I’m really looking forward to our local meditation group’s weekend retreat, and I’m also a little apprehensive about it too. Life has been clipping along at a furious pace these past few weeks. There have been lots of heartache, some new challenges, as well as great opportunities. I could personally use the retreat to slow down and allow time and space to process what’s been going on and prepare for what’s coming, but I’m afraid that the retreat will either be a jarring abrupt stop or just something else to get through and on to the next thing. I’m reminded that a retreat as well as a regular meditation practice offers us three gifts that have the potential to restore balance and sanity to our lives.
The idea of “getting away” can seem like running away from your life. We’ve all had plenty of practice at avoiding pain and discomfort. What makes spending a weekend away or 15 minutes every morning meditating any different? When we practice meditation we are not escaping to our happy place where we are cut off from difficult people and emotions. Anyone who has tried meditation even once will tell you that they will find us there also.
The busyness of our life buys into our idea of who we think we are and the roles we play. The easiest place to avoid your life is actually right in the middle of all the hectic day to day drama we get caught up in. Our to do lists can sweep us away in a mindless current of activity that takes us further and further away from sanity.
By purposely carving out a few minutes a day or even a weekend once in a while to unplug from the madness gives us an opportunity to see clearly and reconnect with our lives on a very basic level. It may seem selfish to make time for yourself because we believe we are so very important and the world will fall apart without our efforts. It can be a disappointment to the ego to realize that life goes on with or without consent just fine. Are we really showing up for our loved ones if the self we offer them is frayed, exhausted, and empty? The truth is that taking the time to “get away” actually enables us to show up more fully for the people we care for and the rest of our lives as well.
There are so few places and moments in our day that are truly quiet. From the moment we wake up to the moment we lay down at night we fill the time with noise. Facebook, television, music, meetings, and idle conversation are all on standby to keep us comfortable at a moment’s notice, helping us to avoid silence at all cost. What is it about crickets and pins dropping that makes us so uncomfortable?
I think silence forces us to hear the thoughts that we’ve been trying to drown and feel the emotions that we try so desperately to delay. When immersed in silence we come face to face with ourselves and a sense of nowness that we aren’t entirely sure what to do with. It always easier to default to the past or grasp at the future than to stand on the razor’s edge of now.
The irony of course is that the silence we find so deafening is exactly what we need to truly listen. We will never resolve our neuroses by layering them under noise. Silence helps us to rediscover basic awareness, an undercurrent of sanity available to us in every moment. It’s only by entering the cavernous depths of silence that we can tune out the noise and tune in to the truth of who we are. That’s a truth that we can carry back with us into our daily lives to keep us grounded and whole.
When we get alone and get quiet, there’s no place to hide from yourself. Living a contemplative life of meditation or prayer is not all fairies and rainbows. It can be dark at times and difficult. There’s no getting around it. We can only go through it, but on the other side of a racing mind and raging heart there is space. Lots and lots of space. Plenty of room to walk around in, to explore, to work things out, to let things be. More space than you know what to do with. So much space that it makes you feel so very small, but so much space that it makes you feel so very free.
We discover in seclusion and silence untapped reserves of creativity, possibility, and potential. While it can be overwhelming, it can also be invigorating and inspiring. We learn that we’re not so trapped as it seemed. We don’t have to be a prisoner of our thoughts and every fleeting emotion. We don’t have to live on autopilot numb to the the world. We can risk getting up close with it all and not be overtaken by it. We can show up fully for our lives every day letting it all unfold around us, within us, and through us.
It doesn’t take a weekend away to find these gifts in your life. Even a few minutes a day to let yourself sit down, to rest, and to be can be a gift you give yourself and ultimately to others also.