how to take a house retreat via tara leaver
You must learn one thing:
the world was made to be free in.
Give up all the other worlds
except the one to which you belong.
Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness
to learn
anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive
is too small for you.
David Whyte
From his poem ‘Sweet Darkness’

sea sparkles {tara leaver}

{NOTE! This post contains a fair bit of backstory – if that’s not so important to you you can scroll down to the actual ‘how to’ part!}

As some of you may know, I recently took an enormous step back from my day to day life. It is hard to explain the why of it in words ~ they seem so inadequate these days ~ perhaps it is enough to say that the caterpillar reached the end point of her caterpillar life, and arrived at the place from which she had no choice but to retreat into her cocoon to be transformed into a butterfly.

Since I am writing this from within the cocoon, I can make no grand statements about my transformation. As you know, inside the cocoon the caterpillar actually disintegrates into mush before rebuilding herself to be the beautiful butterfly she will become.

So I speak as mush right now. 🙂

For three weeks, {and I don’t know how many more to come,} I have not seen or spoken to anyone except Jeanne {my mentor/teacher/healer} and the grocery delivery guy or other people in a service capacity. No friends, no family, nothing social, no phone calls, no texting; I’ve barely left the house except to go to the beach or my weekly visit to Jeanne.

Buddha {Tara Leaver}

My world has decreased in size until I can list on the fingers of one hand what I do each day. It is bliss. That doesn’t mean I don’t care about my friends and family. It really is a case of ‘no to everyone else is a yes to me’ right now. It might be the first real yes I’ve said to myself my whole life. And yes it was totally terrifying to say it.

Generally it is an interesting ~ and extremely quiet ~ ride, externally. Some days it’s intense as all hell, and I wonder what I’m doing and why and if it will ever end. The thing about creating space is that things come up to fill it.

Armchair and Prayer Flags {Tara Leaver}

First, everything you don’t want. If you’re going to heal you must expect the crap to come out. You can’t live with your basement full of clutter and expect the light filling the rest of the house to be enough. You’ll just keep being reminded of what’s down there. It’s all or nothing.

So I invented what I call ‘Yin Days’. I’m sure I don’t need to explain what I mean by that, but just to be clear; yang energy is dynamic and active ~ it’s the ‘doing’ energy. Yin energy is the magnetic, soft ‘being’ energy.

Birthday Roses {Tara Leaver}

Most of us are very good at the yang ~ the achieving, the deadlines, the Getting Things Done. When it comes to the yin, many of us are less aware of what that really means. I’m learning that it doesn’t mean slumping in front of the tv, or lying in bed all day, although both those things can be just what we need sometimes. But it’s not yin if your mind is racing and your heart is pounding with anxiety.

Since my days currently are truly mine to craft as I will, I am redefining everything, one tiny tiny step at a time. From the way I get up in the morning to the way I empty the dishwasher, everything becomes a reflection and cultivation of the way I wish to live my life, which at the base of it all is in a state of peace.

bedroom {tara leaver}

Yin Days allow me to absorb and reflect. On Yin Days I purposely make no lists, have no ‘to dos’. I wake up with no agenda, no plan. I do whatever I feel like. If I don’t know what that is, I wait until I do. I will literally sit down and wait. I spend hours just gazing out the window. I enjoy silence all day long if I choose.

I’m learning that I need very little to enjoy myself. I was shocked to learn I don’t need company. I can go days without seeing or speaking to anyone; in fact just now I prefer it. Give me some art supplies, books, a journal and pen, and an internet connection so I can watch movies or look at things that interest me, some food in the fridge and my bed, and I’m happy.

Sylvie {tara leaver}

There was a huge amount of guilt at first. How could I be so selfish and unsociable, and who actually lives like this? It’s not ‘realistic’! {That’s a good one.} Funnily enough I keep hearing and reading about others who are retreating themselves at the moment. While the planet shifts and adjusts herself to her new frequency, we find we are needing to do the same, and it isn’t always comfortable or easy.

I recommend Yin Days; it’s likely that you might benefit from a few of them in your own life, even if a full on retreat from the world isn’t possible right now. I thought I would list a few of the things I do ~ and don’t do ~ that make them a soft and pleasurable place to go to get to know myself better.

Try any or all of these

{remember, god is in the details ~ nothing is too small}:

* waking up without an alarm, when your body is ready

* moving slowly

* asking yourself, ‘How do I feel? What would I like?’ Then actually waiting for the answers to rise in you.

* noticing how you do things; how do you usually make tea? Is there a way to do it that would be softer, more calming and restful?

* sitting. No book, no magazine, no tv, no music, just sitting. If you have a lovely view or piece of art to gaze upon, so much the better.

* eat when you feel hungry, not when it’s a ‘designated’ time for a meal

* every time you think of it, take a deep, slow breath

* go barefoot

* do things that really give you joy, whether that’s knitting, drawing, rearranging your furniture, cooking, or lying on the floor for a bit

* play with the way you do things; if you ‘normally’ do something a certain way, see what happens if you do it a different way, or not at all

* do things that seem pointless or a bit silly; paint your nails all different colours, arrange your books into a rainbow on the shelf

* meditating is of course the perfect yin activity, but this isn’t necessarily beneficial if you aren’t used to it and find it stressful. But anything quiet and still is good. Make it your own.

* notice tiny details

* going to bed really early with a book or your journal. If you have fairy lights in your bedroom, just lie and watch them for a bit.

* talk to yourself. Ask yourself what you like, what does and doesn’t feel good to you, how you might adjust the details of your day to day life to be more comfortable and enjoy more flow.

I recommend not doing the following:

* checking the time

* rushing through anything

* listening to the voice that says you ‘should’, ‘shouldn’t’, or that ‘this is silly’.

* continuing with something if it doesn’t feel good. This is ONLY about doing what feels good in the moment.

* speaking a lot

* thinking ahead {or hanging around in the past in your head}

* having anything on loud

* using a lot of technology

Ultimately, knowing who we really are is the only place worth coming from, the only place from which we can truly offer something that is of value to everyone. Sometimes what seems selfish is in fact for the highest good of all. Most of us want to be of service in some way, and we all have these amazing unique gifts to offer.

But if we are not giving anything to ourselves and filling our own well, which we do by knowing ourselves through and through, nothing we give will be worth having, and we will feel depleted.

plant shadows

I really encourage you to try a Yin Day. Or even just a Yin Hour if a day isn’t possible right now. You are worth your own attention. If you have any questions, or think I’m insane, or have any more ideas about ways to approach a Yin Day, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Love is the capacity to take care, to protect, to nourish. If you are not capable of generating that kind of energy toward yourself – if you are not capable of taking care of yourself, of nourishing yourself, of protecting yourself – it is very difficult to take care of another person… Love is a practice. Love is truly a practice.

Thich Nhat Hanh