People often ask me after I tell them I’m going on silent retreat, “how can you do that?” My feeling on the matter is, “how could I not?!”
For me being in silence and meditating for a few days is profoundly life changing, but it isn’ta walk in the park by any means. When you strip away the distractions of daily life and you live with just the basics, of eating, sleeping, walking, and sitting amongst a community, it is in this state you so easily meet yourself and in some cases meet versions of yourself you didn’t know were there.
I recently went on a metta and qi gong retreat, where not only did I experience the inner workings of the mind, but I met the power of the heart. Qi gong (movement meditation) was a brilliant method of prepping the body for what was to come throughout the whole week.
We meditated with the heart opening practices of metta (loving kindness), karuna (compassion), and mudita (empathetic joy). We evoked a deep wish for all beings to be happy and safe, no matter what, because ultimately we all have goodness at our core that we can wake up to. We experienced feelings of compassion for the self and others, wishing that we may all hold our suffering with ease and tenderness. When we celebrated other people’s joys in life and resonated in that feeling, we tapped into supreme joy without our own hearts.
After a heart work out like that, you can hold the sufferings and the joys of others and have equanimity in the face of whatever comes your way. It can soften anger into courage, fear into beauty, and sadness into compassion. I feel that inner strength can only come from wisdom, the type of wisdom that one feels deep in their bones, that to this day I have found most profoundly comes from meditation.
Understanding and observing what compassion feels like in your body on an energetic level, felt like training for a fierce heart. Before the retreat my heart ached for the conditions of the world today, feeling soft and vulnerable. After the retreat, there’s a strength in there now and a capacity to hold what’s to come my way.
What exactly I will do with this open heart, I am not certain. But one thing is for sure, it starts with the people that cross my path and my hope is by touching them, it will ripple out further and further to reach more communities.