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A Few Words from a Reluctant Riser

Personal Disclaimer: One of the Rise Gatherings founders has been my close friend for more than thirty years, but every word of these blog entries is my true and unvarnished experience. 

A Few Words from a Reluctant Riser

I didn’t initially attend Rise Gatherings Weekend Getaway in 2018 with the most spiritually open mindset. I’m a very literal, not particularly retreat-going, smoothie drinking enthusiast, but I registered to attend Rise Gatherings Weekend Getaway to support my friend. I drove up with an intention to soak up the vibe, bond with others, and learn, but I definitely had my internal sarcastic commentary running when the yoga mats were unrolled. As I steadied myself on my own mat, I readied myself for the “super woo-woo” to commence. But I’m here to tell you that despite my thick skin of cynicism and relatively low expectations, I drove home from the weekend a different person. I do not write this to suggest that I was broken and now I’m fixed, because that damaged woman trope is an overused stereotype for women seeking peace and joy and self-care. Rather, I’m sharing my experiences as a woman who doubted the woo.  These are the experiences of (what my old friend now fondly calls me) a Reluctant Riser.

Reluctant Riser Part One: Paint Your Wildest Dreams

The first workshop I attended during the Weekend Getaway was called Paint Your Wildest Dreams. Since I have pretty vivid dreams while I sleep, I thought the time was going to be a nostalgic return to an Arts & Crafts shed where I get to analyze and paint the scenes of my night time dreams. So it came as a surprise when the facilitator prompted the fifteen of us (women aged 16 to 60-something) to sit for a few minutes and think about our visions for our lives so we could try to paint them later. 

I impulsively let out an audible “What the F?”; and while there are no serious decorum rules at Rise, I feared I’d broken some sort of mature zen retreat code of mellow conduct. But the truth is, I was pretty perplexed by her prompt to ponder, then paint, my vision for my life. When you’re on auto-pilot, it’s not so easy to pause and think about the path — so I wasn’t so sure about this workshop after all.  

After a few minutes, braver women seated around the picnic tables, some fidgeting the hairs of the dry paint brushes near their spot, raised their hands to share what they wanted for themselves. As they described what they envisioned for themselves in and out of their homes, they were raw and honest and emotional. They were vulnerable and authentic. Listening to them, I didn’t feel pressured to think or speak about myself; I felt inspired. In that hour, in that Arts & Crafts shed, on a lake in Pennsylvania, I was actually going to take some time and energy to think about myself and what I wanted. What surfaced, and what I made myself vocalize, was how extremely dissatisfied I was with my day job and how unenriched I felt in the career I’d built for more than 20 years! Out of my mouth came these thoughts I’d ignored for such a long time.  

My watercolor painting of my future was pitiful, but the truth is, ten months after that workshop, I left behind that career and started a new chapter in my life.