“The main affliction of our modern civilization is that we don’t know how to handle the suffering inside us and we try to cover it up with all kinds of consumption.”
The lotus is symbolic of awakening. It’s what Thich Nhat Hanh talks about when he says we transform suffering to happiness. This may sound like an impossible task, yet it is what many of us seek the spiritual path. It is also what we experience when we commit to attend a retreat held in Noble Silence Retreat. It is what I experience in a profound way asco-facillitator of our Mindfulness Retreat.
As beloved mindfulness teacher Thich Nhat Hanh says, “we don’t know how to handle the suffering inside us and we try to cover it up with all kinds of consumption.” So going on a silent retreat is a courageous and fearless act of love. It is an act of love to be present for this precious life, no matter if it the circumstances at the moment are pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. This is the opposite of what we do in our every day busy life, where we are moving through life on autopilot.
The Three Invitations…
As I reflect back on the last retreat and the instructions we gave participants, I am struck by the simplicity and power of the
three invitations offered on entering Noble Silence. Which were:
Slow down, be mindful, kind and attentive as you move from one activity to another, while you are engaged in the activity and after you end the activity. Be present for the transition, as you move from the end of one activity to the beginning of another. This is important as it is an opportunity to experience in real time, the movements of the mind. It is also an opportunity to be notice what it’s like to be embodied and what it’s like to connect with the compassionate heart.
Learning to Stay…
This is what we do on retreat and any time we are mindful. It’s learning to stay. And it is truly a Stay…I love the way Pema Chodron talks about the committment to stay present for our lived life. She says “To be encouraged to stay with our vulnerability is news that we definitely can use. Sitting meditation is our support for learning how to do this. Sitting meditation, also known as mindfulness-awareness practice, is the foundation of Bodhichitta training. It is the home ground of the Warrior Bodhisattva.”
At the start of retreat, I shared the following from Pema Chodron’s book, The Places that Scare you, on learning to stay…” The pith instruction is, Stay. . . stay. . . just stay. Learning to stay with ourselves in meditation is like training a dog. If we train a dog by beating it, we’ll end up with an obedient but very inflexible and rather terrified dog. The dog may obey when we say “Stay!” “Come!” “Roll over!” and “Sit up!” but he will also be neurotic and confused. By contrast, training with kindness results in someone who is flexible and confident, who doesn’t become upset when situations are unpredictable and insecure.
So whenever we wander off, we gently encourage ourselves to “stay” and settle down. Are we experiencing restlessness? Stay! Discursive mind? Stay! Are fear and loathing out of control? Stay! Aching knees and throbbing back? Stay! What’s for lunch? Stay! What am I doing here? Stay! I can’t stand this another minute! Stay! That is how to cultivate steadfastness.”
The third invitation was to begin again, to come back over and over again to this body, mind and heart, even if they left one thousand times.
These three invitations; slow down, stay and begin again served as a mantra or prayer, a compassionate reminder to be present for this precious life. And this is what we will be exploring in our upcoming 5 day Vipassana Retreat. Because the truth is, we all need to awaken to the preciousness of life and to learn how to care for ourselves, others, and all beings in a way that is wise, kind and leads us to be a healing and safe refuge for all. The practice is what can get us there.
Join us to learn more about this heart and mind opening practice. To register click on EvenBrite and then on the tickets tab to choose your level of accommodation. We hope to see you there!
May you be well 🙂