Volume II

Contentment as a Skill

I always thought I would one day find myself more content.

In my mind there was never a specific context, age, or season of life, when I reach this euphoric state. It’s something I would just come into. Like spring after winter.

Over the last year we’ve doubled down on managing our finances as we prepare to buy our first home. There is nothing like tightening the belt to make you consider what is truly essential.

Through the process I’ve realized my addiction to spending. For me, spending surfaces as a broken attempt to experience joy. As if joy were something I could buy. It may satisfy for a moment, but it returns telling me I need and deserve more.

A passing moment of joy can be found in a purchase. But neither does it truly satisfy or last.

Lasting joy comes through choosing contentment in my present condition.

Ultimately, my joy is rooted in my faith in Jesus. A deep sense of unmovable peace. Reflecting on my debt of sin being forgiven is a sure way to bring joy.

I have begun to think of joy as a skill that can be learned, cultivated. Not a fleeting emotion that is reserved for select moments of life. I can actually choose joy throughout my day. So I’ve been practicing.




There is a element of inconvenience related to having only one car for our family. How is it that being a two-car-family became the standard?

Is it my desire to never be inconvenienced? Or is it just more practical to have two cars?

Can I learn to be content with what we have and see those limitations as a blessing?

This verse has been top of mind through this internal wrestle.

The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.
— Psalm 16:5–6

This is a prayer of contentment if I’ve ever heard one. Oh Lord, help.


Making my own coffee instead of purchasing a cup from a local shop can also be a joyful experience. As I write, I’m currently sitting in the shade at a rose garden here in Kansas City on a particularly cool summer afternoon.

My options for writing was, a) go to a local coffee shop, spend money, and sit in the air conditioning and write. Or b) make my own coffee, go for a little drive, and adventure outdoors to find a spot to sit and write in nature. A small difference in decision, a large difference in the type of experience I’ve chosen.

Can I be content to not need the stimulation of a coffee shop experience? Can I instead find contentment in sitting outdoors taking in the sights and smells of my environment? Do I need internet? No. Is coffee the prerequisite for writing? No. Do I need air conditioning? On this particular afternoon, no.

Contentment spills over in to all of areas of life. Can I be content to drive the car we have? Which, doesn’t have a payment, drives well enough, but may not have all the bells and whistles I prefer.

Can I be content not to eat out? The inconvenience of preparing my own food vs. paying to instantly be satisfied.

There are plenty of opportunities in my day to work the muscle of contentment. But I have noticed I must choose to engage contentment. When I feel the desire for more rise, can I recognize it, and ask myself why?

Why do I want a new car? Is it because the one I have is not suitable? Does it not do the job I require adequately? Is it limiting my family? Is the limitation costing me in such a way that is causing me to comprise my values?

Why do I desire the latest tech device? Is my current phone no longer adequate? Does it no longer fulfill the function I require? Does it not perform the tasks I need?

Asking why has been a helpful first step in identifying areas I feel a lack of contentment. And in seeking to understand my motivation for things in general.

Gratitude instead of Contempt

When I view contentment as a choice or a skill, I’m suddenly faced with a split in the road. Where as I usually experience the choice of contentment in a negative form.

I feel a general dissatisfaction toward an object in my life. This kettle isn’t good enough, this car stinks, I need a new computer, I wish we had X, and on and on the list goes. Is it there some truth to that internal dialog? Maybe. Or, do I have a case of shiny object syndrome and have grown tired of looking at the same hot water kettle every morning? The car works fine, it is just that I’m over driving a Prius. The computer does every task I require adequately, it’s just a few years old.

Contentment is learning how to choose gratitude over contempt.

It’s to say like David in Psalm 16, the boundary lines have fallen in pleasant places. To be grateful for the limitations I’ve come up against in life. To thank God for the endless blessings in my life.

I would venture, 99% of the things I feel contempt over are unique to my privilege of living in America. It would be difficult to explain to someone from a war-torn nation my need for two cars instead of one. Or my dislike of my crab-grass lawn. I have much to be grateful for.

