Inspiration Overload / by Michelle Cowan

I have inspiration overload. I took a weekend getaway to retreat and to participate in a recovery workshop led by Anita Johnston, an eating disorder specialist who uses (and teaches others to use) myth and metaphor to “decode” eating disorders and other issues. Sitting in circles of women all weekend, all of whom had come together from various places in diverse settings to seek a higher guidance truly invigorated and enlivened me. My heart sings even now!

I learned a great deal and am longing to share it with you all, but I honestly feel completely stymied. It’s time to sit back and take it all in, letting it soak through my skin and into my heart. Once I have fully felt all that I have learned, it can pour through me and be useful to others.

I do, however, feel compelled to recommend Nia movement classes and Anita Johnston’s book Eating in the Light of the Moon. Through free, judgment-free movement and reflection on the symbolic elements of our thoughts and lives, our soul, mind, and body unite in effective communication. The mind can serve the soul as a helper in navigating the logistics of the world we live in. The mind doesn’t have to rule us or make all our decisions. Our soul is who we are, and it speaks through our bodies.

By getting in touch with our bodies, we can access truth about our souls that our minds sometimes cover up with pesky worries, thoughts, and, at times, logic. We need our bodies and metaphor to puzzle through things that our mind can’t explain.

This weekend, I stayed at The Crossings in Austin, a wonderful spiritual retreat location that I recommend to anyone needing reflective time in nature. It provided the perfect mix of the natural world and a cozy room to sleep in at night. The wellness center, complete with all sorts of amazing services for body and spirit (from massages and facials to chakra alignment and spiritual guidance sessions), certainly helped as well. It was the ideal atmosphere (at least for someone like me) for quiet reflection and total permission to explore and examine in safety. I could choose to take classes, socialize, or spend time alone. And the atmosphere encouraged me to stretch the boundaries of what I could do to open my heart and move forward (or inward) in my journey.

All that said, I entered the weekend with some expectation of rest. However, it did not turn out that way at all. Once on my way to Austin, I felt drawn to participate in so many things. Time escaped me, and I found myself learning and going and moving and doing so much that I can still hardly keep it all straight. In an attempt to align my thoughts, I made a list of all the things I want to pursue now that I’m home. It’s long. Long.

Okay, so I did not receive the kind of clarity I wanted. The trip even extended my already lengthy list of aspirations. Perhaps I gained more questions than answers, but that could be a good thing. I like to think that I have gained a greater variety of questions to ask, and that’s a crucial step. Now, I can embark upon the task of exercising my mind in new areas as I answer them. It’s time to slow down, here in my everyday world. I may even take days off of work in the near future and NOT go somewhere so that I can allow the truths that have been imparted to rise to the surface.

Although I may not have returned equipped with a more straightforward list of to-dos, I do feel a greater sense of overall purpose. I see that I could lead groups of women in growth, even as imperfect as I am. I want to use my gifts with others. I see my skills as a friend-maker and as a thoughtful introvert. I see my strengths more clearly, and I see how I can use them. Now, the task is getting all this knowledge out into the world.

Do I start speaking at events tomorrow? Do I work more deliberately on a book? Do I put more effort into the support group I’m trying to form here in Houston? Do I initiate regular gatherings of my female friends? What do I do!?

For today, I answer, “Rest, Michelle.” As much as I ever do, I will let it all sink in. Part of what I see is my reluctance to rest. During the moments when I was expressly given permission to drop everything and lie down (physically or figuratively) this weekend, I noted the power of sitting still and simply allowing thoughts to come. Once worry about the next move is removed, space is created for the growth of truly actionable ideas or a greater sense of self that will walk alongside me after I have broken the stillness and returned to the busyness of life.

Of course, I can’t leave off without mentioning nature… Oh, glorious nature! I had many memories of hiking with my grandfather this weekend. It felt so similar, and I was able to access regions of myself I hadn’t in a long time, regions that also happen to be connected with food and the way I currently prioritize my time. Right now, I am considering nature and its connection to my personal nature.

In any case, I can end there. Consider this post permission to sit back, relax, and let whatever you’ve been learning lately to permeate your soul. Once you’ve soaked it all up, you’ll be able to stand and walk into the world, the new discoveries oozing out of you without any effort—even without making a list of all the things you want to do with those discoveries! Enlightenment cannot help but spread.