On Sunday afternoon, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to attend a workshop here in Decorah, IA called “Awakening the SAGE.” Several of my friends and acquaintances had sent me information about it, but initially I felt that I could not justify the price. I just quit my job, for crying out loud! Then I bumped into my friend Karen (one of the faculty of the workshop) on the bike trail and she convinced me it would be well worth it.
And it was!
The concept of awakening the SAGE was created by Mary Jorgensen, who is a life coach (and so much more). It is based on her study of resilience and encourages the cultivation of those practices which enable resilience in a person:
I arrived at the workshop rather sweaty and not very zen-like because I’d just biked in the sun and up a big hill. However, I was able to cool down quickly, letting the serenity of the space and the participants calm me, and settled down on a cushion for the first part of the workshop: Spirituality.
It’s easy to forget that spirituality is a key component of wellness and resilience. It makes sense though. Don’t most people (regardless of everyday faith) turn to some Higher Being in times of need? I know our church was packed the Sunday following 9/11… This is an area that I certainly want to focus on now that I have disposable time (doesn’t that sound so much more freeing than disposable income!?!).
The spirituality exercise at the workshop involved participating in a tea ceremony. I had never done this before and was bewitched by the precise movements of our leader, Michelle Williams, owner of Decorah’s Day Spring Spa. It made me think about how much more fulfilling it is to do a few things really well rather than half-ass a bunch of stuff.
During the meditation, I focused on my breath and acknowledging thoughts as they came, letting them float away as best as I could. Meditation is hard! But having that quiet time every day is certainly something that contributes to wellness.
For me, spirituality is sitting down at the piano and singing my heart out. Or even better, singing with friends. Find your source of spiritual fulfillment and go with it!
We moved quietly into the gratitude segment. This was led by acupuncturist and Qigong instructor Brenda Harris. She had designed a set of Qigong movements for this event. Again, this was a new experience for me. In fact, I had never done any type of martial arts before. I loved the flowing movements and the concept of just following along. It was beautiful, intense, fun, and a little crazy all at the same time.
As part of this segment, I reflected over what I’m grateful for. Here is what I wrote:
- Living in Decorah and the joy and security that comes with it (like community, creativity, and talent)
- Todd & Rebecka + my big family
- Good neighbors and friends
- Ability & health
Who has the guts to be themselves?? I know I’ve struggled with this for the last 5-10 years (at least!). And it doesn’t feel good. Life is hard when you have to pretend to be someone you’re not or when you don’t feel like you can fully speak your mind.
The authenticity portion of the SAGE event was an experience called “Spontaneous Art” led by my friend and spontaneous cycling buddy Karen Misseldine, a licensed art therapist. As soon as I heard “art,” I started to get anxious. I am not an artist! But that was the point. Using a cool technique with string and black paint, we randomly created art that looked good!
Every. Single. One.
When I was done with my works of art, I walked up to Karen to have her hang them on the display wall. We started talking and I revealed to her that my 8th grade art teacher had once put in an evaluation “will never be an artist.” She said today’s experience could start to heal the hurt associated with those words. It was also interesting to reflect on the fact that of all the teacher evaluations I received during my academic career (and most of them were excellent!), this is the one I remember verbatim.
The good thing is that even though you are born with a given personality, it doesn’t have to negatively impact your life. This awareness can help you realize steps you can take in the right direction. In my case, it’s back to being kind to myself, holding back the criticism, and accepting things as they are and not judging them as good or bad.
Oh boy. By this time we were all pretty excited. We had discovered that we could indeed be artists in our own special way, learned secrets about ourselves, and enjoyed some superb hors d’oeuvres from a local catering company, Eat and Be Merry. We were pumped and ready for some more fun!
Enter Laughing Laura.
You couldn’t help but smile just looking at her. Her infections smile, giggles and shining face just made you wonder “What is she on?? I want some!” As Laura told us her story, she revealed that she had accidentally discovered the healing power of laughter. Furthermore, she had stumbled across a discipline called “laughter yoga” which is based on the fact that the body doesn’t care if you’re laughing because you just heard a funny joke or just to laugh.
Laura guided us through a series of super silly exercises to get us laughing. The best part is that this is something that would typically make me rather withdrawn (like art!), but since I had recently decided to face my fears, I threw myself into it. It was so much fun! Men and women, older and younger, slim and curvy, we all laughed our butts off.
It was quite a workout! But a workout that left me smiling all the way home.
We need to prioritize enjoyment. It doesn’t have to be laughter yoga, but something that makes us feel extreme joy and ideally include a good dose of belly laughs. Put time on your schedule to watch a silly movie or hang out with fun kids or go to choir practice (trust me, my choir practices are sometimes more laughter than singing!).
This event came at a perfect time with all the changes that I am going through in my life. It was uplifting and contemplative at the same time. However, this was just the awakening. There is much more to learn, more time to spend on those things that make life grand, and more to share.
Editor’s note: If you are Type A like me, you may have noticed that I did not follow the order of the acronym. This is because the logical order of the activities ended up being different than the SAGE acronym and it made more sense to me to describe the event in chronological order.
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