Because I won’t magically show up one day down the road generally content with everything in life. I want to learn contentment now, so that I don’t live under the illusion that one day I will be. In the small, un-anointed small of everyday life, I can choose contentment.

Embracing Process

It would seem that I have an aversion to doing hard things.

And when I say hard, I mean, harder than unlocking my phone. Or, anything that can’t be done from the comfort of my couch. I mean, what’s harder than the flicking motion of mindlessly scrolling through other peoples lives? Pretty hard stuff right there.

I hope the sarcasm is leaking through. But truly, I’ve gone soft.

A life of communion with God. Hard. Building a thriving relationship with my wife. Hard. Exercising patience with my toddler. Not easy.

I’ve been turning a working theory in my mind, it fits with almost every area of life I can think of.

Why is it the best things in life require the most effort?

Want to eat healthy? Prepare to increase your grocery budget, meal plan for days, food prep for days, and if you use the microwave all nutritional value goes out the window.

Want a significant, satisfying, and deep relationship with your spouse? It only comes through understanding one another’s heart, exercising humility, and choosing to serve before your own desires are met. It’s not going to happen accidentally and it sure isn’t going to be easy.

In general, we want the end result with none of the work. We want to achieve our goals without submitting to a process.

But here’s the thing, every time we avoid process and take the easy road, it becomes that much harder to make the change. The easy road leads to nothing. You get nothing at the end of it and you are left dissatisfied.

I’m not saying that we should all become organic farmers and only drink milk from the goats we raised. I am saying that we could all stand to engage process in our daily lives.

What do I mean by that?

Process in Goals

Process is actually a safety net. It’s hard to envision what the end result is because you haven’t actually taken the first step. As Ryan Holiday says in his book The Obstacle is the Way,

“The process is about finishing. Finishing games. Finishing workouts. Finishing film sessions. Finishing drives. Finishing reps. Finishing plays. Finishing blocks. Finishing the smallest task you have right in front of you and finishing it well.”

It’s about taking the first step, and then the next, and the one after that.

If you need help painting a picture of process, just imagine a mess. That’s what process usually feels like. It doesn’t feel glamorous. It just feels like a mess. And yet, if you string together a series of messes, something starts to emerge.

Moving toward your goals looks like taking the first step despite your imperfections. Of course you are not where you want to be, that is why you have a goal. And that is also why you have to be ok with where you are right now. Process is a good thing.

Process as a Teacher

Not only does embracing process help move us toward our goals, it also provides an opportunity to learn invaluable character traits. That I would argue, cannot be learned outside of process.

I’m an avid runner, do you know the way you train for a marathon? You guessed it. By running. A lot. More than you probably care to know.

No matter how many times I’ve been through the training process for a race, if I take a 3 or 4 month break from running, I have to start over. To train for the same race I may have run the year prior, I need to show up 4-5 times a week, for 12 weeks, before I’m ready to race.

My training process is not just keeping my physical body in shape. It’s teaching me consistency (finishing the workouts, putting in the time), self-control (the days I want to run faster than I should), self-discipline (the days I’d rather sit on the couch and eat ice cream than run), perseverance (when dealing with nagging injuries or a variable schedule), and to not take myself too seriously. Just get out there and run for goodness sake Isaac, forget about all the pace mumbo jumbo.

This translates to many areas of life. For most of us (none navy seals) our natural default is not to do the hard things in life. We want the easy way. The convenient way.

“Don’t make me practice long hours for years on end, I want to be a seasoned artist now.”

“I shouldn’t have to sacrifice to build a thriving marriage, it should just happen automatically.”

When we engage process, it provides us a context to produce lasting qualities. Related to our natural/physical qualities as well as our inner development.

And conversely, when we avoid process, we miss opportunities to develop our natural/physical qualities as well as our inner character.

Doing hard things in moderation contributes to your long term success.

