Buddhists say that being perpetually busy is a way to flee from healing that naturally takes place in silence and stillness.
Healing occurs when the mind becomes still. Or stops. Often, it requires a shocking life event to interrupt our human pattern of accomplishing goals and checking things off the to-do list, of being swept up in striving or seeking.
Buddhists refer to seeking as the cycle of noticing a desire and the tension around that desire, fulfilling the desire, and receiving temporary relief. But when the relief gradually subsides, along comes the next tension-filled desire, and so on.
Seeking is a perpetual cycle arising from the belief that more is better and that achieving will save us– that striving and accomplishing will bring ultimate peace and happiness.
SIT. WALK. WORK.
This past weekend I attended a Renunciation Silent Meditation Retreat at Heartwood Refuge and Retreat Center in Hendersonville, NC. The Heartwood Retreat Center is tucked in a small pocket of Hendersonville, and even though it’s twelve minutes from my door, I had no idea it existed.
The retreat centered around letting go of looking to the outer world to resolve inner desperation. To bring awareness to the fervent hope that grasping for success or things, for instance, will bring lasting peace, security and happiness.
Heartwood is a lovely place, and includes a campus with a historic thirty room Victorian era mansion, plus sixty adjoining cabins. They also have conference/meditation halls and a complete kitchen.
(I LOVED) NOT SPEAKING.
After we met staff and participants and basic instructions were given, the retreat went silent.
Being silent meant letting go of any form of unnecessary communication. No direct eye contact, no smiling. No emailing or Facebooking. No chatting. It meant letting go of time.
Silence meant going within and being mindful of one’s experience in the simplicity of stillness.
WHAT DID WE DO?
During the silence, we did sitting, walking and working meditations. Bell ringing was a participant job for many of us, so we knew when to move on to the next activity.
During working meditations, necessary words were allowed between staff and participants to communicate jobs that needed to be done. At one point in the weekend, there was also a talk by the leader of the Retreat. She spoke, we listened.
Being silent was so, so, so what I needed.
WHEN SPEAKING STOPS, WHAT COMES TO THE SURFACE?
What does one notice in the silence?
Sound. The beating heart. Breath. How walking feels in the legs or bottom of feet. Temperature. Wind. Rain. Kindness. Taste.
I noticed very small things, such as the moment when the natural inclination to connect with the eyes of another person is replaced with averting the eyes. It’s a moment of conscious choice.
I noticed moments of (wordless) receiving. For the first working meditation on Saturday morning, I arrived and found Satima, the executive director of Heartwood. I stood in front of her. She paused and said, “You’re standing here because…?”
And I said simply, “Work.”
There was a moment, a fraction of a second, when she met (with her heart) my offer to work. Instead of connecting through words, she connected with me through her heart and received my offer.
(That moment for me was worth the whole weekend. When I’m busy, I forget that moment of receiving someone. It tends to slide by fast.)
Satima nodded and gave me to another person, who took me to the garden, where I helped clear beds for new planting.
SALT, PEPPER AND LOVE.
On Sunday for my work meditation, Satima led me to the kitchen and indicated I was to make a paper cone with parchment paper and fill the salt and pepper shakers. She spoke very few words.
I said nothing.
What was there in those moments with Satima was simple. There was salt, pepper and love. Nothing more.
Eric and I used to have that — we had salt, pepper and love. We used to enjoy the salt and pepper (physical part) of our relationship — talking, touching, seeing each other.
Now, in our new relationship since he passed, there’s no salt and pepper. We have only love. My love for him now is the most love I’ve ever felt and it has opened my heart.
This new love has nothing riding on it, nothing with it, nothing tagging along. There is nothing to complicate it. There are no distractions, no problems. It’s only love, nothing but love.
Eric taught me that death (at least offers to) teach what pure love is. It is up to me to remember that love is what all my relationships are made of.
And finally, with a bow and prayer hands, Buddhists say only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.
A little more about Heartwood…
Heartwood’s mission is to be a living container for inquiry and cultivation of ancient and contemporary Buddhist thought, while promoting interfaith and multi-lineage dialogue.
You can find out more here http://www.heartwoodrefuge.org/
By the way, there’s also a (free) phone meditation app called Insight Timer. Sitting in stillness with eyes closed for as little as five to fifteen minutes a day makes a difference.