next great adventures.
I have already reviewed much of what I wrote at Hollyhock and added to just about every piece. It’s amazing to me that I truly cannot remember writing some of the things I wrote at the retreat, so immersed was I in deep thought and intense emotion at the time. Those pieces are the ones that I have spent the most time with since coming home.
I highly recommend Writing to Awaken to anyone interested in writing as a means of exploring their inner life, their past, their present, their future, whether just for self-inquiry or for publication. As for me, I now spend a little bit of time every day in my comfy nest in my bedroom, writing to awaken.
My gratitude to Mark Matousek for his kind and loving guidance and to the administrators of the Hollyhock Scholarship Fund for their assistance in allowing me to have this wonderful experience.
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