By Tanya Cole-Lesnick, LCSW, PLLC

In September I had the opportunity to lead a retreat with the amazing Lighthouse director, Cathy Anesi. Leading a retreat has been a dream of mine for many years, and this first experience did not disappoint! It was a powerful, life-changing experience for all, including the leaders. Most of the weekend went as planned. We focused on our best lives in this small group with lots of intimacy, laughs, tears, and good work done. And then, as if it was the universe’s way of testing our understanding of some of the principles discussed throughout the weekend, we got lost in the woods. Literally.

The weather was beautiful and taking a group hike was on the agenda for our weekend. Getting lost, of course, was unexpected, but I loved that it reinforced our learning and was struck by how many metaphors about our lives and the growth process showed up as we got lost and then found our way.

First metaphor: We were told by a staff person at the retreat center that the orange trail was a nice loop around so instead of trusting our own inner voices and turning back when this didn’t appear to be the case, we kept focusing on the fact that were told it would loop around, kept going, and got more lost. A metaphor for listening to someone else’s voice rather than our own intuition. We are responsible for our own choices and our own lives. Period.

Second metaphor: At least twice the birds knew what was up. They squawked very loudly as we were clearly going in the wrong direction. Twice. We joked that they were trying to tell us something but didn’t know what to do with the information. A metaphor for having a sign from the universe that what we’re doing doesn’t serve us but don’t yet have the information about what direction to go in next. We get confused and feel stuck, but find clarity if we stay open and keep exploring.

Third metaphor: Luckily (or not), we all had our phones, with navigation, and started to use them to bring us back to the retreat center. That didn’t quite go as planned. We made it out of the woods but not to the retreat center. In fact, the navigation brought us to a random home in the wrong direction. Deep breath. A metaphor for the trial and error process of moving towards the things we want in life. We use the information we have, but it doesn’t always bring us directly there. In fact it usually doesn’t. Error is part of the process… trust and keep trying.

Fourth metaphor: When we came out of the woods we happened upon a most beautiful and tranquil spot. We were all able to pause and take in the beauty of that moment. And when we discovered we had gone in the wrong direction a few minutes later, away from the retreat center, one of our trusty companions who had stayed back to nap was able to swing by with her car and pick us up—an experience of humor and connection. A metaphor for when we stay open to what may come. There are unexpected positive experiences that we will miss if we are closed to them.

Getting lost wasn’t the stressor it could have been. Instead, it highlighted the sense of adventure in all of us, the connection of the group, and our openness to going towards the unknown, trusting that we would have experiences—positive and negative but all growth-inducing—in the process. Trusting that in the end, we would find our way.