We are here to pay attention to where our inner light meets up with the outer world. ~ Elizabeth Lesser, Cofounder of the Omega Institute and Omega Women’s Leadership Center
I’m back from just about the most amazing weekend of my life. Seriously.
I don’t usually throw around big dramatic statements like that. But it’s true.
The only thing I knew about the Omega Institute for Holistic Studies was that Eckhart Tolle had taught at a retreat there a few years ago. My accidental download of Tolle’s audiobook A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose (affiliate link)—accidental because I was looking for career advice, but ended up quite unexpectedly with spiritual awakening–led me to soak in everything the man had to say, including his talks at Omega.
So when an unsatisfying bloggers conference earlier this year left me feeling utterly bereft of community, I looked up Omega. That’s when I learned about the Omega Women’s Leadership Center. The timing of their Women & Power: Being Bold retreat was perfect.
Even more amazing was that Elizabeth Gilbert would be a keynote speaker. I had Elizabeth to thank for inspiring me to embrace my creativity, put my spiritual self out there (much to the chagrin of my former left-brained, international economist self), and tell my story. Because of Elizabeth Gilbert, I’ll be publishing my book, Blooming Into Mindfulness, in January 2016.
It’s only fitting that Elizabeth’s new book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear (affiliate link) was released this week. Stay tuned for my review, but buy it right now if you’re looking for creative inspiration. (And by the way, Liz and I are definitely on a first name basis now, but more about that in another post.)
Elizabeth Gilbert defines a creative life as one that is guided more by curiosity than by fear.
We’re not just talking painters and writers here, people. All of us have something to bring forth to the world.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The 5 1/2 hour drive from northern Virginia to Rhinebeck, New York, was gorgeous. I pulled into Omega’s parking lot and was met by warm smiles and direct eye contact from the volunteers managing the influx of participants. If I hadn’t been practicing present moment awareness for the past five years, that sustained eye contact might have felt awkward. Instead, I felt like I was coming home.
I don’t recall ever feeling positive energy from a parking lot the way I did at Omega. My dusty minivan was surrounded by license plates like “JOYFL” and upbeat bumper stickers like “Eat, Pray, Dogs.” I actually giggled out loud with sheer delight.
That sense of belonging deepened when I sat down to dinner with a table of strangers before the opening presentation. Somehow, I felt like I had already met everyone there. We all had a common starting point.
It wasn’t only that we were all women. Everyone also seemed to have had some experience with mindfulness practice, or spiritual awakening, or conscious living, or whatever your own term is for presence.
Everyone shared a sense of being connected to one another. It was as if we could simply continue a conversation we had already started.
And then the first speaker stepped onto the stage. Carla Goldstein, Omega Institute’s chief external affairs officer and cofounder of the Omega Women’s Leadership Center, told us the story of her daughter, a college freshman, texting her “I JUST DID THE GREATEST THING!”
Of course, it was a couple of hours before poor Carla heard the details, but the bottom line was that her daughter had approached a professor after a quiz, making the case for why an answer he had marked wrong was actually right. The professor not only agreed, he even thanked her for bringing the error to his attention. Yahoo!
It was a brilliant way to kick off the retreat’s Being Bold theme. Along with being bold, Carla continued, we would be exploring the question of how women do power differently.
She then introduced Elizabeth Lesser, cofounder of the Omega Institute and Omega Women’s Leadership Center, Oprah guest, TED Women Conference speaker, and New York Times best-selling author.
I can’t say enough about Elizabeth Lesser. I guess I have a thing for Elizabeths.
She pointed out that most of the monuments in New York’s central park (and elsewhere around the world) are of men who had gone to battle. Heroic, brave men, to be sure. But why do we as a society choose violent conflict as the one activity to laud above all others?
Why don’t we memorialize midwives and healers and care givers? “Blood is blood, whether on the battle field or in the delivery room.” Where are those statues?
But it wasn’t a radical feminist rant. It was about how society defines boldness.
We need to go bigger.
Boldness is about being yourself, Lesser said.
Pay attention to your inner authority, your soul’s compass, your core self, she urged. Before you can help the world, you need to befriend yourself.
We are here for two purposes, she continued,
- to study the fingerprint of our own soul, and
- to see and respect the soul in the other person.
And (in a quote I included in last week’s post), we don’t have to diminish others to shine ourselves.
“So if you’re asking yourself what you can do to help our faulty world,” Lesser said, “the first step is to go inside, be true to yourself, and grant whole-soulhood to others.”
I sat on the edge of my chair barely breathing, my own inward journey fully validated. As someone who had always had an outward, global focus before cancer forced me to sit down and shut up for a year (setting the stage for that spiritual awakening process I mentioned earlier), it was the first time that my internal work was so clearly articulated in a global service context.
And that was only the opening speech. Inspiration snowballed over the course of the following two days.
Don’t worry. I’ll do my best to share with you what I learned from the rest of the incredible speakers in my next several blog posts. In the meantime, I’d love to hear about your own encounters with people who have touched your soul in some way. Slap your stories down in the comments!!
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