Just Enough Transformation
I'm trying new things
It feels like I haven’t spoken with you in a couple of weeks. Last week, I cross-posted a short story I wrote, which email subscribers received, but it doesn’t show up on my main Substack page.
Anyway, the last time I published a piece that lives here on my Substack page, I was at a writer’s retreat in Puerto Escondido, Mexico. The trip felt like the culmination of a few different things for me, which I wrote about for today’s piece.
Before we get to that, I need to let you know that we’re getting dangerously close to a big milestone number of free subscribers here. I’d love it if you subscribe if you haven’t already or share my publication with a friend.
Okay, onto today’s piece.
It felt like if I didn’t get out I was going to die. My body was in such a state of shock that it took every bit of willpower for me to hold my shit together. My feet and calves were cramping. My instinct was to inhale—to grasp onto every bit of oxygen my lungs could handle. But then, with two minutes left, I remembered the advice I was given beforehand: “Make sure you exhale.”
Four seconds in.
Four seconds out.
“One minute left, Lyle,” Andrew said.
Then, suddenly, I felt peaceful. And warm, somehow. My breath slowed to a normal pace. And I finally understood why people do it.
A three-minute cold plunge in 40º water was one of many things I did for the first time at the Foster writer’s retreat in Mexico a few weeks ago.
I surfed for the first time ever, despite living about five minutes from a great surf spot in Santa Barbara over a decade ago. My friends offered to teach me back then, but then they said to meet them at like 6 am and I thought, yeahhhh, that’s not happening.
With a helpful push from my instructor, I got up on my first try in Mexico. All my years of wakeboarding experience helped, I suppose. I thought I had it down with no sweat and then I promptly bailed and got eaten up by the wave on the next try. Overall, I was about 50/50 on getting up successfully and I felt great about it.
After dinner at an amazing tapas place, late on the second night, some of us hopped into a boat with a guide to venture down a lagoon. Seeing and feeling the glassy, bathtub-temp water with the low-hanging moon reflecting off of it was almost enough. But there was more in store for us.
As we weaved deeper into the lagoon, it became darker—aside from the foliage on the shore that was occasionally illuminated by our flashlight-wielding guide to ensure we were moving in the right direction. Eventually, we slowed down and he killed the motor. I looked around, thinking I was supposed to be seeing something. But everything looked dark.
Then, from the other side of the boat, I heard Amanda giddily yell, “Oh my gosh, this is amazing!”
I looked over onto her side and saw what looked like a glowing green splash. I turned back to my side and waved my hand through the water and my entire hand looked like a glowstick. As I raised it up out of the water, the bioluminescent plankton looked like dozens of twinkling stars that slowly disappeared into my palm.
Other firsts from the trip:
A traditional cacao ceremony conducted by the amazing Azalea
An ecstatic dance party kicked off by the wonderful Nadia
A sunset sound bath (that would’ve been really lovely and relaxing—I think—if I didn’t have restless legs from surfing and also felt like ants were crawling all over me)
A Zen meditation led by the awesome
Seeing a humpback whale completely breach out of the ocean, literally two seconds after Dan said, “Wouldn’t it be crazy if one of the whales jumped right in between all these boats right now?”
Instantaneously crying when I saw a portrait that the incredibletook of me (one of the shots he took is my new Substack profile pic and I love it)
You might be reading this thinking, “Wait, didn’t he say he was at a writer’s retreat? When did he actually write?”
The truth is, beyond some short journaling, we didn’t write all that much. Because that wasn’t really the point of the retreat. It was an optional part of Foster’s latest season called The Art of Modern Writing. Everyone there was a writer who had gone through the season together. Over the course of several weeks, through various Zoom sessions, we dug deep into what felt true for us at this moment in our lives (and not necessarily only our writing lives). At the retreat, Andrew (yes, the same one that coached me through the cold plunge) led us through three facilitation sessions where we went even deeper. The first one was about reflection, the next was about integration, and the final was about choice.
