Walking Into the Wind

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Sometimes, for whatever reason, it is all we can to do put one foot ahead the other and take a faltering step forward. And yet, one foot, one step after the other, is all is takes to get us where we need to go—even when the icy winds of our fears conspire to blow us back. I recently facilitated a retreat called “What’s Next?” with my friend and colleague, Chris Wucherer. We were gratified that thirteen wonderful women signed up with the intention of tapping into their deepest wisdom, revitalizing their precious dreams and mapping out specific action steps towards a vision of their desired lives.

We held the retreat at Chris’ beautiful home in Manistee, Michigan, on a bluff overlooking mighty Lake Michigan. Thinking of it as way to help participants approach the New Year with focus and support, Chris and I scheduled the retreat for the first weekend in February. While we understood that winter would be in full swing, Michigan had been experiencing unusually mild weather and we were confident that our weekend weather would be manageable.

Nothing could have prepared us for the fact that our retreat weekend heralded the onset of a massive and unusual snap cold snap, with temperatures plummeting down into the single digits with minus 0 degrees wind chill factors.

On the second day of the retreat, winds whipping with icy gusto off the nearby lake moaned forebodingly through the skeletons of the trees that surrounded us. Chris and I huddled to discuss the upcoming lunch break in which we’d planned for retreat participants to walk outside and, in silence, contemplate a question we would provide them. Because the weather seemed so daunting, Chris and I decided to present our original plan to the women, with the caveat that they could choose for themselves whether to spend to spend solitary time in the warm recesses of the house, or bundle up, brave the wind and walk outside for as long as they saw fit. Much to my considerable surprise, and without a whole lot of hesitation, every single woman swaddled herself in long-johns, leggins, scarves, hats and parkas, and stepped out into the whipping wind. I watched them from the window as step-by-step, they fanned out into the elements, crunching– one step after the other– through the drifting snow.

When they finally returned, one by one, rosy cheeked and in high spirits, I couldn’t wait to ask what their experiences had been. Through smiles, their bodies animated, the women told stories of exhilarated romps and a sense of great accomplishment in having walked out into the wind and returned to speak about it. One person reported joining a colleague in a walk that took them, step by plodding step, to a protected area that was suddenly and surprisingly silent—a place of surprising peace in the driving wind. Not one woman had allowed the icy winter wind to stop her.

As I listened to the women share their stories, I couldn’t help think “How brave, how spunky they are!” They could have let driving, gelid wind keep them from tackling the outdoor task we’d assigned them, and risked having an experience perhaps less deep and transformative. But they didn’t. They chose to take one step at a time, and walked headlong into the wind, testing the strength and determination of their desire to literally—and figuratively—move ahead, step by willful step. Yes, how brave and spunky our retreat participants were! And how brave and spunky we ALL are, when we choose to take one step, and then another step, and walk with purpose and determination into the driving wind of our fears.