Creating a retreat with Martha Nash Pitcairn, founder of Ignition Academy was a dream. The fact that eleven women joined us, played along, showed up BIG, tenderhearted, open and loving was a dream come true. Though much of what happened from the weekend is hard to capture in words, here I strive to share some of the joy and insights.
1. Being Part of a Team
I absolutely adored the opportunity to create this space with Martha Nash Pitcairn from Ignition Academy. The trust and confidence we had in each other, the passing back and forth of workshop time, working together was equal parts freeing, empowering, and laughter-inducing. I have a lot to learn from this wise woman, and I’m humbled to serve on a team with her.
2. Brave Hearts
Most common phrase heard at beginning of the weekend...”I’m not a painter.” or “I’m not creative.” etc. It took close to 50 hours, but participants finally dropped this ‘I’m not creative.” narrative. Now, it wasn’t our goal that participants become painters. Our goal was that they broke through limiting thinking, that they broke through negativity, that they explored the canvas as a safe space to be brave, to take risks, to try something new, and a place to be new. They showed up with brave hearts and as a result transformation happened.
3. The Ugly Phase
On the morning of the second day people were diving into their canvases. As I worked alongside the group I realized I had forgotten to tell them something. I forgot to warn them about the ugly phase. How many paintings have a moment that is raw and uncomfortable and new and well, ugly. And that it is normal and okay to dwell in this space. I’m grateful for the knowledge of the ugly phase and that everyone persevered through this discomfort.
4. Solitude in Community
There is something profound about being in silence together in community. During the weekend we had five sessions of silent/meditative painting time. There is something about the accountability, the shared showing up that buoys the spirit. The experience is very similar to meditating in a group. You get to be alone and part of the whole at the same time.
5. Unexpected Timing of Breakthroughs
It was awesome to see people continue to step into the creative space. To show up with deep presence and courage. Breakthroughs creatively and on deeper levels came at unexpected moments. It was an important reminder for me to keep showing up, keep creating the space, keep stepping into it, and be curious and open to what wants to unfold, to trust the process.
6. The Blank Canvas
Throughout the weekend, one person painted a white canvas white. A meditation on emptiness, undoing, letting go. It was an awesome reminder to the rest of the group to not take anything to seriously, to let go, to remember the empty space.
7. Painting Outdoors
A few participants (myself included) chose to paint outdoors (hats and gloves included!). I found the experience to be completely invigorating and led to new energy in my heart and on the canvas. I can hardly wait to get back outside. Something about the wind in my hair, the gentle nature sounds, alongside the movement of paint and color is soul-nurturing.
8. Creativity in Community
Though we each worked independently on our canvases, there was some invisible way that we were bonded together. We witness each other's paintings come to life and in the end the lessons that were learned individually were shared collectively and there was a deep sense of belonging and understanding.
From the first moment people started arriving, there were introductions and hugs. I was blown away by the way everyone showed up for each other in loving community. In a shared space of vulnerability a deep bonding happened.
10. Begin Again
It was only 12 hours into the retreat that Martha and I found ourselves beginning to dream and scheme about future retreats. Oh the places we'll go...