Retreat or Expedition?
I am going in to retreat. That is what I have been saying to people since about January 2016. It has been easy to say, as I having been taking yearly retreats to meditate and reflect for the past 6 years. These retreats have been from 4 to 12 weeks in duration. I have used the time to quiet my mind, cultivate more patience and compassion as well as seeking to gain insight into a number of things, not the least of which is insight into the nature of my mind.
This year is different, though. As of May 25th, I quit my job as a bodywork/energywork therapist -- a job I’ve held for almost 25 years. I usually take time off for retreat during the summer when people are busy and my schedule is lighter. As I got closer to my scheduling the actual days of my retreat, a small inner voice said: “Go all in. Don’t set an end date.” I initially tried to negotiate with this voice, offering to continue my retreat until the end of the year. It would not be moved. I tried to reason with it: “This is a BIG step you know. We don’t know what will come next.” Again, the voice was implacable, “all in” it said.
Then I remembered, this was not the first time I’ve heard this voice. The first time, I recall vividly, was when I was a banker with a “good, stable job” that included benefits and retirement. It told me: “Quit this job and become a massage therapist.” This was the first time I remember, and she has spoken up now and again over the years. Each time I have listened, she took me exactly where I needed to go. Incidentally, the one time I didn't listen, I nearly died. But that is another story.
The past 25 years have brought me more success, joy, learning and growth than I ever could have dreamed back when I was that banker. And it was all due to following that small inner voice when she said: “Do this now.”
So, as of June 1st, I have been slowly moving into full time meditation retreat mode with no end in sight. As I have shared this information with people, the responses have been varied. Some of the responses I have received from people have been: excited, horrified, confused, angry (that one surprised me), appreciative, supportive and more.
But the most common response I have gotten from people is genuine curiosity. From family, friends, clients & students they want to understand what exactly I will be doing in this retreat.What is the point? What do I hope to gain by meditating full time? What does being in a full time retreat even mean? Fellow meditators have wanted to know where I will be retreating. Who is guiding me? What format am I following. Will I be talking at all? How many hours will I sit? And so on.
This blog, I hope, will help answer those questions. In the coming weeks and months, I will make periodic posts to respond to these questions as well as to relate my experiences.
One thing I can tell you for sure right now -- this is an expedition, not a retreat. I am going “all in.”