This has endless opportunities for application.

  • The mom stuck at home with two kids that hasn’t had a break all day. Choosing to engage the messy, un-instagramable, mundane nature of motherhood and allow it to shape her.
  • The employee that feels overlooked, undervalued, and underpaid. Engaging your job with excellence and allowing it to fuel your drive for success.
  • The process of changing your diet to fuel a more sustainable, healthy lifestyle. Start small, and embrace the process of slowly replacing default food habits with healthier ones.
  • The commute that you loathe taking everyday. Find a way to make the most of it. There are a thousand things you could use that time for.

I’m in this camp too. Engaging in process is hard and it rarely feels good. But it’s the showing up again, and again, and again, and again, that transformation begins to take root.

…any movement toward freedom and life, any movement toward God or others, will be opposed. Marriage, friendship, beauty, rest—the thief wants it all.
— John Eldredge

If it’s of significant worth, it’s going to be opposed. It’s a battle to pursue things of lasting meaning or change.

But choosing to engage right where it feels hardest is actually where the most fruit will come.

Process in Trials

This verse used to bother me a great deal. You read it and think, “What is that even supposed to mean?"

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. — James 1:2–4

Process may come in the form of trials. Recovering from addiction. Walking with loved ones through cancer treatment. Pursuing a season of emotional and spiritual healing. The car breaks down. These can all be an invitation to transformation amidst the challenge of doing the hard thing.

As my trials in life have escalated from running out of ramen in college, being brave enough to ask my then girlfriend to marry me, and eventually to walking with my family as my mom battled for her life with leukemia. Facing challenges in life have provided a whole new opportunity to engage my world.

It would seem that in trials there is a unique opportunity to hear the voice of God and learn about His character and nature. But you only become “perfect and complete, lacking in nothing…” if you choose to engage with it.

…we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. — Romans 5:3–5

I’m not sure I’ve yet graduated to a level of rejoicing in suffering or counting it all joy, but I want to move in that direction. Doing the hard things of life, is hard. There’s no way around it. But if I can plant the seed deep within that engaging in the process of the hard things is ultimately moving me toward the things that I ultimately aspire too, then maybe I can begin to learn how to rejoice in the process.

A Poem of Light

Sunrise’s path began as a river of light, carrying floating light, shrouded in mist, taking imagination with: colors of silver; then turning to clean, quiet blues; onward to golden glory; ever rolling up, up - regal, quiet, wonder journey.

Until in trumpet blast seen - Brilliance takes her throne. Every eye squints and all subjects are warmed by her reign.

Good morning Sun.

Mist led us to the day’s majesty: the morning sky layered in dawn; first one glory, then next, now another.

Which reminds me of a night when the moonlight sparked & popped & flashed fireworks of silent explosions into our eyes and hearts.

Yea, this light of day, and light of night - both stopping our world with glory upon glory.

Shimmer and sparkle, mist and wonder, carrying us dreamlike into realms only stories have told, charging our hearts with light’s song and dance for all life holds.

Fuel for the Frontier: Volume II

Music Subscriptions and Vinyl

My wife and family bought me a record player for my birthday. It was an incredibly thoughtful gift.

For as long as I can remember I’ve been obsessed with music. As a kid I would listen to songs over and over again until I could pluck them out on the piano.

A while back I was processing with my wife how I’ve come to dislike the streaming experience of music. It has taken my enjoyment of music and pulverized it into another fad. Sucked all the fun and goodness out of it. Here’s my beef.

Remember when you could only listen to CDs that you owned? And if you wanted to listen to them from your computer you had to import them. Like, rip them into your media library. Which depending on how new your computer was could take half your morning, or half the day.

I obsessed over building my music library. I didn’t have any money, so it pretty much consisted of whatever my parents bought. But it blew my mind that I could import a CD to the computer and listen to it without the CD. Whaaaat?

