It’s my first day of transition from the tranquility of a silent retreat, the solitude and wisdom expounded by a Pacific Northwest rainforest and 10 days of inquiry into the nature of mind and heart.
As the sounds of nature, singing bowls, subtle breath and ancient chants are replaced by cars, phones and conversation—one becomes grossly aware of the vast contrast between these two worlds and the vital importance of raising the white flag from time to time, retreating from the capitalist battle grounds and the collateral damage it extols on our bodies and minds.
As a young boy I became conditioned by competitive sports and the archetype of the “Man,” who doesn’t show weakness, defeat or express surrender in any form.
Yet now, as a grown man, I recognize the need to step back, surrender, raise the white flag and retreat. Instead of weakness, this bi-annual process has instead become an internal source of noble strength and courage—a time to resolutely apply the practices which support my walk along this path.
As the exponential birthrate of our science fiction-like technology skyrockets, fragmenting the mind in myriad directions, the importance of nourishing one’s heart becomes of utmost importance. Not only for the sustainability of the individual soul, but of this utopian planet we call home.
The ancient wisdom traditions that have blessed our western culture carry infinite healing potential for all beings. Yet their very nature is to go against the current of habitual patterns of cultural conditioning. Swimming upstream, the healing wisdom becomes bombarded by the tyranny of time and the demand to accomplish, achieve and attain more, more and more.
In so doing, our precious human hearts are neglected—drowning in the tsunami of a grasping mind as it scrambles daily to chase what it believes, propagated by society, will create lasting happiness.
Daily meditation practice at home is not only important, to maintain the nimbleness of the mind and to withstand the innate fragmentation of contemporary society, but it is crucial.
However one cannot scale this mountain alone—and as difficult as the culturally conditioned mind will make it out to be—making the decision to step away from the daily grind and find refuge in retreat is something I wish for all beings to experience.
Away from the confines of the competitive urban jungle, we connect in silent ritual with nature, our fellow beings and most importantly our true selves—awakening us to our interconnectedness with one another, an imperative first step for the healing of our species and of this spaceship we call earth.
In the word silent, we find the word listen.
And when we gift ourselves the opportunity to stop and unplug, listen and enter into relationship with our own hearts, we discover an innate healing silence and the refuge within.
Retreating creates space to practice free of distractions and responsibilities—an opportunity to hone and sharpen the tool of concentration, giving rise to liberating wisdom and facilitating the graceful passage through life.
Retreat is about giving back to ourselves, awakening for the benefit of all beings and supporting this one human family to be just that.