We’ve just completed our annual January silent retreat in Joshua Tree California. As with all silent multi-day residential retreats (although each one is unique), we sit, walk, eat and commune in silence for 6 days and nights and then at the end we break silence very thoughtfully. Our retreats at Mindful-Way end with a closing circle where each person who wishes to, has a chance to speak about their experience. It is here that we, as teacher/practitioners have a chance to see the transformative power of practicing in this intensive if gentle way. We also get to learn that we are in the presence of greatness and that everyone seems to be a poet!
One participant shared that she watched the reaction when someone broke a plate in the dining hall. “There was no blame or shame, just ‘Are you OK?’ and several folks who jumped up, grabbed a broom, while others made sure everything was picked up, and would we would all be safe. As I watched this I thought, ‘when things go wrong, as they do, I hope I will be the person who runs to get the broom rather the one finding blame.’”
Another woman observed the kind and careful way people negotiated the somewhat awkward doorway to the dining hall, if someone was carrying a full tray. She said, “If even 1% of the world looked out for each other this way the world would be a better place.” A young man in his last year of college shared with us how many family members’ ashes he had scattered in the last few years including his parents and grandparents. He said, “As I did walking meditation in the sand of this beautiful desert, I thought, ‘This will be me someday, we’ll all go back into the earth and then transform into something else. This retreat has helped me ask “how do I want to live NOW?’”
And so this really is the question isn’t it? When we quiet down and slow down, unplug and sit in community, we have a chance to let these deeper issues come to the fore. We have the opportunity to live the life that aligns closely with our deepest values.
So in this New Year , we wish you time for stillness, silence, self compassion and nourishment of the soul through meditation practice and other acts of care and kindness. Meditation practice is a kindness to ourselves and everyone whose lives we touch.