My relationship with music has changed. Unfortunately, I’ve come to expect instant access to 43 million songs in the iTunes store. I have an entitlement related to the way that I enjoy music. And it has totally taken the novelty and joy out of it. Listening to an album over and over and over and over again. Till you know every lyric, every guitar riff, every melody and harmony.

Luxury once tasted becomes necessity.

Now, I barely look past my “Recently Added” section of iTunes. I have a few steady artists I always go back to, but for the most part I’m just always looking for the next shiny new song. Not truly relishing and savoring music the way I used to.

So enter my desire to start playing vinyl. Ok, I know it’s what all the cool kids are doing. But seriously, my interest was piqued due to recovering my love of music I feel I’ve lost. The part where, you only get to listen to the music that you own an album of. And just because an artist may have released a new album, doesn’t mean you get to listen to it at midnight of the day it releases.

I actually have to exercise patients. I have to save money and decide which album I’ll invest in next. I don’t have the luxury of just flipping through 40 or 50 albums a month because it’s part of the subscription. I have to learn to savor every album of my collection again. To experience it as I set the needle and watch it spin. To share it with my family in the kitchen or over a meal. I no longer just consume music because I’m an entitled subscriber. I savor it because it nourishes my heart. My soul.

Yes the constraint is hard. Yes I have 10 albums I wish I could buy right now but can’t. Yes I will love you forever if you buy me records for the rest of my life. But truly, I’m enjoying music again like I haven’t in ages. And it’s got me much more sensitive to what music I’m streaming and asking the question, is paying for a music subscription really something I need in my life?

Top 5 Vinyl Albums at the Moment

  • Abide With Me, Sara Groves. We’ve been spinning a lot of vinyl lately, and I’ve missed having good worship music on. You can walk in just about any thrift store and find jazz, rock, or classical. But if I want worship on vinyl it takes an investment in new vinyl. Which is not cheap. This was my go to because it’s such a good mix of songs from the heart and a few traditional hymns.

  • Graceland, Paul Simon. Found this at a record shop here in town. We grew up listening to Paul Simon on repeat. This album being a all time favorite. So I had to have it. It’s one of the greatest albums of all time, and I love having it on vinyl.

  • The Sound of Music. Because you have to. Especially having kids in the house, Finley loves playing this soundtrack over and over again.

  • Getz / Gilberto, Stan Getz and Joao Gilberto. Favorite bossa nova album of all time. Not even a contest. I was antiquing with my parents here in Kansas City and found it in a old container of jazz albums. It was $12.50, which makes it one of the more expensive albums in my collection, but it was in really good condition, and I literally could listen to this album every day the rest of my life, and still not get tired of it. You need this.

  • Home, Josh Garrels. Another new vinyl, but our love for Josh Garrels runs deep. This was a treat to myself for a recent promotion at work. Yay me. Home was released in 2015, and has been on my weekly playlist of music since. It may currently hold the #1 spot on my vinyl collection due to recently picking it up, but my bias is well doted. I love this album beginning to end. Listening to it on vinyl feels like coming home. 😉

Books

  • Finished re-reading the Harry Potter series. Oh man, I forgot how incredibly written the series is. It can feel a bit redundant and childish at times, but the way it ties together as a whole is remarkable. The themes of friendship, adventure, courage, forgiveness, trust, and sacrifice that run through the books is moving. Still on the weekly top best sellers list for a reason.

  • Currently reading The Lord of the Rings for the first time. I’ve watched the movies many times, but after finishing Harry Potter, I needed something to rebound on. I’m about halfway through The Two Towers, so good! It’s been a fun way to wind down my brain at the end of a long day. Especially with a newborn in the house.

  • My wife and I took an enneagram test earlier this year, this book has been really insightful. Learning so much about my wife as a 9, and all my deficiencies as a 1. But really, it has been a great tool in learning more about myself and my wife. What we are motivated by, what energizes us, and what gets us in to trouble. It’s just another tool in the belt for learning how to walk in relationship with others.

