You cannot always tell by looking what is happening.Marge Piercy
When we go on retreat we sink into ourselves, we let go of the outer world and allow ourselves to focus on the dimensions of the deep within. At first it seems only quiet and dark. At first it is challenging to let go of the surface of things. Even if we have retreated many times, for months or even years in spiritual contemplations, each retreat, each foray into Being challenges our sensibilities anew.
Immersion in Being is powerful and an important phase of spiritual growth and development. Just as land needs to lie fallow for a season, or as trees lose their leaves and pull their sap inwards each winter before pushing out new growth in the spring, so our spiritual life also calls for a varied cycle, for there to be space and an open field of energy before directed growth and beauty to emerge.
In retreat, we unclasp our hold on the knots that keep us bound. What is it we discover? First there can be a musty nothingness, like a room unused, sealed for too long. It appears empty until our eyes become accustomed to the dim and shadows of our interior spaces. From the grayness, corridors stretch out in myriad directions, rooms expand, drawing us further in. It grows quieter, still, now with a silence of a meadow before dawn, little life afoot beneath the crust of the ground, busy in its small activity.
Within the stillness, shapes and intimations of the past and the future waft across the screen of our awareness. We pass through rooms and corridors that frighten us with whispers of deeds undone, kindnesses un-acted upon, generosities withheld, meannesses committed.
As the winter air sucks in cold, we breathe in sharply, filling our lungs and inner cavities with the brisk cold, shaking us into our senses. These stages of retreat take courage, courage to remain still, unmoving, as the earth is our witness.
And so those moments pass as we allow them to. Moving through us or us through them. We gain an unadulterated look at the human soul, not just our own soul but the collective soul. And we take in the tragedy and the shortfalls as the earth takes back its dried stalks and empty flower heads. The fodder for our spring.
Unexpectedly clarity opens up the dawn when it seemed that it would never come. The first thin shafts of sun filter through the wan sky. The mists lighten, a new turning. A new generation. Not the seeds of the last. Touched and influenced by all that has come in the intervening season. The losses and the gains. The miracles and the bursts of beauty. Touched by ripples, air water, earth fire mineral building casing and molding, heat and rain.
Each new seed of insight is born into the ecosystem of our selves. Each needs its own environment to grow and develop. Can we allow them to nestle into the ground of ourselves, some on shoal and some on meadow, some on rock and some on marsh? Can we allow ourselves to be big enough to nurture them, and find place for each?
Within us lies the power, the capacity to create an ecosystem of Self. Within which, pockets open, pockets to hold and transform through acceptance and Love, in tantric embrace of the fallow of our earlier selves. Our hardnesses become stoicism. Our resentments become discriminating wisdom, our angers become forgiveness and values, our shame empathy and care.
So we move through the layers of ourselves. We integrate life moments. Not separate from them, not a leaf floating down the river but the current itself. Living in and through moments in time we grow and that growth is neither a replica of what came before nor wholly unrelated. We are both further ripples of the causes that have made us and novel expressions of the causes coming to fruition now. We, the ecosystem of Being, are at once source, current, and substance of the stream, at once singular and made of multiplicity, at once still and pregnant with possibility.