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Permission to Wake Up Your Soul

October 6, 2011

Frio River at Laity LodgeI spent several days last week completely surrounded by writers, artists, musicians and poets. It was the Writer’s Retreat at Laity Lodge, in Texas, my second year attending.

This is a stark contrast from my routine as a business executive. I am usually immersed in the business of running things, of analysis and decisions. But at Laity Lodge, there was no talk of strategy or finances or how to engage employees. In fact, for three solid days, I don’t think I heard one person say, “Let’s put a pencil to it,” or “Let’s break down the cash flow model,” or “How will that impact Q4 earnings?”

Instead, these generous, creative people were only concerned with beauty and art and The Sacredness of Everything.

The conversations went more like, “Tell me, Brad, how did you start writing?” and, “What kind of creative projects are you working on?” and, “I can’t believe how many stars there are in the sky tonight.”

I love these people.

This was such a far cry from my every day work identity; it actually caught me off guard a bit. I had to tamp down that badgering little voice in my head, screaming, “What are you doing here? Get back in your box, pronto! You are not one of them.”

Why do we deprive ourselves from the things we love?

I like my job and the identity I have formed around it, but clearly I resist allowing myself to fulfill and nurture and delight my soul in other ways. I had to shake it down, to shake it off, and with a stern tone, I gave myself permission to be there – to really be there – to make room,
to let loose,
to dive in,
to relish in the joy of the place.

And so, that’s what I did. I gave up. I surrendered, completely and fully to the non-linear, right-brained, creative, non-judgmental part of me who is validated within this flow.

An artist there told me of a retreat she helped lead a couple weeks ago for a bunch of high-octane Fortune 500 executives. The leader of the retreat forced these execs to spend the weekend writing poetry and creating art. Nothing to do with business. She said how resistant they were at first, arms crossed and sour expressions on their faces. “But by the end of the 2nd day they were sitting in a circle, sobbing as they read their poems,” she said with a soft smile, thinking back with wonder.

It was ironic, then, that when I returned to work on Monday, my business mind was sharper than it’s been for a long time. It was like my brain was switched up a gear with some edgy new energy, like someone had focused the lens in my head by a couple of notches. I was pinging with new ideas, clarity and enthusiasm. I told my boss how odd that was.

“Of course,” he said. “Sometimes you need to remove yourself from your familiar environment in order to resurface with greater vision.”

The next day I was driving to a meeting with all the windows open, listening to Mumford and Sons’ “Awake My Soul.” I lift my voice as loud as I can, against the wind and the hum of the tires on the highway, and sing over and over with the tune, “Awake my soul.

Awake my soul.

You were made to meet your maker.”

Without warning, tears start forming in my eyes, and I can’t sing any more because there is a lump in my throat. I am not sure if it is a longing for something I lost, or the recognition of something coming to the surface.

Maybe I had simply forgotten where part of my soul had gone, and I was welcoming it back.

28 Comments leave one →
  1. Katdish permalink
    October 6, 2011 6:04 pm

    How cool is it that you can allow both left and right brains to take turns? That’s a luxury many are either too stubborn or too afraid to allow to happen. Good for you, Brad.

  2. October 6, 2011 6:08 pm

    If all business executive were like you, the world would be a far, far better place.

  3. October 6, 2011 6:10 pm

    You make me *laugh*!

    You did hear someone say, “Let’s put some poppy-seed bread to it,” though, didn’t you? 😉

  4. October 6, 2011 6:20 pm

    Brad – Oh, I love this. I love that your soul came awake through your time at Laity Lodge. I was refreshed by the conversation you and I had about creativity and the creative life. As much as I want my life to be all poetry and art work, I live a different 9-5 reality myself. How to integrate them, how to let them both be who I am, that’s my question for myself.

  5. October 6, 2011 6:23 pm

    And I had to come back to say I thought the exec’s response was hilarious. Ah, what the simple restatement of something can elicit, without further writing embellishment.

