It’s been about 8 weeks since I came out of my two-day silent retreat where my goals were to unearth a whole bunch of pain and sadness holding me back in order to let it go and to nourish the neglected places deep inside. I also wanted to immerse myself in and shape what I wanted my mediation practice to become in the longer term. These goals were reached and are still very much in process as I continue to learn how to translate this beautiful micro silent experience into my hectic macro loud life.
Huge shifts were made during the two days that are still deeply affecting. I experienced large, mountainous discoveries and genuine moments of truth about what I have been doing, who I love, what I want, and how I want to move forward, and slowly, very slowly my truest self emerged. And even though a large part of the two days were dealing with darkness and lots of pain, I discovered that my truest self is more gentle, clear, and fearless than I ever thought possible – through the worst of times and even in the best, I had forgotten this truth about myself.
After the first day of silence, my senses started to adjust. It takes awhile for you to believe that all of the external sensory “noise” isn’t coming – no ipad to search for something on, no movie to throw on and numb your mind for awhile, no text to write, no book to get lost in, but once it registers, the body happily drops into a much slower pace. It sort of feels like that moment of takeoff in an airplane – suspended. The second day becomes about you and the immediate moment. For some, I’ve heard this sounds like hell. To me, it sounds and was, like heaven. There is something very real about unplugging everything, letting things get dark and going though it.
I uncovered many things that I am not proud of that were buried deep inside and hiding in some seriously dark and nasty corners, festering, judging, poisoning, just gross – things that needed immediate attention and immediate release – easier said than done – change is a beautiful thing. Real change hurts like a million knives slicing your heart open in super slow motion AND being awake while vultures tear at your gaping, bloody carcass. Yes – that explains it exactly. Two very real, very mortifying truths came flooding to the surface – one involving one of my sons, and one involving someone that I hold very dear. I started pulling out the roots…
It’s all just under the surface and ready to bubble forward the moment it gets quiet. The good. The bad. The beautiful. The repulsive. Everything. We are all capable of great love and we are also all capable of great pain – both in feeling and cause. No one escapes this truth no matter how you choose to numb it away.
The adjustment to the world I emerged into after my retreat has been difficult at times and beautiful at others. When you make great shifts it doesn’t mean anyone else has or understands or cares, and nor should they really – not everyone wants to go deeper, wake up, feel more – it’s not for everyone. Nor is my timetable relevant to anyone else’s or anyone else’s responsibility. Life goes on. The thing about asking to be cracked open is that the universe responds in kind – every time. And once you ask, changes come regardless of what is going on in your life. You can’t take it back and once it gets going, it goes – like it or not. I can honestly say my patience and resolve have been tested in every arena of my life since this experience. I realized that these very pressures and stresses are why I forgot those essential qualities about myself in the first place. It’s not the pressure’s fault or even the person causing the pressure, it’s mine. I forgot. Pushed here, pushed there. Be here. Be there. Give too much. Give too little. Needs. Deadlines. Facebook. Disappointments. Snaps. Cruel words. Cruel actions. And so I try to find the gentleness and the fearlessness to be honest about who I am and what I feel and what I need in the constant chaos. I’m learning. It’s challenging, but I am learning.
But then there are the moments, the moments I probably would have passed over before to move on to the next thing, when one of my sons reaches for my hand because he needs me, or slowing down enough to fully look him in the eye and talk with him and truly hear him – be gentle, be still – and they are unbelievably rich and deeply sweet, and make up for just about anything else. I’ll take it.
The best part of the whole experience was that somewhere in making the decision to do this for myself and actually doing it, I discovered that I not only possess a courageous heart but I also actually like myself – hell, I think I’m in love with myself – flaws, beauty, mistakes, triumphs – and that I am pretty amazing. Yes, I said it. I am amazing. I don’t say this lightly because there has been some serious darkness that needed clearing, and still much, much more to go, but the truth is that if you don’t take the time to become your own friend in your ugliest moment, your life is going to be filled with darkness anyway – a bought and paid for illusion filled with everyone’s wants and wishes and fooling yourself into thinking they are your own. Only when you become your own best friend, in both the good times and the bad times, will you take a stand. And only then can you deeply trust yourself.
There are many things I would do differently the next time I do this kind of retreat for myself – which I have planned for in June. My schedule will be more flexible and I’ll rest more this time and probably try fasting although I’m still not so sure about that. My wish is to continue to learn how to experience life, not just manage it. I want to stop just surviving. I’ve found my compass and I’ve taken the first step.