Personal Growth is not for sissies. Otherwise, there’d be more people on therapy couches instead of in bars, doing retreats rather than staring at screens, owning up rather than blaming. To look at ourselves, own our lives, and claim our power takes commitment, work, courage, and community. It requires that we examine old hurts, embrace our fears, question our behavior, and investigate the reasons for our choices. It requires that we step out of our comfort zone and trek the rocky terrain to greener pastures.
But the road away from our comfort zone needn’t be unbearable, nor one to travel alone. The key elements for the journey are a guide, courage, and community. While we have to muster up courage to start and stay on the path, we can join other women for guidance, support, and inspiration. This is why peer groups are so powerful – a leader guides us and we get energized, inspired and motivated from each other in the process. It works that way in gym classes, in study sessions, and in personal growth groups.
My meditation journey fits this model perfectly. My Zen teachers guide me, our meditation Sangha (community) feeds me, and our shared retreats and weekly sittings empower my practice. I wouldn’t be a dedicated Zen student without two amazing teachers whom I look up to for guidance and support, and a steadfast commitment to weekly sitting and regular intensive retreats with my community. In honesty, I still don’t look forward to staring at a white wall for 10 hours a day over the course of a weekend retreat (and I’ve attended at least 30 of these over the past 12 years). But, I know how good they are for me, I have deep respect for the process, they have all been valuable in some way or another, and I feel blessed to be part of dedicated community in which we support each other to do this work.
I’m not just supported but I’m also deeply inspired by the courage of our community. In my Sangha, Zen students in their 70s and 80s have more latitude to rest and leave early. I am deeply inspired by all of our older members, and especially those who choose to stay and sit the entire day (especially during the challenging evening sittings). Friends in the throes of chemotherapy who come to hear our teachers’ talks and sit outside the door so as not to be exposed to germs embolden me. People with physical challenges so extreme that they can only meditate lying down give me perspective. Friends who are sitting with the pain of loss and death soften and strengthen my heart. The courage and dedication of my community is absolutely amazing and contagious!
For the past four weeks I’ve had the gift and opportunity to guide ten courageous women on a committed personal growth process. Each week, using both psychological and meditative tools, they explored different aspects of their beliefs and behaviors. And, equally as important, between the weekly gatherings, they applied specific instructions to continue exploring and practicing, including five minutes of daily meditation. During our gatherings they’d share their experiences, learning edges, and challenges in a safe and supportive environment.
What unfolded was incredible. Women who resisted the concept of meditation became dedicated in their daily meditation; women who historically kept their voice small and silent shared openly and honesty; women who were guarded began to show their light; women who felt resistance to attending came anyway because they knew it was good for them. And I include myself in every single category. I was incredibly inspired and moved by their courage and growth, and motivated to do my own meditation practice with more continuity.
The holidays tend to be less about personal growth and more about waistline growth. January, however, is a different story. Most of us have a list of resolutions we start thinking about in December and typically forget about by February. Now, as 2018 is approaching, consider attending (or hosting) an Embracing Action Group Series or intensive workshop. Making your New Year’s resolutions come to fruition is much easier with the support of a group. After all, Courage is Contagious!
I wish you all a happy, healthy, fulfilling and mindful Thanksgiving Day Celebration J