Those doing soul work,
who want the searing truth
more than solace or applause-
know each other right away.
how honest can you be and still be the you that you know?
inquiry for today~ we speak of opening as if each layer is ever more blissful…..yet we must allow for the slow, slow, yielding to the tenderness between each layer…..
During the first meditation of my silent retreat at the Insight Meditation Society, I realized I didn’t really want to be away. For months I had longed to be cloistered in silence in the wilds of Massachusetts in the depths of February. Yet in the candlelit meditation hall, I understand that I never really wanted to be elsewhere, just here, fully here, inside my own life. My deepest longing was not to go out but to sink down under the layers of conditioning, to touch the unconditioned. I remembered suddenly and with great force that the kingdom of heaven is within.
“In the point of rest at the center of our being, we encounter a world where all things are at rest in the same way,” wrote Dag Hammarskjold in his spiritual journal ‘Markings.’ Sitting on my cushion at IMS, I pictured Hammarskjold, Secretary-General of the United Nations and a great peacemaker, finding his way to the center of his being while war raged around him.
Once, while being mugged on a deserted side street in Hell’s Kitchen in Manhattan, a power of stillness and vision descended on me like grace. I glimpsed the light of love and compassion behind the appearances of this world. Everything glowed with this light. I saw that it dwelled in me even when I was in darkness, and that it was my deepest nature. But that was a glimpse, a gift, and the price had been high.
On retreat, surrounded by sangha, I went from the surface of my life to the depths. My experience and my sense of myself became less rigid, more fluid, more like a child. I sensed currents that move far below. I went on retreat braced for loneliness and found connection. What looked like austerity from the outside—no talking, no entertainment—was really a place of discovery and play.
Do you remember that freedom? “Sati,” the word for mindfulness in Pali, the language of the earliest Buddhist texts, means to remember. Sitting before a statue of the Buddha shipped to New England from Asia, surrounded by others who had traveled great distances to practice silence and simplicity, I “re-membered” or “re-collected” disparate parts of myself. I remembered pretending as a child to be a spy and a jungle girl, all the while sensing my connection to life and the whole of life.
On retreat, letting-go can be a practice. It is the slow process of opening like a lens to the radiance at the heart of our real lives, here and now. We are enlightened as we learn to let the light in and let it shine out. This happens as we learn to be with life just as it is, receiving what is always being offered, always waiting to be received.