(The spooky house I stayed in)
When you come back from retreat you feel as though the whole world has changed, but really it is just you.
Retreats, for me, are always transformational experiences no matter how tough or how much I may struggle.
This one was hard, not because of the environment – far from it.
It was tough because of all I came to it with.
Things inside myself and my life that needed a good dose of light and silence.
My long-term readers will know I go on retreat about once a year.
Usually a meditation retreat in the Buddhist tradition with periods of partial or complete silence.
I always write about it afterwards, but this time I thought I’d do something a little different.
I wrote a little something on each day of the retreat, and I’m going to publish it here along with pictures from the beautiful estate I stayed on.
* Warning* I’m about to get incredibly vulnerable and open!
Night before retreat
I get extremely excited the night before I go on holiday anywhere. I find it hard to sleep and settle after packing.
It’s like a nervous kind of expectation.
The night before retreat is a particular brand of this energy.
I feel apprehensive mildly about what kind of people I will meet, what my room will be like, if there will be any spiders (!).
I look forward to the travelling – 5 hours in this case on a special doughnut cushion for my sore bum! (More on that here)
I text my family the details and emergency number of where I’ll be staying, as my phone will be off for the duration.
I settle down and watch back to back episodes of Sabrina on Netflix…thinking I should really save and download some for my journey tomorrow.
The journey to retreat is very important.
In some ways the longer the better as it helps put distance between your regular life, and the one you are about to live as a retreatant.
(The gate leading to the spooky house, there are many other ways in, but I like the fact this says Private)
Today I received that I have got to choose me.
I have never done that before.
I am thinking how strange it is that I decided to come to a silent space, and be in silence, and sit with my sore bum – when I feel pain at the silence between myself and another.
This first 24 hours has been all about processing that.
Raking it up over and over trying to see my part in it.
If I should apologise. If I have done anything wrong to apologise for.
I am realising that this choosing me. Is something I have no real clue how to do.
I have chosen others my whole life.
Learning to choose me is a lesson that I have not prepared for.
Except I have.
My whole life up until this point has been a lesson in choosing me.
I am getting better at it.
In choosing me, others will choose me.
But first I have to choose me.
(A burst of colour!)
Sometime after lunch I begin to consciously remember how bleak it is to go on a silent retreat.
I don’t say this to discourage you, but rather prepare you if you are thinking of doing the same.
When you have zero distractions it can get very heavy in your own mind very quickly.
Retreating in this way is not a holiday.
We are here to do soul work.
Each meditation sitting can feel like hard work, especially with a sore bum and feelings of anger.
Each day (bar one) we get to share how we are feeling in a small group for an hour – think group therapy.
Today I shared how angry I was.
Then how in fact I was holding on to the anger so that I did not have to face the raw sadness underneath.
The sense of loss, the sense of fear. The sense of the unknown.
I sit here writing this in my room and I stare out the window at nothing and no one.
Even if there was anyone there, like the cooks were a minute ago, I am utterly alone.
Facing mine (and everyone else’s) worse fear.
That fear of being along for ever, of not ever having anyone really love you.
Yet I wonder if this fear is even my own.
In fact I know it is not my own.
I don’t fear being alone, I fear what others in our society thinks about someone who is ‘alone’.
You see I, we, are never alone. We are surrounded by spirits and nature fairies and Angels.
I am understanding the difference between love and attachment.
(The rolling hills surrounding the house)
Something akin to peace took over.
I did some deep soul work with my Tarot cards, just for me, and it was amazing.
I could see how far I had come from yesterday.
Today was all about recognising that I am healing/healed some largely ‘unloved’ parts of myself.
My heartbreak is healing.
The peace I feel, I wish I could bottle up and take home with me.
It is the peace of finally having ‘arrived’ on retreat.
Nowhere to go, nowhere to be.
I spent the day eating and sleeping, eating and resting, eating and meditating.
I had no tasks to do.
No small group to attend.
A day entirely for me.
I also had chocolate cake and cream!
I spent the earlier part of today wondering if I could cope living in a world where it feels as though everyone is so much harder than me.
I understand that this absence of true hardness is a blessing.
I sit here and I realise that nature can be harsh.
Life can be harsh, but that harshness can protect you under its wings.
You can take shelter under the harshness of life, which always trumps the harshness of humans.
I can’t believe I am leaving the day after tomorrow. I can’t believe how fast this has gone.
Now that I have come out of my fog of misery and pain and anger, I don’t want it to end.
Impermanence! Lol. Nothing lasts forever.
It’s the last full day here on retreat, the last night and I don’t want it to end.
I feel nervous about entering regular life but strangely excited also.
Following on from the last retreat, I find it does help to turn my phone on the night before – turn notifications off and check things a little – so I just checked my email no shockers there lol.
I’ll leave my phone on now in the cupboard until tomorrow when I will check the texts in the morning, then messenger on the train.
It has been the hardest retreat ever.
So much pain came up for me.
Around my place in the world, how lonely I feel.
How misunderstood, how distrustful of certain people.
The world seems to me a scary place at times.
Scariest of all is the world within.
Wow, so this was a hard post to write!
I came back from retreat just before the Easter weekend and I have been drafting and redrafting this ever since.
It always amazes me how many shifts I have been through in recent years, each one serving to bring me closer to spirit and more in line with my intuition.
Taking time out from everyday life is an invaluable chance to reflect on ourselves, our relationships, our life direction – but doing so in this way, is not for the faint hearted.
In our last sharing circle as a group, it became clear how much each person had been encased in their own version of suffering.
How we all came out on some kind of other side, ready to face everyday life with a renewed sense of gratitude and a change of perspective.
Silent retreat is not about escaping, rather it teaches us how to endure.
Silence truly is a salve for the soul.
Much love Txx