Recently, I had a guest stay at my home.
They had arrived directly after attending a multi-week retreat in central California, where they had what they described as a beautiful time to reflect and grow.
They asked me if I had ever done a retreat. I was intrigued by the question because I had never thought about it before, and I wasn’t quite sure how to answer. Did they mean had I ever gone on a structured retreat like the one they had recently returned from? Or was the question whether or not I have ever had the experience of being able to retreat?
My answer was simple. I stated that I took quiet nature walks every week, and that every morning, I wake up early to be quiet and reflect. They then insisted that everyone needs to do retreats—to which I replied, “Oh, okay.” They then supplied me a list of wonderful benefits that come with going on a formal retreat.
It wasn’t easy for me to sit through such a marketing session, especially when I agree for the most part with the benefits of a retreat. The problem was that I actually don’t believe everyone needs to go on a structured retreat. I do believe that everyone who wants to go, should. But I firmly believe that people can experience the aforementioned benefits wherever they are, retreat or not.
The potential for growth and reflection is all around us—we just have to be open to the opportunities that present themselves.
My guest, ironically, showed me how true this is. The first night that they arrived at my home, they began to question me about my upstairs neighbors and the noise of their walking around. I calmly replied, “Yes, they do make noise.” My guest felt—and expressed quite clearly—that my neighbors needed to be told how much noise they were making and asked to be more respectful. This made me chuckle a bit, and I replied that I did not need my neighbors to change their lives for me to be comfortable in my own space. My guest, confused, pushed me further saying that it was not okay to have that level of disturbance in my space.
I, in turn, let them know that I was okay with the amount of noise, and that I could not ask the world around me to alter itself for my comfort at all times. Instead, I could control how I chose to receive the world around me. I could choose to respond with love to the love that surrounds me.
My guest then relented saying, quite condescendingly, “Well if it doesn’t bother you, it doesn’t bother you.”
As I reflect on this conversation, I see that their experience at a retreat may have made them extra sensitive to wanting a quiet space and to not be influenced by others. And having the space and environment to reflect with ease and clarity can be a powerful thing.
But for me personally, I do not wish to retreat from people, society, noise, or disturbance. Those things are real, inescapable parts of life. Those things are messages and lessons for me to take in and grow from.
A retreat can exist at any moment, and it is my goal to be ready to enjoy those moments as they appear. I am sure a structured retreat is a wonderful and pleasant experience, but I believe life can offer us just as much benefit when we understand that we are here to live with all of the wonderful “noises” and “disturbances” that are strategically placed to help us continue to grow into who we are—into our highest selves.
On the other hand…
Eight Hours of Meditation, for Seven Days Straight: One Gal’s Reflections on Week 1 of Reggie Ray’s Dathun.
Author: MartinJon Garcia
Image: Balint Földesi/Flickr
Editor: Callie Rushton
Copy Editor: Travis May
Social Editor: Waylon Lewis