Letting go of comparison
A few weeks ago I attended a forest therapy training event that was hosted at a beautiful new retreat space in Thunder Bay.
The concept is very similar to what I’ve created at my Nurtured by Nature Retreat and Playhouse in Pinawa. The owners in Thunder Bay bought it to be both their primary residence and to host small retreats for 8-10 women. They have four bedrooms and two bathrooms to be shared. It’s on a beautiful forested property with access to hiking trails and an outdoor firepit. The owner’s private living quarters are in the basement of the house, so there is separation between them and their guests, so those on retreat can feel like they have their own space.
My wife and I bought our place in Pinawa four and a half years ago with the idea of it becoming our permanent residence eventually (we’re about 4 years away from that). We have four bedrooms, two beds in each, two shared bathrooms to accommodate up to eight women (more if anyone is up for camping in the yard in the summer).
Both our retreat and the one in Thunder Bay received a range of renovations. As hosts, we both do our own meal preparation and service rather than catering.
As many similarities as there are, there are also a number of differences. The space in Thunder Bay was completely remodeled and updated. Open concept. Giant granite countertop. Modern fireplace upgrade. Beautiful custom framed artwork. Brand new, contemporary furniture.
In our space, when we improved the kitchen, we wanted a pretty simple DIY project. We kept all the original 1960’s wood cabinets and simply added some trim and paint. We knocked down a wall and that was just fun. The peninsula is a big slab of wood and a couple of metal legs from Ikea. The countertop is an affordable laminate. We did nothing with the original brick fireplace surround. The furniture is what I would call traditional and was left by the previous owners. It does the job. What was most important to me was to minimize the amount of material going to the landfill.
The similarity with food at both retreats is that it aims to be healthy and whole food based. The service of the food is where things differ. I would call the food at the other retreat Instagram worthy and the portion sizes were huge. No fear of anyone complaining they were left hungry after a meal.
I guess I would say I’m aspiring towards minimalism. Nothing fancy or flashy. I rarely aim to impress anyone with how food looks but flavour and nutrition really matters. And I consciously choose to serve small portions. I serve enough to be satisfied and invite a sense what “enough” really feels like.
What’s the point of this story?
When I was in the other retreat space, I found myself entering the mindset of comparison and self judgement. By comparison, the other retreat space was so much better. It was right in line with the look and feel of most high end, modern retreat centres that I’ve seen, either in person or online. All the current decorating trends were represented. There was an overall sense of abundance and prosperity. It was very impressive.
Instead of it making me feel cared for, I actual felt some discomfort in that space. It wasn’t the space itself, but the comparison that made me uncomfortable. The comparison led me to thoughts and feelings that my retreat space isn’t good enough and lots of “shoulds”. I began to wonder why any woman would want to come to my place when it’s far from perfect, not modern, not Instagram ready.
“It should be open concept.”
“There should be granite”.
“We should have another shower.”
“I should update the bathrooms.”
“We should get new furniture that isn’t scratched.”
“We should have expensive art work.”
“I should feed people more food.”
These days, that rabbit hole of thinking doesn’t usually take hold of me for too long anymore. I know I just need to slow down and be with those thoughts and feelings and not believe them as true. I’ve learn that this type of self-judgement is usually an invitation to check in with my authenticity.
When I have a list of should statements, it’s most likely guiding me away from my authentic self, rather than into better alignment. My discomfort no longer come from not being like others and fitting in. My discomfort comes from my thinking I should be like others in order to feel loved and accepted. When I feel the pull to conform to the dominant culture, my heart let’s me know it’s not the way for me. I remember and I am loved and accepted just as I am, naturally.
And so, the Nurtured by Retreat Retreat and Playhouse has become an expression of my authentic self. It’s not fancy but it’s beautiful in it’s simplicity. It’s perfect in it’s imperfection. I try my best to align what I offer there with my value of honouring the earth’s finite resources.
I’m also recognizing that, with the more retreats I host and the more women who experience Nurtured by Nature, the more I witness how truly nurturing the environment is for others. The comments from women who have attended retreats describe it as peaceful, welcoming, comfortable and easeful.
The retreats invite women to show up and let go of comparisons to others. Without pretense, they can show up as their truest, most authentic selves.
I’m very proud to be creating a space where we invite people to focus on the inner beauty and growth rather than being distracted by the outer world of comparison and judgment.
I say to anyone who considers coming to a retreat at the Nurtured by Nature Retreat and Playhouse, please don’t expect to experience the standards set by Instagram, magazines, HGTV or the Food Network.
Instead, you’re invited to bring your true nature and connect with the nature that surround you. Let go of all the shoulding of yourself and others. Experience the peace and ease that comes from acceptance of things as being good enough.