Ten Thousand Days

Retreat

June 21, 2018

Photo: Austin Neill

Day 1388 – Day 1394

I’ve spent a very busy spring, digging up the weeds of outworn thoughts by the roots and laying the bones that I’ve been carrying on my back to final rest.  As I feel I am becoming free of a lot that has weighed me down, I am heading off on a personal retreat.

I looked up the word ‘Retreat,’ and in all cases, it is a withdrawal from action.  I am, to be honest, exhausted from all the work of clearing and planting my garden.  As much as it has brought me joy and peace, it has caused me physical pain and cut into all other activity in my life.  I have, for all intents and purposes, become planted and rooted on the spot and withdrawn from all other activity to get my garden going.  I have my fence and a bit of transplanting to finish but from now on I will mostly need to weed, water, tend and harvest.  I am told (as this is my first, ever, garden) that this is the easy part.  I am looking forward to returning to other activity and interactions with old friends.

I have been grateful for this time of communion with the earth and today, on the summer solstice, as I tend to my garden, I will be saying a prayer for the planet.  And then, I shall retreat for the weekend.

In the case of the military use of the word, retreat is a kind of withdrawal to safety, to regroup.  And, in the spiritual sense of the word, I suppose it is the same.  I’ll be offline for 3 days – a short period in the scheme of things – but I hope it will be as helpful as it was, last year.  I’ll be at a retreat centre in the woods outside of San Francisco and I’m looking forward to looking at art, to sitting in meditation and to hearing a lecture to a group from around the world.  And, I’m looking forward to walking the labyrinth that is a feature of the centre – at least one more time.  The food is not good and the rooms are – well – what one would expect of a nunnery.  It is not a luxurious setting but it is a joy to be there, with this particular teacher.

I am fortunate that I have encountered some true spiritual teachers in my lifetime and that I’ve had the opportunity to sit at the feet of many gurus around the world.  From Montreal to India to New York to London to San Francisco and all points in between, I have had the good fortune to meet teachers who have given me seeds and stones that I could carry with me on the next thousand steps of my journey.  I never know what I will find when I go on a retreat, and sometimes it is not apparent until months or years later, what I have been given.

Mine is not the life of the norm.  I believe many people have a spiritual path on which they travel, but I don’t know that a lot of people have dedicated their lives to the service of that path.  I’ve been fortunate to meet many who have and to have their spiritual friendship along the way.  The fact is that although the path leads to a deep sense of Oneness with all that is, the path is always a solitary one.

Spiritual friendship is a gift, and it comes in unexpected places.  There can be no spiritual friendship, however, without proper respect for one another.  I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently.  I have a couple of new friends whose company I enjoy.  I’ve got plenty of friends who are fun to be around and who have earned my fidelity despite not being what they would call spiritual.  But there comes a time in a friendship where the question needs to be considered – is this something for fun and fraternity – or is this something that can be lived at a deeper level and approach moments of agape?  Just because one is on a spiritual path will be compatible as friends, let alone deep friendship.  But those rare encounters are sublime.

I’m going into this weekend with wonder about several things.  I don’t hope to find all my answers, and if I’m given some, I will take them gladly.  The best I hope for is to be led to the most pertinent questions for myself at this time.

The teacher who is to lecture has been overextended for some time and there is a chance that the meeting will need to be cancelled at the last minute.  If it is, then I will continue with the day in silence and seek to find the meaning in what arises for me in that time.  I hope that wherever you are, you have a restful and refreshing weekend full of fun with friends, or that you take time to withdraw to a place of safety to regroup for what is ahead.

Photo: Artem Bali

For what are you most grateful today?

 

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