    Too funny, his business-like evaluation of your soul-awakening 🙂

  6. October 6, 2011 6:23 pm

    Yes. All this. I’ve been reading the posts of others this week and keep thinking each of us in that place had the retreat we needed. It was something.

  7. October 6, 2011 6:30 pm

    The recognition of something coming to the surface . . .

    I felt those tears well so many times as we sang hymns this weekend. Hymns that don’t normally move me.

    Julia posed the possibility of sometimes giving ourselves a day as a gift–to do only want we really want. I’m thinking that in doing that, we might become even better acquainted with our souls

  8. October 6, 2011 6:36 pm

    Thank you for this, Bradley. You’ve put words to something that has been eluding me as I sort these past days.

  9. October 6, 2011 6:52 pm

    A few years back – 2008, I think — we brought in a poet to to talk to us about writing. A lot of people at work wandered around with raised eyebrows, but when it was over, they were wandering around quoting things he said. There’s nothing like a major departure from the norm to inspire, thrill, and make you see things in a completely different way.

    • October 7, 2011 6:11 am

      And it’s so counterintuitive…I think many of the hard-edged managers don’t even know what’s brimming beneath the surface in their own spiritual lives. These artistic endeavors can bring it the surface.

  10. October 6, 2011 7:07 pm

    There is enough space in that Texas landscape to change anyone’s perspective.

  11. October 6, 2011 10:44 pm


    That is all.

  12. October 7, 2011 1:14 am

    I’m enjoying reading the different posts of those of you who attended. What a gift it must have been.

  13. October 7, 2011 4:07 am

    brad, that last scene… i can see it so vividly.

  14. October 7, 2011 10:36 am

    I had missed surrounding myself by arrr’teest of the eighties (I was a late bloomer, or I should say put it away in a box) and now to be immersing myself in what makes my heart jump for joy (yeah it’s work too), but to do a retreat…I would be so giddy! Money unfortunately has stopped me at least once this week. Do they do scholarships?

    Sounds like you walked away in a good place…

    • October 10, 2011 12:28 pm

      Yes, they do scholarships. This is one of the most generous places on earth – so check it out. They have a wonderful website.

      Brad, I am so sorry I never met you this past weekend – this post is simply wonderful. I came at the very last minute and my husband came along because we were already on a vacation – one that got changed by Hurricane Irene. He is a newly retired financial investor and would have loved the chance to process with you a bit about it all. He did not do a workshop (choosing to hit hundreds of tennis balls instead!), but he came to everything else. It was a new world for him.

      Thanks for this lovely, lovely post. I’m signing on here!

  15. October 7, 2011 2:26 pm

    Why do we deprive ourselves from the things we love?

    Oh, this is me to a tee! I need a writers retreat. That settles it, next year is non-negotiable.

    I am in a season right now where I am cutting out “soul time” left and right because of “duty time.” Duty to family, work, other people. As some point, my soul is going to run dry. Awake my soul!

  16. October 7, 2011 2:44 pm

    People are often complicated beings. That’s something that’s exciting to embrace. We’re multifaceted creatures with creative and analytical streaks. In fact, the best of us are the ones who can manage both well.

  17. October 9, 2011 10:10 am

    It was good stuff, wasn’t it? Did not last nearly long enough…

  18. Karyn permalink
    October 10, 2011 9:46 am

    Reminds me of a paper I wrote for an art therapy class: “The Sergeant and the Fairy Princess.” There’s something to be said for discipline and duty… inasmuch as it helps us carry out our inspirations.

  19. October 10, 2011 10:57 am

    I deprive myself of those things because sometimes those things we love seem so selfish – like something I’ll get to do in retirement.

  20. November 2, 2011 2:59 pm

    Bradley, you were featured at the Laity Lodge website.

  21. November 2, 2011 3:39 pm

    So beautiful. Your words and your perspective are wonderful!


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