But, for me, the journey to my truth had already started before the retreat.
If you’ve been here for a bit, you may recall that I went on a different Foster writer’s retreat back in early November of last year. I didn’t write too much about the experience, but it did heavily influence my first proper fictional short story, which is one of my favorite things I’ve ever written:
Andrew (yes, again, the same Andrew) is a somatic coach and he led us through a similar series of facilitations at that retreat in upstate New York. If you’re like I was pre-retreat, you might be wondering what the hell somatic means. Soma means body, so somatic means relating to the body. His whole thing is about getting you to feel and listen to what your body is telling you. And if you’re anything like I tend to be, you spend a lot more time in your head than in your body.
Over the course of the facilitations, the idea is to whittle down your truth into a simple statement. Something like “I am a [blank]” or “I choose to [blank]”.
For the November sessions, mine was “I choose to feel.” I had spent so much of my life essentially ignoring my emotions and my body—not taking good care of it, not listening to what it was trying to tell me, etc. It was time to pay attention.
In the intervening months, I tried to tap into the wisdom of my emotions and body more often. When I wrote for this publication, I felt alive. When I thought about the power of vulnerability in writing, I felt excited to share my ideas. When I thought about helping others feel what I’ve felt through sharing my writing, I knew I was on the right track.
That’s why, for this retreat, my truth was “I am a creative coach.”
I know I just recently declared myself an artist, but bear with me here.
Ever since I started this publication, I’ve mostly written memoir-style pieces, rarely delving into other people’s stories. I’ve also learned a lot from showing up here week after week for nearly two and a half years now. Occasionally, I’ve shared some of those learnings, like I did in this piece. But now I’m ready to be more in service of others.
The first time I said “I am a creative coach” out loud,noticed my body language change. I curled up a bit, making myself smaller. At first, I thought maybe that was a sign that I hadn't arrived at the right truth. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I wanted my truth to be a bit scary. Something that felt like pushing myself into new territory. And, ultimately, something that felt like I had to explore.
During the retreat, I offered what I called Vulnerable Vibing sessions, which was not only a great use of alliteration, but also one-on-one time with me to talk about vulnerability in your writing. They were like mini, informal coaching sessions where I could try on this new identity. And they went really well.
Prior to leaving for the trip, I already had a feeling I was going to want to explore the coaching path.had put himself out there and sent me an email asking if we could collaborate in some way, so I put myself out there in return and asked if he'd like to be my first coaching client.
And I couldn’t have asked for a better first client. Andrei is a sharp writer of memoir pieces and short stories who has had many of them published in various places. Together, we worked on refining the piece below for his newsletter,. It’s about a difficult subject matter, but he handled it gracefully—with wit and levity—and delivered a fantastic piece I highly recommend checking out.
And now, I’m going to put myself out there to you.
If you’re a writer or creative of any sort (or you want to be) and you’ve found yourself wanting to level up your craft, go deeper, get more vulnerable, get unstuck, push yourself creatively, or be more prolific, I can help.
I’m calling it Just Enough Coaching.
And today, I’m offering five coaching calls, first come, first served. I’m offering them for free up front and “pay what you want” on the back end. It’s what I like to call theapproach (because I basically stole the idea from him).
If you’re interested in chatting, all you have to do is click the big blue button below, fill out the form, and I’ll be in touch soon:
While I can’t promise something as life-changing as a whole suite of new experiences on the coast of Mexico, I look forward to meeting (and helping) some of you!
If you enjoyed this piece, could you please let me know by giving the heart button below a tap?
Your words motivate and soothe my writerly soul.
Good for you for putting yourself out there and trying this new path! It's interesting—I find myself in a liminal space right now, too, exploring what it means to be a writer in the age of internet writing. I often feel pulled toward the coaching side but also recognize a deep desire to double down on writing itself. Looking forward to seeing how you find your balance. :)