Monday, December 7, 2015

Portland Society Boot Camp

The mission statement listed on the Portland Society website reads "The Portland Society is a group of professional women who are passionate about bicycling in Portland, Oregon. We work together to support each other through referral, education, and community. We grow our businesses and careers while making Portland a better place to live and ride.".

If I had to elevator speech that (yes, I'm using elevator speech as a verb now!), I'd say "We are Portland women who are driven by our passion for cycling and for pushing each other up." 

We meet every month for an hour of coffee, round robin intros and a presentation on one of a wide array of topics including life balance, finances, legal stuff, public speaking, marketing, how to recycle correctly, or where to tour or even how to affect change in your workplace or your neighborhood or the world.  And once a year, we have a boot camp.  This year we took a whole weekend.  It seems weird to refer to it as a weekend, since it was so much more than a coupla days on the calendar.  It started Friday evening at the rather divine meeting hall near the cabin compound on top of the hill at Stubb Stewart.  I've only had amazing times on that hill, including one of the best New Year's celebrations ever. 
Happy hour kicked us off, followed by dinner and a scrapbooking session led by yours truly.  That's right, I'm a scrapbooker.  It's a dorky sport and I was nervous to share it with this group of thirteen sophisticated and cultured women, some of whom were self-described non-crafters.  I was shocked at how the room quieted as everyone went to "work" making their perfect scrapbook.  I stood stunned in the middle of the room and soaked up the open minded, creative energy.  It felt good.

The next morning, we awoke to yoga at the meeting hall.  Next to the wood burning fireplace.  Everyone participated in the peaceful practice.  It is a bonding experience to share morning yoga with so many friends.  The space made inside myself and my muscles during yoga practice was filled with friendship feelings, which are some of the best.
Breakfast was next.  We enjoyed a small banquet of three types of quiche, coffee and settled in for storytelling.  Our speaker shared her experiences with fear during solo adventures.  It was inspirational, and set the tone for the rest of the weekend, as we'd be talking about fear a lot.

A quick change of clothes and it was time for our branding presentation.  The presenter had travelled all the way from Colorado to teach us how to hone our personal and professional stories.  She asked us what our ultimate project would be.  It really got me thinking. 
I felt like the next presenter was speaking directly to me.  She taught us a heightened awareness of useless fears, learned helplessness and the best and easiest guide to self-care I've ever heard.  I was tearful and it wasn't even lunchtime yet.
It's hard to remember what happened next.  That's not true, I have my scrapbook to refer to.  The next lady who talked with us doesn't ride a bike.  I didn't know it then and it's only meaningful because she was able to see that even though the bicycle brought this group together, we're not a sports club and bikes didn't even come up that much.  She talked with us about creating space for creativity.  She asked us to split into twos and share with our partner every bad thought about ourselves that runs on our daily monolog ticker.  And then the positive things we believe about ourselves.  This made a few remarkable things happen.  First, and most important, no one hesitated.  Everyone jumped up and picked a partner to share their innermost dreads with.  Amazing.  Second, many noticed a marked repeat between the positive and negative sides.  Third, letting these things out into the open air was really liberating.
After lunch, we enjoyed a mediation walk.  I've never done this before.  We started out by standing in a circle outdoors performing leg and arm movement that synchronized with our breath, and with each other.  We spent the following forty-five minutes walking through the woods, silent except for the seven times our leader stopped, chimed a bell and walked us through a chakra.  We meditated on the chakra with our eyes covered, then spent the next section of the walk honing in on the sense associated with the chakra.  Woo woo stuff for sure, but it felt woop woop, not weird weird.
We ran back to our cabins to collect ourselves and get ready for dinner.  The moon was one of those crazy big moons with a beautiful blue haze surrounding it in a perfect circle.  We had another storyteller during dinner.  She'd been on a round-the-country several-month-long tour and we all expected her to tell us about that.  She talked about it a little bit, but then launched into appreciation for small adventures.  She coaxed us to find the small adventures in daily life, and not get distracted by plans for the big adventure.  They all count and they're all fun, but the small ones can be just as great as the big ones and are right here in our daily lives.

After dinner, we talked about our intentions for boot camp and if they were met, highlights and lowlights of the weekend.  My lowlight, or the closest thing I could think to a lowlight, was that I lost my coffee cup for a few minutes after breakfast.  Others expressed a similar lack of problems or low feelings.  I scrapbooked the dinner story and the review round robin, live-time. 

The next morning, half drove home and half of us rode the twenty five flat country miles to the MAX train.  It rained the entire time.  The Banks-Vernonia trail was a treat, even in the wet.  I got a flat tire and had to unload and repair it in the rain, which was also somehow fun.  We returned slowly to our regular world and daily lives, splitting off one by one, each brimming with fresh insights, new memories and fired up friendships. 

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