The Retreat

A short story

 We share our awareness walk observations with the group.  I am aware that I am alive from the experience, energised, awake. I begin to talk; I cannot stop, more and more to tell. Seemingly done with my tale my audience begin to exhale, not realising it is only a pause, still more to tell. I apologise, Peter smiles reassurance that it is OK; he makes me believe that he wants to hear more that I should not hold back. For Peter alone, I continue. Finally I am spent of words, but continue to silently wonder at the lucidity of my adventure.

Dave tells of feeling a spiritual belonging being at one with all, but I do not believe him and Ritch is completely happy that he just went for a walk, maybe Ruth and Ian said nothing? I am ashamed to say that I barely recall what any of them said, either I have not listened, or I am unable to understand to what spiritual planes of existence they have been taken. My guess is the former.

Exchanges done we complete a short and private exercise in our workbooks to check in with ourselves then we are moved on to uncover our 'core process'.  Kate explains that we all have inner genius, we use it in our daily lives and by recognising it we can nurture it to develop and reach our full potential. We are set a task to write three stories from our past, times when we felt at ease, like nothing was holding us back, when we gained satisfaction from the results of our actions.

As with the change walk yesterday, we are to split into two groups, this time I choose to head upstairs to be with Kate and whosoever shall join us. I consciously make no eye contact with anyone, invite no one to join me, I rise, turn and leave the room; such body language will be followed only by the strong or the stupid. Ritch follows, I get the strong. I never questioned that he would, but find myself relieved by the prospect of learning more about what makes him, pleased that I can be with someone I want to listen to, who can get my attention and possibly hold it, I could quite feasibly stop thinking about myself.

We are at the top of the stairs Ritch and I, it is my first time in the eaves, I survey the wooden ceiling above, the craftsmanship, how magically two boards rest together, supporting each other, sloping away providing seamless protection for us here inside and protecting itself outside by design. Heavy wooden beams, necessary for further stability, are suspended low above the walkways wrapped casually in cushions telling me that they often prove a hazard to unseeing guests. To the left there is a small open floor space above the lobby of the guesthouse with some shelves and books and a solitary chair, a dark narrow corridor beyond leads to individual bedrooms. Ahead and slightly to the right there are two low arm chairs, they look welcoming and might as well have 'Ali' and 'Ritch' sewn across them for this is the place in which we will exchange our tales of genius.

As I head for the nearest armchair he speaks, "we go in there", he gestures down the shorter corridor to the right, a closed door at the end and then he heads in the other direction. Confused I throw my down my workbook and pen to claim my chair and curiously follow his vague instruction. I go to the door, push it open, behind its a large bright room, walls lined with books, a single bed in the far corner placed underneath a skylight perfect for stargazing. I panic very slightly this does not feel right I want the comfy armchairs with our names embroidered across them in gold silk thread. I shut the door and sit down defiantly on comfy armchair number one.

Settled I begin writing about my natural abilities, Kate appears, so does Ritch. Kate sits on the floor, back to the wall next to the toilet door Ritch takes his place at my side. I relax all is as it should be.

My stories are written in a trice, I know what comes naturally. Modesty left downstairs, I choose one story about my ability to encourage, motivate and support talented individuals, one about healing with plants and the final one I admit my exceptional organisational competence.  Ritch talks about his oneness with sport, specifically tennis and football, and excelling when surrounded by brilliance. He also talks about his ability to evaluate humans accurately and to treat them fairly in diverse circumstances.  Although I definitely feel I know a bit more about him we again we have spent more time listening to my voice. Kate seems to be enjoying herself, throwing in questions to encourage and provoke us to say more, reveal more. These questions come from a textbook, an academic learning and not from her heart I know it and I suspect Ritch does too. But they are not bad questions so we answer them, humouring her slightly, all three enjoying the interaction.

As part of the exercise we have to write words and feelings that come up about the other person as they are talking. I write a full page of A4 whilst listening to Ritch, he writes a few lines belying the amount of words we have each spoken. I challenge him on this, he defends himself telling me that he has written "quite a lot actually" and that he finds it difficult to listen and talk and write at the same time. I smile and accept this.

We are done, Kate is trying to string out the process knowing that they are not finished downstairs, I get bored and start to fidget, aware that I want Kate to leave, to let us continue this mutual probing alone, Ritch notices my irritability and mentions that I might be in need of a smoke.

As I roll the tobacco in the cool crisp air, two thoughts strike me. One; Ritch seems to know what I need before I do. Two; it was the bed in the room at the end of the corridor that flustered me. I inhale deeply, now that's interesting!