This year however, my cherished weekend meditation retreat got pushed from the spring to the fall, and I had to choose to either usher in my 41st year in silence, or with a crazy bunch of gal pals. Given that I’ve worked very, very, very….ok way too much, I opted for the weekend retreat. Silence is, after 40 years – golden.
I’ve studied religion, worked with clergy from every faith, and practice the best someone as freakishly amazing as moi can. Bourbon and man connoisseuring can really bite into a gal’s time on the cushion though. So, between that and all of this working business, I committed to sit for the weekend with my friends from a sister-sangha.
Lately my mind has been going a zillion miles a minute, and my mouth is exhausted from trying to keep up. A weekend of silence seemed like a darn good idea.
“This isn’t the same,” I told my bestie as I committed the atrocity of speaking on the phone during retreat. The monastics weren’t there, and I’ve been spoiled, having my practice guided by learned robes.
When the first morning bell sounded, I thought to myself, “I’m going to shove that bell up the bell ringer’s @$% if they tap that thing one more time”. I opted to skip the morning sitting and meditate on the inside of my weary eyelids. I did however make it in time for the breakfast bell. It’s astonishing how strong the pull of hot oatmeal and granola can be when you’re on a vegan retreat.
I opted out of guided walking meditation, and instead walked the leaf and snow dusted labyrinth on my own. I was so looking forward to the silent weekend, but could not keep my mind quiet, and I found myself resentful of the whispered questions from the new aspirants. Special note to anxiety spastics like myself; do not forget your happy, quiet pills at home for mindfulness retreats weekends. Between figuring out that there was no caffeine in the coffee, and owning a chattering brain, my meditation was as uncomfortable as it needed to be to force me deeper.
My first hours of meditation looked like highland dancing while sitting on the floor. I’m sure the others wondered if I had ants in my pants, and wanted to hold me down so that my shuffling didn’t pollute the meditation hall. Everything about my thoughts and body were, ‘wiggly’. Wiggly isn’t something that should enter the hall, but it sure did yesterday.
I was drawn to the optional meditation instead of free time, and just as I thought I had wasted my birthday weekend coming to a retreat led by lay practitioners, it happened; that magical moment in mindfulness meditation where you unearth the corner of something that is the archeological equivalent of the discovery of Lucy and you just know, it’s going to crack you open to a new level of being.
It is always amazing, and that’s why I keep going back.
I uncovered the corner of something that has been blinding me for a lifetime. I will keep that little piece of wisdom to myself as I examine it more deeply, but I will share with you that I was reminded over and again of the kindness and necessity of a sangha. The combination of the two was poignant, and it will guide me back to the cushion, to that space of deep looking between perception and reality.
Anxiety still humming despite my discovery, I forced myself to make time during the long drive home to stop in and visit a friend. We share a birthday week, and it was a milestone year for each of us. He passed the 50 mile marker, while I’m just behind at the 40. When he cracked open his fortune cookie it read, ” Your life will be filled with happiness.”
“You are someone’s happiness,” my little strip of white paper that spoke blue text smiled back at me. I slid it across the table after he read his out loud.
We laughed, and hugged good-bye.
As I sped back on to the highway, I smiled at the fortunes. It’s true. Everyone is someone else’s happiness. Sometimes that someone may even be yourself.