In modern life, everything is about what we are doing and thinking. Our education is around developing thought and achievement. What feelings we have are organized around activities and relationships. For example, peace is an absence of conflict. Love is in relationship to someone else. Joy is usually in what we are doing , our work, and free-time activities. Life is limited to a mental world where the possibilities of real inner peace and heartfulness are left unacknowledged and unexplored.
Even religion, which could be about spiritual experience, is usually limited to the realm of thought and belief. Many priests, ministers and rabbis know little about meditation and prayer. For most everyone, meditation and prayer are more about thinking or trying not to think, getting results of less stress, answers to worldly problems, or healing for our bodies. Exploring meditation and prayer, seeking the reality of the soul for its own sake, is unusual. Imagine meditation, prayer, the reality of our soul, being held as important as sending men and women into outer space. Imagine if this attention and focus were on inner space. It would change the life of our entire culture. When we live our life in the limited world of thought and some feeling, is it any wonder that many do not believe there is a soul, no less know our soul for the treasure that it is?
In silent retreat, the intensity of our personality is turned down and attention to our awareness is turned up. Peace is now more than an absence of conflict, but is found in the silence. Silence washes our awareness. Silence frees our awareness of life's details, worry, and stress. Silence empties our awareness of the baggage we carry. Slowly we are not so heavy, so serious, so complicated in our thoughts and feelings. In silence, our awareness clears and returns to its natural state. Peace and quiet come together.
In silent retreat, the mind is reconnected with the heart. Our awareness rests in a meadow, a meadow of little flowers inside of us. Awareness, no longer crowded with thought and feeling, discovers itself, spreading out to a vast interior life. Resting in the heart, our awareness finds love not connected to any person, just love. Joy is not tied to any particular event. Beauty is not attached to any particular scene. When our awareness is not focused on managing worldly life, we uncover a universe within, our interior life. In our inner being there is a certainty and satisfaction that are not the result of effort in the world. Certainty and satisfaction are unwrapping the gifts of our own awareness.
Silence, heart, awareness: The tools to build a large interior life are not taught in our schools. The paths of prayer and meditation to open, explore, and be with God's presence have been lost in most of our churches and temples. In retreat we begin by putting our judgmental and analytical mind aside. (Don't worry, it will still be there for another day!) Awareness is for much more then a handle to manage the business of life. We are much more. Awareness in the heart of silence is new in each moment. It is the extreme sport of being.
Patience, there is no hurry. The simplicity of being has its own rewards. The landscape we are discovering is not about having imagination or fantasy. The interior life we are finding is not about poetry, or being creative or inventive. We do not have to invent our interior life -- it is already here waiting. There are as many qualities of love as there are colors and textures of flowers in an exquisite garden. We need to find new language, more language, a shared language for our interior reality. As our inner world grows, we have so much more to bring into our daily world, our relationships, how we live each day.
Many are making the inner pilgrimage seeking something sacred, something true.
In meditation, we experience the stones of our thoughts as stepping stones leading us from our mind slowly within our heart. One step after another, we are the landscape around each thought, above, and below. We continue, step by step, increasingly aware of the space we discover. We are entering the lightness of life in the heart. Our awareness continues until the path stops, the stepping stones end. We are present with no thought. Here, the interior life comes fully forward. Our attention absorbs the presence of awareness itself.
As our thoughts slow down and stop, the gentleness of our heart is a giant bed inviting us to stretch out and experience. Our interior life is uncovered in a great emptiness that is also a great presence. An inner landscape is unfolding as we accept all the new territory. These new realms are beyond words, yet nevertheless very real. Gratitude is in the essence of these moments. Our inner life is unveiling. There is a purity, a perfume of nectar from somewhere deep inside of us. The interior life grows as we offer our awareness to the love that is present. A well of being is opening. It is a well also of trust. The world of heartfulness is above, all around, and beneath us. There are no walls, no thoughts. Worldly disturbance, distractions, challenge are far and farther away. In the great silence of our interior being, humility, generosity, and forgiveness have replaced loneliness, neediness, and worry. Freedom, a great freedom, is uncovered in an ever-opening light of being.
As a flower opens in light and withdraws in night, our silent retreat opens and closes within us. We journey at our own pace, nurturing our heart, enjoying the stillness, trusting our experience. Everything good is present in the heart. The possibilities of God, our soul, are realized as our mind allows innocence to rule instead of a need to control. A silent retreat is where we practice our skill in receiving. Our interior life is a voyage of remembering. Instead of the world pulling our attention in many different directions, we are coming home inside. When the hands of our awareness are not carrying the demands of daily life, they are free, open, happy to carry nothing, which is seemingly everything. We want to reach in and touch the source. We want to be in the beginning, which is also eternity. Our interior life is calling and we are listening.
Life is more than living in stress with no time or space for ourselves. A rich and growing interior life makes room for ourselves and more room for everyone in our lives. Having inner space satisfies many of our daily moods, obsessive wants, compulsive desires. Suddenly, the demands of others are not so demanding. We have space for everything. An interior life anchored in our well of inner peace, and we strive less for worldly things. We enjoy time and life as treasures in and of themselves. Uncovering our interior life may be the greatest adventure we embark upon. The boat of our awareness is magnificent. Let's open our sails, all of them! Our destination is our true self.
We invite you to join us in the adventure at Silent Stay Retreats near Napa, California and Assisi, Italy.
For more by Bruce Davis, Ph.D., click here.
For more on the spirit, click here.