An aside about Movies based on Books

Talking with a friend recently, he mentioned how major motion pictures based on books ruin and limit books original form. It stifles our imagination to the world of fiction the book invites us into. Readers think of characters and the world in which the story is set as the film portrays them. Instead of how their imagination would dream up the story. As I’ve read Harry Potter and now Lord of the Rings this year, this has been mostly true. I read Harry Potter before seeing any of the films (never finished the movies), and I found re-reading it to be just as delightful as the world I first imagined. Whereas, Lord of the Rings I feel trapped in the motion picture world as I read. The characters feel limited, the landscapes resemble what I saw in the movies. It is slightly disappointing.

Start my workday Analog

I work in digital marketing. Most of my day (like you) is spent staring at a screen of some sort. Over the last couple years I’ve used a analog task management system for my day to day lists. While this has been incredibly satisfying and helpful, I’ve found I still find myself slipping into a reactive work mode more than I would like.

When I received my Gather desk organizer, it didn’t really fit with my current setup. So I decided to make a change to my work station.

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Instead of making my default work approach my computer, I’ve made it easiest to work offline (pen and paper), then to work on my computer I have to shift my chair, posture, and attention over to my monitor.

My analog tools are front and center. My computer is off to the side waiting for me, when I’m ready to do work that requires a internet connection.

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So I start my day in my notebooks. Sketching out big ideas, breaking projects into smaller bits, and scheduling out my time.

After I’ve created a map (so-to-speak) for myself, I then put my nose in a book for 20-30 minutes before moving on to other to-dos.

Why?

When I jump straight to an internet connection and screen, I lose all sense of priority and importance to my work. Suddenly Twitter should receive the same amount of my attention as the work project that is due by the end of the afternoon.

Starting my day in a digital work environment (for me) is the equivalent of standing in the toothpaste aisle at Walmart. Too many options.

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When I start offline, I’m able to pre-determine what things are most important for the day without my attention being hi-jacked.

Miscellaneous

  • No smartphone in the bedroom. We’ve been charging our smartphones in the kitchen at night, because it shouldn’t be the last thing we look at before bed, or the first thing we stare at in the morning. There are quite a few other reasons, but those being the at the top.

  • Having a newborn. Babies (and birth for that matter) are incredible. There is nothing like holding a human in your arms that is minutes old. That shares your lifeblood.
  • Riding my bike to work. My car has been having some trouble, so I’ve been riding my bike to work here and there. It’s been a blessing in disguise. I get exercise into my commute and gives me 20 minutes at the start and end of my work day of noodle time (a term I stole from a friend, time to let my brain wonder wherever it may go and work out life). Also, having a newborn has limited my time on my bike, so I’m grateful to be riding at all.

  • This tumbler. This thing is awesome. I use it for everything, coffee, milk, cocktails, wine. Put it on top of this thing and you’ve got yourself a cocktail shaker 😎. It fits in the cup holder in my car, fits the perfect amount of coffee in the morning, it’s small so I take it with me everywhere, and it’s pretty much indestructible. A bit pricy, but a buy it for life sort purchase.

Interview with Phil Rice on Personal Retreat

I’ve known Phil Rice for some years now, but one of the things that has always stood out to me is his intentional and methodical approach to life. The first time I visited he and his family in Norman, OK upon arrival he handed me a hour by hour schedule of our 2 day visit. Complete with scheduled down time. After a few unexpected and quite unannounced visits in Kansas City, whereby he was flying solo for a weekend retreat, I was taken by his ability to regularly carve out time in his life for rest. Mind you, Phil is a husband, father, and is the executive director of Ember, a prayer and creative company. He also regularly writes at philrice.blog on on the topic of religious disillusionment and other things. Not exactly a slacker. (Also a certified yoga instructor wizard, dude is legit.)

