Good morning, dear blog reader.
Let’s talk about ahhhh this morning.
The ahhhh of waking up on a fresh Monday morning with light shining through emerald green June leaves. The ahhhh of feeling centered and “right with the world”. The ahhhh of feeling recovered from too much news, too much national bickering and agony, too much COVID, too much racism, too much division, too much, too much.
So what’s a person to do when “too much” clouds the system with dark rain clouds?
How about take a retreat?
I have been taking countless retreats most of my adult life. The first one (this is embarrassing) involved hiding in a closet during my freshman year in college. Some of us introverted types just close down with too much stimulation, too many people. I remember, at eighteen, just wanting to be home in my white bedroom with my red typewriter creating stories. Instead I now had to live 24/7 with another human being who made me so nervous…simply by being a strange and unknown human being. So I dove in the dark closet, closed the door, and hid for twenty minutes until calm found its way back into the system. Ahhhhh, the value of retreat. Twenty minutes away from the crowd and the world settled itself right.
The first “real” retreat happened in my early thirties. It was a doozie. The Native Americans who live in our area taught about fasting in the woods away from home for four days. Usually these vision quests occur under the supervision of an elder who guides and supervises.
Being an independent sort–and not Native American–I decided to fast on my own for four days in May. No food. No supervision. Yes to some water. Yes to tent and sleeping bag. Every day I would leave my small circle in the woods and write a note in a sealed mason jar to husband/kids with a “Hello!” and “I am fine”. If they didn’t find the note at the appropriate time, they would rescue mama.
The four days proved a) agonizing and b) wonderful. If you’ve ever sat in a small circle in the woods for any length of time you may understand. Taking away our societal props and games and behaviors can feel excruciating to the psyche. It can feel like you’re dying–either of boredom or hunger or both. If you’ve ever tried to meditate for twenty minutes and experienced the mind’s monkey-chatter: please try to imagine four days of a mind that doesn’t know how to quit talking to itself.
On the second day of the quest the temperature hit freezing and it snowed. I scurried to the mason jar and begged, “PLEASE DELIVER SNOWMOBILE SUIT!”
On the third day of the fast my mind told hysterical jokes. I laughed myself silly. (Shock? Craziness? Food deprivation?)
No major visions ensued, but lots of insights birthed during this quest. I learned so much about this human being. About my longing to truly connect with Spirit in this lifetime. About what it’s like to retreat from the world.
After the retreat ended, I practically crawled back to the house. Barry and the kids fed me blueberries and maple syrup water. That night I fell asleep exhausted…opened my eyes suddenly…and saw a woman floating near the ceiling. It was the first “real” vision of this sort. (Was I calm and collected as the spirit floated? Heavens no. I shouted, “MOM!” like a wee baby scared to death. Barry ran to help…but by then the spirit had dissolved back into the ethers.)
The following year shined with blessings.
I could write story after story about the various quests and retreats taken over the years, but let’s fast-forward to last Thursday.
It was time for another retreat.
How can a person tell? It seems like suddenly the energy is moving too outward. You know how you can get trapped in endlessly scrolling through Facebook? Endlessly caught in routines and activities that do not nourish the soul? One of the wormholes I repeatedly fall into is statistics. I love numbers. This served well while working as a business manager and township treasurer, but it’s still sooooo easy to become addicted. It doesn’t matter what kind of stats. Blog stats. Family budgeting. This spring it’s been Coronavirus stats. And there’s a point where Coronavirus stats can become Too Much, let me tell you. It’s one thing to be informed. It’s another thing to become obsessed.
Retreat began its siren call…come to me, darlin’. Time to change pace for a little while. Several unkind posts on Facebook sealed the deal. Instead of “snoozing” my errant friends for 30 days…I would snooze myself for four days.
This time the space of retreat looked like this: No Facebook. No statistics (not even getting on the scales). No news. Not even a teeny tiny bit of news. Unless, of course, someone inadvertently shared what was happening. It also didn’t hurt that I was involved in a two-day online spiritual retreat Saturday and Sunday. A Zoom retreat within a retreat.
The four days are up today, dear reader, and all is well in the world! The system sighed ahhhh. I must admit that the first two days proved the easiest. The second two days had challenging moments where I just wanted–pretty please?–to check statistics and the news. Just to peek. But I mustered through these times promising Monday morning would come soon enough.
Am still going to take some more time off Facebook, but otherwise: feel free to ask any questions about Coronavirus stats. (Just kidding! And if you feel pressed to share your disbelief in the accuracy of the stats–I shall reply in advance. My feelings are that the numbers have been both under- and over-reported. In my opinion the two factors even out to provide a generalized overall picture.)
And what about you? Have you regularly retreated in any ways? Have you found it healing or challenging or both? Please share!