Last week I said that life takes practice, and practice takes community.
Life also takes courage. And courage loves company.
One of the key themes of my life over the past 18 months has been the centrality of courage to the life I want to live. Creativity takes courage. Compassion takes courage. Curiosity takes courage. Connection takes courage. Making any kind of change in our lives or in the world takes courage.
One of the ways I’ve learned to cultivate courage is through having courageous friends. And to make courageous friends I have had to step through the fear that keeps me locked away in my comfort zone, let myself be seen as I am, and be willing to see others in all their glory.
So when I talked to Lisa Roehre about her experience at the Creative Joy retreat last year I was not surprised to learn that one of the big themes of the retreat for her was finding the courage to step out of her comfort zone and connect with other people.
Read on to learn more about how courage is related to creativity, how yoga, writing and photography helped Lisa make a big change to the way she showed up in her job in ‘Corporate America’ and why she’s coming back again this year.
And if you feel like you need an injection of Creative Joy right now, please join Jen, Tracey and I for the free Creative Joy mini-retreat next Friday – 30 August. You can sign up here, and we’ll send you the information about how to join live, or get the recording afterwards.
Plus – if you share the link to the free mini-retreat this week (using the hashtag #mycreativejoy), you’ll go into the draw to win free tuition to the Creative Joy retreat itself!
Here’s the full transcript of my interview with Lisa:
On Courage, Comfort Zones and Creative Joy
Lisa Roehre: The biggest impact I would say was that I really needed to come out of my comfort zone and connect with people. Because I was kind of hiding.
Those two things, connecting to people and coming out of my comfort zone. That was the spark that got my creative juices going.
Marianne Elliott: What do you think the relationship is between stepping out of your comfort zone and creativity and joy, if any?
Lisa Roehre: The connection is that what I needed to do was let myself be open, to be vulnerable, but I wasn’t as long as I was living in my comfort zone. I was almost like a hermit and it was very safe and secure. That’s what I needed to do for a period of time. I needed to heal and figure things out. But I had gotten away from my creative side because of work, being a single mother. I wanted to bring that back in and it just wasn’t working, in the cocoon that I was in.
So at Creative Joy, initially, I thought I could kind of skate through it and not talk, not really connect to people, just learn and then leave.
But it was connecting with people and getting past the fear and letting people see me, and talk about some of my mistakes and seeing it in others that got me feeling more alive and just churning things up. Then all of a sudden I was writing things that I was impressing myself with, painting pictures, and that feeling of joy came back. I hadn’t had that in a long time, so that’s where I realized it was getting past that fear of connecting with people and getting out of my comfort zone.
Marianne Elliott: What is it that is important about the choice to go on a retreat, to carve that time out, as opposed to simply setting yourself the goal of going out of your comfort zone and connecting with people in your day-to-day life?
Lisa Roehre: It made it easier because I got to forget about just everything else: work, my daughter, everyday things. The quiet time and reflecting, the yoga and meditation, that part of the retreat—something about doing all those things together really made everything work.
I felt so good when I left there, I hadn’t felt that way in years.
So I think it was everything. Even the setting – the monastery felt like sacred ground,—everything about that just seemed to work for me. So it was a retreat. It was escaping and that’s brazen for me. It was a very safe environment, and the people there were very like-minded. I’ve been on other types of workshops and retreats like that, and I really didn’t connect with people the same way I did with the people there. So that had to have something to do with it as well.
Marianne Elliott: There was something very special about the setting for me. And it does have that history that it has been a place of retreat for people who have chosen to take time to connect to themselves and to connect to the people around them in a more profound way. Did you feel that?
Lisa Roehre: Absolutely. The main room we were in, that hall, I just loved being in there. And we did quiet things in there and loud things in there. I swear you could hear the echoes of whoever might have chanted or prayed or sang there before us. It was the whole environment and place. It felt really good.
Marianne Elliott: So in terms of coming out of your comfort zone, how did that relate for you to the experience of the photography, the writing, and the yoga?
Lisa Roehre: Well, for the photography I really thought, again, I’d sit in the back of the room and just listen and go out and do my thing. But I started asking questions. I normally have this thing about being invisible and I just listen and let other people talk. But I really interacted with whoever was next to me; showing them my pictures, looking at theirs, talking to Tracey. I really just came out of my shell and it was easy. And I learned more that way, so that was a big part.
The writing, actually, it’s funny; I’ve been getting these signs to write. I never thought of myself as a writer—artistically I’m more of a drawer. I used to write poems when I was little and when I’d sit there and try to write something, nothing would come out. And at Creative Joy it was flowing! So I thought, okay: there’s something here. There’s something about this opening up and what I’m learning and just letting it go that’s helping me write.
Marianne Elliott: For a lot of people considering going on a retreat like this, one, if not more than one of those activities, whether it’s the photography or the writing or the yoga, will feel uncomfortable for them. Do you have any insights for somebody who’s thinking: ‘Do I really want to go to a retreat where I need to do yoga because I’m really not comfortable doing yoga?’
Lisa Roehre: Yes. Even with the yoga, which I had done before, I was out of shape and self-conscious. And I know other people were uncomfortable who had never tried it before and the ones that stuck with it – that also was a boost in confidence for them: ‘I am capable of doing these things’. It doesn’t matter that I hadn’t done it for a while. Also with yoga, it does loosen you up and relax you and open things up, especially that heart area, which is what I really need. And some of the people that had never done it just loved it. I mean they really did.
Marianne Elliott: What I’m hearing from you and it’s something that some of the other people I’ve talked to have said is that when we go to the edge of where we are already comfortable and feel safe enough to maybe step beyond that, that really creative veins open for us. So would you agree that part of the purpose of retreating is to be in an environment where you’re separated from the daily things that occupy so much of our time and energy on a day-to-day basis, but also it’s safe; everybody has agreed to come into that space together to step out of their comfort zone a little bit?
Lisa Roehre: Yes. Exactly. Actually one of the reasons I got away from yoga was that the gym I belonged to, it was like a competition and you knew people were looking at you and judging you. And there was none of that at this retreat. That’s a whole different vibe there, and I think that’s why a lot of people felt comfortable.
But the one thing I took away is that I did face fears and walk through it and it was exhilarating, so it was a reminder of facing fears and how good you feel once you do it. And that has helped me at work. I’m in Corporate America and I was being invisible there, and now I am way more visible and I’m expressing my opinion. And I feel better about myself.
Marianne Elliott: That’s huge.
Lisa Roehre: I know. So that’s another good takeaway I had for the retreat that facing a fear and then get through it and it’s almost like you want to do it again because it was—it felt so good.
Marianne Elliott: Oh yeah. It’s very liberating. It’s very invigorating. That’s a really powerful outcome that the choice you had previously been making for completely understandable reasons in a relatively hostile environment was to stay invisible. But part of the outcome of choosing to come to Creative Joy and coming to an environment where you felt safe to be visible is that you’ve been able to do more of that. And it doesn’t necessarily make the environment you’re in less hostile, but it makes you feel, is what I’m hearing, it makes you feel more yourself in that environment?
Lisa Roehre: Right. And I had no idea I was going to get that out of the retreat. None whatsoever. I really thought I was going to be invisible through that whole thing and just continue on my way, but I’m so glad it turned out the other way.
Marianne Elliott: Yeah. Well, I’m glad too. I’m really glad. Is there anything else you wanted to say about your experience?
Just that it’s probably one of the best experiences, retreats I’ve ever been on. It was the best thing I’ve ever done for myself. That’s probably the best way to sum it up. And I’ve already signed up to come again this year. – Lisa Roehre