While there are a wealth of topics you would want to pick Phil Rice’s brain over, personal retreat was at the top of my list as I have witnessed the fruit of it in his life first hand. If this conversation resonates with you, you’ll want to check out his upcoming resource Simple Retreat. Phil is a salt-of-the-earth kind of guy. You can’t help but think differently about life after talking with him. Enjoy the interview!




Isaac: I’ve always thought highly of your commitment to regularly find time to escape and take short retreats. This seems like a time that you hit reset in a few areas, spiritual, mentally, emotionally, and take a step back to look at the big picture. How did you get started taking personal retreats, and was there anything in particular that pushed you to start?

Phil: I'm an introvert by nature, so I've always found time to get away to be alone and collect my thoughts. I remember, growing up, my dad having a huge impact on my understanding of retreat. When important decisions needed to be made (for him personally or for the family), he would take to the woods for a few days to hike in nature to be alone with God. In more recent years, several close friends and mentors of mine have had some kind of rhythm of retreat that I sought to emulate. After leaving a more formal 9-5 job in 2012, I was able to have more say in where I put my energy. I have found in examining my needs as a normal human desiring to sustain productive work and simple spiritual connection to God (and to others), regular rhythms of retreat are a vital piece of the equation.

Isaac: Creating space in the schedule to recharge can seem like a battle in our fast paced society, and to some, the idea of regular retreat may seem extravagant or indulgent. How frequently do you try to get away, and how much time do you take?

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Phil: You're so right on. It does feel indulgent for people. The idea of a couple getting away totally makes sense in our culture or a family taking time to be together (even that is a challenge for us to schedule). The concept of an individual taking time away (alone) feels completely foreign. My wife, Becky, and I both see the value in individual space to envision for the next quarter, year, or phase of life. Typically, I take 4 days (including travel time) in the spring and in the fall for personal retreat space. These times can range from a 4 day backpacking trip in the rockies to hiding out at a local airbnb. The common denominator is simply to have time for solitude and silence. Each retreat is a little different and typically evolves based on what I need in the moment. Along with these extended personal times, I usually take a day out of the month and retreat on a mini scale. I usually just retreat for the day and then am home in time for dinner with the family. I also think it's important to think through daily retreat. I find a short length of time each morning to be alone. The amount of time varies depending on what time the rest of the house wakes up. This time can be spent sitting and watching the birds on my back deck, meditating on scripture, talking with God, or simply sitting and enjoying the silence.

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Isaac: As a fellow introvert, a twice a year 4 day retreat sounds incredible. I could see that weekend becoming a lifeline that you begin to anticipate and look forward to. Even those single day retreats. But I think most of us, if given a four day weekend to ourselves right now, would feel overwhelmed at the thought of that much empty space. What sort of learning curve did you go through when you started implementing these retreats? And now that you’ve been doing it for some years, have you found a format over those few days that is most helpful for you?

Phil: I think it's really important not to plan too much for a retreat, but more give yourself a rough outline. The goal is not productivity, the goal is rest and recovery. But, if you start jamming on a particular idea while you're away and it feels energizing, go for it. There was definitely a learning curve when I started. But oddly enough, I think the learning curve centered more around learning not to feel guilty for being inactive or unproductive. A successful retreat for me is where I include a mix of things I find relaxing and things that I find energizing. To recharge as an introvert, it means I interact with as few people as possible over the course of four days. For the sake of an outline, I'll break up my retreat into three cycles — cycle 1 - productive detox, cycle 2 - personal reflection, cycle 3 - creativity/productivity. The beginning cycle of my retreat is usually spent in productive detox. I read fiction. I do yoga. I eat food. I take a nap. And then I do it all again. I repeat this first cycle until I actually feel inspired to move to cycle 2. There are some times I may take all four days to stay in cycle 1. And that's okay! This is about me taking time to set myself up for the next season of time. If I don't do it now... it won't happen.

