The idea behind the retreat is to pick something, what Cheri calls the “content,” where we want to make a change and have failed to do so in the past. We are to watch for what is causing this “failure,” so anything can be watched – the success and the failure – in order for us to learn the mechanism behind making a change (or trying to make one without a long-term impact).
Since i’ve had a yo-yo relation with exercise i figured this would be perfect. My particular incarnation of the yo-yo: I am exercising as planned one week and “fall off the bandwagon” the next, get back on the following week, only to fall off again, repeating the cycle again and again. I stay on the bandwagon long enough to know how much more energized i feel with regular exercise and somehow that never seems to be quite enough motivation to consistently do it…
Here is my plan for my 30-day exercise content:
- Speed-walking for at least 20 minutes 5 days per week
- My yoga routine, 5 days per week
- Abs routine, 5 days week
- At least one Goddess belly dance class per week
- Daily powerpose (2 minutes)
What turned out to be most challenging is attending the belly dance class, which allows me to learn a lot about my inner dynamics. Wednesday evening (day 12 of this change retreat) about two hours before i planned to leave to attend that night’s class, the inner argument started. I could hear a child-like voice inside exclaiming “I don’t want to go!” with accompanying foot-stomping. I also noticed another voice trying to talk her into changing her mind “you’ll have fun! It’ll be good for you!” (words i remember hearing from my parents) and then a bit more edge “you won’t learn the technique unless you go regularly!” and finally the voice of egocentric karmic conditioning (as Cheri calls self-hate or shame-based voices) “you’re just lazy! get your ass off the chair and go!” The child voice somehow was the strongest. It almost felt like she was able to throw an emergency break on my behavior, so i stayed at home, noticing sadness bubbling up about missing the class together with the voice “you never let me do anything fun!”
It wasn’t until the next morning when the same chorus seemed to chime up about going to Graze the Roof, a container garden where i volunteer, that i realized that the rebel-child must be behind a lot of my difficulty to change, so i decided to get to know her a bit more despite loud resistance from other parts of mine. That is when i realized that i had met her before: She showed up as a loud angry jackal during a guided meditation with a friend. In Nonviolent Communication, we learn that jackals are simply voices that don’t know how to get their needs met in ways that are helpful. They demand and cajole just like my rebel-child. That particular angry jackal turned out to be terrified underneath the angry facade – and my rebel-child was just as scared. All she could do is throw the emergency break and prevent me from doing what she is so terrified of. Now what might that be?
On Friday afternoon, i had planned to go to a contact improv workshop. It seemed to offer the perfect combination of inner and outer work. Friday morning, i woke up with intensely tight shoulders. Something was going on! Yes, you guessed it: My inner rebel-child was terrified! I realized this was a great opportunity to learn just what is scaring her so much! Somehow the thought of being with a group of strangers was terrifying. She doubted that she belonged there. She just didn’t want to experience that feeling of being out of place.
Exploring this further, i realized that underneath it all was my challenge of living as an introvert in an extroverted world. The workshop teacher couldn’t understand why i didn’t want to attend his workshop because it was all about inner work. Yes, i got that – and it was with a group of strangers. The rebel-child feels safe by herself, not in a group of strangers.
There is more in that dynamic, though: Somehow my introversion is preventing exactly what would help me feel more connected. As a human being, i am wired for connection, i yearn to belong, and as an introvert making those connections is incredibly challenging for me. I end up not reaching out, creating a self-fulfilling prophesy because i don’t connect! On top of that, i’ve probably learned to cope with my introversion by displaying an inner strength (that isn’t really there) that either makes it more challenging for others to connect with me or creates the impression that i am just fine by myself, thank you very much. In other words, my longing for connection is everything but obvious (no sign that says “i so want to connect with you and have a hard time doing that, so please connect with me!”).
I feel pretty excited about these discoveries, though i am not exactly sure yet where to take them. I do know that a key will be to continue to spend time with my rebel-child and see how i can learn to be more extroverted without freaking her out, uhm, let me rephrase that (since there’s a judgment in there): How can i learn to be more extroverted while helping my rebel-child continue to feel safe? There are also voices there that wonder if all that introversion stuff is a total hoax based on junk-science. Another voice is wondering if these self-discoveries are just a way of fooling myself because i can’t really know myself. At the same time, i have a sense that i’ve stumbled on a dynamic here that might just be the key to inner freedom (or at least one of the keys – the other one is the related attachment on other people’s perception of me…). I guess what really is the key is to continue to observe myself and also to start enrolling some friends to get feedback on how i show up.