Just as rain gives needed water to the earth, so too does solitude give needed nourishment to the soul.
(If you missed last week’s Part Six: Simply Listen click here before reading on).
When I left off, it was the end of July 2021, and I had just dropped mom off at the airport.
She was heading to Rhode Island to take care of her sister with cancer for an unknown amount of time.
But before I go into August, and the week of silence to follow, there is something I would love to share with you while mom and I were still together.
It was the end of May, the weather was forecasted to be sunny and warm for the next week (that doesn’t typically happen in spring in Montana).
I had been dreaming of taking mom on a trip over Beartooth Pass (considered by some the most beautiful drive in America) in the camper van.
The weather said YES, and I was clear I didn’t want to wait until the crowds and bugs had descended on the campgrounds (especially after the camping circus the year before).
So off we went, May 31, on our first camping adventure since arriving in Montana in September 2020.
Would I or I could I enjoy camping again? I was crossing my fingers.
The trip I’ll tell through photos, as that says most of it…
Driving by Elephant Head mountain:
Natural Bridge Falls – the river flows over the top too in big snow years:
The campgrounds to ourselves (I remembered why I love to camp!):
A bluebird day on Beartooth Pass, sunshine and skiing on our way over:
The stunning Sunlight Basin on the east side of Yellowstone National Park:
Red bison calves as we went through Yellowstone:
And our last night out camped in Paradise Valley, a chorus of birds singing, joyful beauty:
While it would take a bit to recover from this fast paced trip moving every day but one, it completely renewed my joy of camping and why I do it. And mom LOVED it.
Little did we know it would be an increasingly hot, dry, smokey summer (around the world), seeking reprieve in the shade and water lined trails of the mountains, while heading into the delta wave of covid.
After mom left for Rhode Island, I settled into my home, adjusting to the absence of her presence, navigating what this time was to be.
Joined by Maggie the cat, I tended the garden and planted perennial flowers in front of the retaining wall I had built almost a year before.
While I noticed a subtle guilt that came and went for living such a simple life, not working, not contributing as I thought I should or wanted to contribute to the world, and a longing to do so, I began to feel the calling for a week of dedicated silence.
A meditation retreat. Wasn’t I meditating enough already?
I soon realized it wasn’t so much about the hours of meditating as it was about the dedication of my soul to God.
I hadn’t done a silent retreat in over two years and I was very much due.
I thought, “I need to find a quiet place for this.”
I had always ‘gone away’ for retreat, so why would this be different?
I found three great options – all quiet settings that were available at that time.
But intuition said no to all three.
It took me several days to realize my home was the place to be in silence.
“But how?” I thought. “I live in town, there’s cars driving by, neighbors walking by, lots of distractions…”
But intuition made it clear though, home was where I was to do it.
Since I wasn’t ‘going anywhere’ I decided to have an entering ceremony.
I turned off my cell phone for the week, lit a candle and said a prayer of intention – my intention was to be open (so much easier said than done!).
What I didn’t realize was that little i (the ego) had an intention too (actually it was more of an agenda) – to discover what my purpose was (ie: to start working).
Mom said before she left, and my little i agreed, it was time to start supporting myself in some way.
Gulp. “But in what way?” I quietly asked.
I would be learning soon enough that it wasn’t time to ask that question.
When I had gone on retreats in the past, the first three days were spent in a frenzy of thoughts from living daily life.
It would take awhile for the mind to calm down from the stresses, responsibilities, and doing of life.
But this time, there was none of that. I was surprised at how calm my mind had become, I just hadn’t noticed the gradual change over the last year until now.
It was a striking difference from past retreats.
Funny thing though, those first three days I felt a subtle angst too, which would reveal why on day four.
Until then, I allowed myself to follow the impulse moving from how inner guidance was directing me.
No time table, just moment to moment being…meditation, yoga, eat, pet Maggie, walk along the creek, take a naked plunge in the water, meditation, eat, pet Maggie, meditation, sleep, repeat the next day.
But that angst was following me each day, through each moment.
I was sitting in meditation the morning of the fourth day and I could feel the push – the push to have a purpose, to support myself, to relieve mom of her financial duty and me of my financial dependence. Fifteen months was long enough.
