Easing Into Silence: Part II

Making Friends with Blue Lizards

Question:  How can you be in retreat and writing a blog? Answer: I can’t unless I can.

One thing  I quickly became aware of when I began going on retreats years ago is that  I (and others) had many ideas about the “right way” (and wrong way) to retreat. 

What I’ve discovered for myself is that things go better if I ease in. Moving from full engagement in regular life straight into strict solitude is to too stark and shocking for me. So I move into solitude and silence gently and by degrees. And I make adjustments in my day-to-day schedule as necessary.

During one retreat years ago, I found myself really strung out. I was holding a strict schedule of meditating many hours every day and not talking at all. I got very uptight about any noises around me. I developed a very antagonistic relationship with a blue lizard that lived on the porch of the cabin I was renting. I was sure just to torment me, each time I sat down to practice, he would walk and scratch his claws on the wooden boards of the porch. It drove me crazy and completely disrupted my practice. I got upset about “failing” my retreat, like it was some kind of test.

I began to develop tension headaches during this retreat (big surprise there!). In an email exchange with the teacher who was helping to guide my retreat, I asked him what I should do. “Things weren't working out well at all. My meditation was lousy. I had headaches. I should be meditating more than I was and couldn't get there. And then there was this stupid blue lizard blah blah blah….”

His wise and perfect response is burned into my memory. He wrote back that I needed to “Chill”. It was the perfect response to this incredible twist I had worked myself into. I laughed out loud and unraveled into relaxation immediately. The guidance was spot on. He went on to share ideas of different types of meditation I could try in addition to other practical suggestions. What the teacher saw and I hadn’t yet, was that I had (as the saying goes) missed the forest for the trees. I forgot what brought me into retreat in the first place. And got fixated on the tools meant to support my intention. 

My intention for retreat isn’t about logging marathon meditation hours. It is mostly about learning to stop, really stop. Get still and let myself come up to meet the present moment.  To be relaxed, stable, vivid and present with what is being presented to me without telling stories about it, getting hung up with wanting more or less of what is showing up and most of all being kind and present, with myself and others. Including blue lizards.

So, I will be writing this blog for the first part of my retreat until I go into silence and offline. Unless I don’t. If writing here disrupts my ability to be silent and present then I will stop. But if I find that it is helpful for my practice intentions, I will keep at it. I am learning to chill and make friends with blue lizards.