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Isaac: I like that, ”the goal is rest and recovery.” It’s funny how we can set out to engage in a retreat and get hung up on our lack of productivity. The purpose of a retreat is rest, not productivity. Sounds like you spend the first part of your retreat detoxing (as you put it) from the feeling of needing to be productive. You’ve peaked my interest with the idea of these cycles, could you take more about what cycles 2 and 3 look like?

Phil: Absolutely. For me, cycle 2 (personal reflection) can only happen once I've removed myself from my environment. If I'm still in it, then I'm going to be less able to reflect on what's actually happening in my life/business. So, after exhausting myself with rest, I begin to want to think about and process the pieces of my life. Sometimes this takes the form of reflecting on pieces of scripture that are meaningful to me or reading over things others have prayed or spoken over me. It can look like conversation with God, resting in his words and his thoughts about our relationship and my circumstances. It can also look like writing rough drafts of articles that help me process what I'm working over. A lot of times though, it just means silence and listening.

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Honestly... sometimes cycle 3 (creativity/productivity ) never happens during my time away. This does not mean that my time was unsuccessful. In fact, it often means it was more successful. But, if I actually get to cycle 3 in my retreat space, this normally looks like working on projects and ideas that I'm excited about — firming up and scheduling articles, recording mostly final drafts to songs, determining strategy for a particular project or way forward for my organization, or implementing changes of some kind.

Isaac: Thanks for sharing! I want to drill down on the idea of rest a bit more. When I think about the topic it can feel a bit arbitrary. Stretching out in a hammock can be restful, but so can working in the garden. Could you define what rest means for you? And based on that definition, is there a sort of artifact that you are aiming to produce in your life through the act of resting?

Phil: When thinking of rest, let's use the image of weightlifting. You stress your muscles for a time, breaking them down, communicating to your mind that you must grow and evolve. But, the time of rest and recovery is just as important as the stress. The back and forth of stress and recovery (or rest) is what sustains growth over time. Too much of one or the other and you offset the balance. Rest to me is simply the opposite of stress or productivity. So, to the level that one exerts themselves in life, one must rest and recover. Rest is nonproductive work. It's doing things, not because I'm trying to build or get ahead, but because this particular activity (or lack of activity) delights me. It helps me to slow down. It is not measured. There is no deadline or finish line. It is the opposite of stress. My goal in this is to find the continued balance of stress and recovery so that I continue to grow and evolve as a person in every area of life — body, mind, and spirit.

Isaac: That really helps me frame the goal of a retreat. Rest and recovery is necessary because of the rounds of thinking/creating/problem solving I’m putting my mind through on a daily basis.

For those that may be more extroverted, how might a retreat differ for them? Is solitude a necessary component of retreat?

Phil: In the same way it's not healthy for an introvert to go live in a cave and never interact with another human (although that sounds kind of awesome sometimes), it is equally unhealthy for an extrovert to not be comfortable alone. For an introvert, a retreat might actually mean not interacting with another human for one to four days. But, for an extravert, it could look like a morning alone with oneself (or even in a coffee shop among other people, but alone) and an afternoon with a spouse or good friend. Perhaps the extravert could bring a group of friends with them on this retreat and they could all commit to some version of solitude, while gathering back together in the evenings to process the things they are thinking about with the group. This sounds absolutely terrible to me as an introvert, but I have friends who would absolutely thrive in this kind of a retreat environment.

Isaac: Do you think then that everyone (introvert or extrovert alike) should have a rhythm of retreat?

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Phil: Absolutely. I think it’s important for everyone to have a rhythm of retreat (using the language of stress and recovery). Again, it can look different for each individual, but intentional time to recover and reassess is important for all of us. In my experience, if we don’t take the time intentionally, our bodies will force us to do so eventually, usually under circumstances that aren’t very convenient - emotional breakdown, sickness, lethargy. We will rest. But I would rather rest on my terms.

Isaac: One final question to wrap up this conversation. If you were to give me the hard sell, what has the fruit of regular retreat been in your life?

Phil: The result of regular rhythms of retreat in my experience has been sustainable, enjoyable life.