My Silent Retreat

What would it be like? An entire day of silence…it had sounded so good when I signed up and now, as the day dawned, I wasn’t so sure. Could I do it? Would it be hard? What would I “do” all that time?

As I headed west on Route 7 towards the Shenandoah Valley where the retreat was to be held, I noticed the intense beauty of the fall colors, really the first I had paid much attention to this year. It was a cold, crisp morning and the sun was just coming up. It felt invigorating. I love the fall season and my sense of disappointment that we hadn’t had a full robust season of color this year because of the prolonged warmth was relieved by the colors I saw along the drive.

I thought about the changing of the season, and how the trees, and all the natural world, really, are in this place of “allow” as the season changes. They can’t really resist the change; the cold does come and they do drop their leaves. There they will stand, cold and bare, for the next several months, until the warmth of the sun next spring brings them back to (visible) life. And in this process, lies some of the mystery; the trees are still very much alive during the hard cold of the winter, they just appear to be lifeless. But inside, they are resting and rebuilding for the growth that is yet to come. An interesting metaphor for us, perhaps?

I arrived at the retreat site and settled in for the day. The theme of the day was Impermanence, arguably a difficult concept for many of us. We were led in a series of meditations, both guided and silent, a talk on impermance and a series of walking meditations. We ate our lunches in silence.

In the walking meditations, we had the time and the space to notice; to see, listen, smell and feel; in the silent meditations, we were encouraged to notice as well. To feel the breath, the body, to be in our hearts and out of our heads.

It is hard to let go and find this space of quiet, but as the day progressed I could feel myself sinking more fully into the peace. I didn’t want it to end, I didn’t want to check my email or my news feed. I wanted to be there, in that expanded space that the meditation had created for me, where I could rest in that peace, in body, mind and spirit. Perhaps this is a way that we can rest and recharge for the future as the natural world does.

The day went by too quickly, and as I left at the end of the day I was glad that I had done it. I was grateful for the experience, and what the slowing down had provided me. I know that the fruits of the experience will continue past yesterday, and I know that I will be back to do it again.

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