Remembering Ourselves: The Annual CLC Retreat

By Beth O'Hara- December 2010

When 17 people live together to consciously observe and work on themselves, interesting results are guaranteed to occur. The fourth annual Conscious Living Center consciousness retreat taught by Deborah Ooten was held November 11-15 in the Smokies in an incredible cabin.  While we always have a fun time on this retreat (and seem to do a lot of eating!), something much deeper always happens as well.


This retreat is open to people who want to become more conscious and self-aware.  Deborah Ooten is excellent at creating the community and container for observation and inner work.  She opened the retreat with the reminder that we are 100% responsible for everything we think, feel, and do.  We used the Enneagram to inform us of the many ways that we create separation and learn to live it over the course of the retreat.  I found myself immediately more on my toes in noticing and discerning what was arising from my ego in the context of working within the community.


Working on one’s self in a group of people who are dedicated to inner work and compassion creates a sacred conscious space.  This year, Deborah’s teaching emphasized “Remembering ourselves always and everywhere ” through alignment with Essence and connecting the head, heart, and instincts.  Over three days, we were continually reminded through teachings, movements, and experiences to connect the mind with the heart and the instincts.  I experienced a new and different quality of energy – I felt grounded, connected to a solid self, open-hearted, and much more aware.  Massage with Neil Anderson also helped us be grounded in our bodies.

Ron Esposito led us in a singing bowl meditation on the Holy Ideas that unified the connections of the centers through the vibrations of the bowls – everyone seemed to experience a profound alignment with their Essence that was beyond words and could only be followed with watching the sun set over the mountains.

 Through a lifetime practice of developing the inner observer, we learn to discern ego reactions and can choose objectively objectivity.  The retreat always includes daily seated and movement meditations to hone the inner observer.  The retreat is also always highly experiential in content to provide opportunities to put spiritual practices into life practice. One of the experiences is through cooking.  Each year, Deborah divides the participants into daily cooking teams that create all the meals for the day without recipes.  This creates plenty of opportunities to notice reactivity.  Some people dread the cooking and attempt to avoid it, others become overly responsible for the process, some merge, and some people try to please everyone… 

This may sound like a formula for disaster; however, what occurred is that people see themselves in new ways.  In a deeply supportive community of people committed to personal responsibility, with a gifted teacher, we saw how we create so much of our suffering and how most of our fears are unfounded.  I participated on the last day of the cooking teams, when the supplies were much lower and we had to get creative with ingredients.  I watched myself getting worried about whether we could put anything decent together, whether people would like it, how would we get the pot roast cooked in time for dinner, what the vegetarians would eat, who was doing what, and on and on… However, when our team stayed in the present and worked with what was available, everything worked out perfectly. It was amazing to see once more how worried I can get about nothing and learn again to just stay centered and let go.

With the foundation of connecting and aligning with our Higher Selves, Deni Tato led us in an excellent process over three days to identify and hone key core values into a concise life mission statement, a guiding beacon of our life’s purpose.  To keep us on our paths, each decision in life should serve this mission statement.  Through the process with Deni, I uncovered more of what I am about and refined my previous mission statement to be even more powerful.

We closed the retreat with a sacred dance that I developed to solidify our commitment to aligning our centers with Essence and to remember our oneness as we transitioned back to our daily lives.  Deborah blessed the group with white sage as we danced and she invited us to release anything that needed to be released into the fire.

Returning from the retreat, I feel more energized from the collective work of the group and I’m aware of how blessed I am to have these opportunities to awaken and to work and teach within a committed community.

(See more retreat images)

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