From the desk of Luke Iorio, President of One Idea Away and iPEC

Breathe.

Fifty near-perfect strangers stare back at me. Professionals with mixed backgrounds. Parents trying their best to raise decent human beings. Retirees who look back and aren’t sure they’re ready to rest just yet, juxtaposed with millennials looking onward toward the future, the spark of hope and hunger gleams in their eyes.

In their eyes, I see a reflection of myself. Last week I hosted OIA’s first Uncover Retreat in Asilomar, California (if you missed out, no worries—we’ll be hosting a second retreat in March). While I’ve led retreats before, I’m always amazed to witness the Uncovery Process in person.

My greatest personal takeaway from the retreat was watching myself and others learn to cultivate the space for ourselves so that we can more deeply connect. The vulnerability and raw honesty it takes to create such a space . . . well, that’s where the real magic happens.

Here’s how it went down:

1) We became open.

We started the retreat by breaking down our barriers. We found ourselves opening our hearts to one another (and, more importantly, to ourselves) through a series of uncovery exercises. Each helped us to reconnect to a deeper sense of who we truly are.

Being open is easy to say, right? Not so easy to do when we encounter experiences and emotions that challenge us and push us into discomfort.

But we don’t have to run away from the uncomfortable part of being more open.

Being open doesn’t mean you agree with or condone the person, situation, or idea you’ve encountered.

Being open asks us to understand what we are experiencing before we place our preconceived notions, preferences, and judgments upon it.

When we slow our judgments down long enough to mentally step beyond them, we begin to see our experiences in life more clearly. We might even experience the same situation in a completely new way—seeing people, situations, and ideas for what they truly are rather than what we assume them to be.

2) We embraced presence.

Throughout the retreat experience, we carried a mantra and set of meditation practices to push us every so often to the present moment. Now, more than ever, it is easy to distract ourselves from what we are truly experiencing in a moment (even at a retreat). Embracing presence doesn’t have to be a difficult practice—it’s one we can carry over to our daily routines.  

If we can remain present and experience fully our emotions, thoughts, judgments, and yearnings, we can better begin to understand ourselves and others.

Being fully present with our experiences holds the potential to open us to a completely new range of possibilities and wisdom for our lives.

3) We allowed ourselves to be witnessed.

Probably the hardest part.  

In past retreats, I’ve loved looking inward. When you’re the host, it’s easy to fall into a script and refrain from sharing what’s really going on for us. Not this time. There is so much power in witnessing others and being witnessed as your true self.

And wow, what a difference it made for all of us last week.

Give yourself unconditional permission to be seen.

We’re human after all. We yearn to feel valued and know we matter in some way. Yet, so many of us hide who we truly are from ourselves and others.

Think of the last time you allowed yourself to be truly witnessed.

How did it feel in the moment? What did it spark?

When we have the courage to stand up and simply allow ourselves to simply be and be seen for who we are (and not the masks we wear to project an image and protect ourselves) we come a new perspective and understanding of who we truly are and the power of unleashed potential.

Because there is nothing more freeing than uncovering and reconnecting to who you are at the core and unapologetically allowing yourself to be.

And that, my friends, is where we find the lasting energy of reconnection.