I even said, “Okay God, I’m here, I’m ready, I’m open, bring it on!”
You know that quote that says, “If you want to make God laugh, tell her/him/it your plans?” – this was one of those moments.
Little i had an agenda and God was sitting quietly until I heard/felt the words, “Keep doing what you’re doing.”
The angst suddenly dissolved and what came over was a deep and soulful peace.
I knew in that moment that that was what I was suppose to do – absolutely nothing different…continue as I had been – cocooning, reflecting, nourishing the interior castle of my soul.
It’s clearly not what little i wanted to hear, but I knew it was right, my whole body said it was right. I wasn’t sure what mom would say about this, but that would come later.
The remaining four days of the retreat were filled with soul filled journaling, drawing, joyful presence and gratitude.
I hadn’t seen the last year of non-doing as an incredible gift, until now.
I could clearly feel the changes in myself and had two realizations during this week of what this extended time was about: to become closer to God, and to root myself in my own experience of God (not anyone else’s).
There would be a third defining outcome of this time that would be revealed in a few months, but for now this was plenty.
The pandemic cocoon was very rich with connecting time with mom and friends, time with Spirit, time grounding in one place (not traveling like I had been for the last five years), time re-energizing after two years of technology sensitivity and healing, and time aligning myself more and more to God’s will (with little i’s protests mixed in).
What I also realized during the retreat is that I was living a monastic life that helped create all of this.
A vision in meditation and journal writing came on day six:
The body is my Temple
The house is my Sanctuary
Nature is my Monastery
I feel the union with God in my body
I nurture the feeling/knowing in my sanctuary
I live this knowing in my monastery
No wonder I needed to do the retreat in my house!
I often think of something my Buddhist teacher Matthew used to say – “The longer we travel the (spiritual) path, the more narrow it becomes.”
At the end of this silent retreat I looked back and could see more clearly what he meant.
When we start on the spiritual path, it is very wide, allowing much room for little i to have her or his way (in it’s gross and subtle forms).
For me it was social drinking, casual sex, sugar addiction, staying in the wrong relationship, busyness, lots and lots of mindless doing, social media, gossip, tasteless entertainment, accumulating stuff, clutter, proving, striving, self-righteousness, blaming, dishonesty in it’s various forms, achievement/titles/success, fitting in, self-pity, resentment and so much more.
But as I traveled the path, my seeking soul quietly wanting to be free, these distractions/temptations/addictions became less and less seductive over the years (some are still a work in progress)…thus the path became more and more narrow for little i to wonder.
What I now felt, and was having a direct experience of, is that by giving up what I believed was important (to little i), I discovered this now narrow path had an eternally divine depth paved with gold and jewels:
The richness I felt in relationship with others, the fulfillment I felt being committed and connected to God, the peace and ease I felt when I was in alignment with God’s will/intuition (after little i let go), the deep joy I felt when I witnessed the budding of a flower or the smile of child, and the divine love I felt when I centered my attention on God.
So, so in love.
With this richness also came a deeper experience of feeling the worlds pain and suffering – for the poor, the homeless, the hungry, the marginalized, the victims of violence, the mother earth, the ignorant…
Compassion was building for all of humanity one step at a time, even the ones I judged (that’s still a work in progress too).
I could no longer turn away from the suffering as I had done on my trips to India, walking the streets of the most destitute, indescribable poverty I had witnessed, or the more visibly discreet downtrodden of Bozeman.
It was an invitation to embrace the whole world, as it was, in all it’s turmoil and pain, beauty and grace, and most of all… in love.
This richness of the path was not only becoming more fully divine, it was becoming more fully human as well.
Join in love and grace for all beings
Young and old
Small and big
Conscious and unconscious
They are all of God’s creation
I finished the week of silence by having an ‘ending ceremony’ – lighting a candle, saying a prayer, and petting Maggie.
I would soon learn when I turned on the phone that mom was having a much different experience with her sister than I was having with God…
More to come dear friend, from my heart to yours.
To read Part Eight: The Turning Point click here.
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Categories: Gratitude, Inner Wisdom & Intuition, Meditation & Mindfulness