(c) 2013, Cat Charissage “Magister Veriditas: Hildegard of Bingen”
I retreated last weekend. Do you ever get away by yourself? About every year, I try to have at least a weekend in silence, away from voices and conversations and the internet. Last weekend I went to a “Deepening Centering Prayer” silent retreat at the local Catholic retreat center. Centering Prayer is a type of meditation from the Christian tradition, continuing the teaching of the mystics that most of us do not get in everyday life unless we really look for it. I’ve practiced this type of meditation for many years. I’ve had far more times of “monkey mind” and dryness than insight or mystical experience, but I keep showing up. That’s the point —- to keep showing up.
As per usual, I didn’t have any aha’s or experience any fireworks. Silence doesn’t usually work that way. Silence is palpable, though, a kind of black velvet to sink into — until the velvet turns to mirrors and there’s all my own self to witness, over and over and over again! Not always fun, but I get to watch my mind do its jumping around, usually telling me scary stories about what might happen in the future. Then I get to extend compassion, once again, over and over and over again, to myself, and then let go of that particular thought, that particular story.
Sometimes the black velvet, a comforting sense of connectedness with something (many would say “Someone”) beyond myself, stays a little while before speeding to the next crazy thought. The difference between the black velvet and my everyday mind is like the difference between relaxing with a favorite beverage alongside a special someone, and being alone wrangling a tired, hungry, and cranky two year old in Walmart on Saturday afternoon.
Come on, isn’t your mind a tired, hungry, and cranky two year old sometimes? Hint: go home; don’t go to Walmart (or wherever you get overstimulated by environments trying hard to artificially create sudden “needs”, with too much fluorescent lighting and too hard of floors).
On the Saturday morning, after a week of unseasonably high temperatures, it got cold and snowed about 4 inches. The morning started out foggy and mysterious, like looking across the water to Avalon, but then the sun burst out to reveal diamonds! The wind flung the powdery snow into the air and the sunlight created not just crystals but rainbows! Growing up in snowy Chicago, I know grey skies and wet slush; now Rocky Mountain blue skies and dry powder snow always make me smile.
On retreat, I quit fighting what is and let go into compassionate acceptance. On retreat, I alternately close my eyes to look within, and open them to see the world in ways I don’t usually make the time to notice.
If you can’t go on a retreat for a weekend, how about an hour? A small table in an out of the way spot in a big library is my favorite place to hide out in silence for awhile. Close your eyes, breathe; open your eyes, see. Repeat until done.