Tomorrow marks the day that I go away for 11 days on a self-led silent meditation Retreat. We are going to pause all Letters, and our social media at this time and I’ll explain why. There is a monastery here in England that allows teachers of certain lineages that meet certain criteria to take themselves away into silence and meditation, providing 2 meals a day and somewhere modest to sleep, as well as Buddhist teachers to go to if you should have a certain type of meltdown.
I have done silent Retreats before. This one terrifies me. I made a commitment a few years into being a teacher that I would always look after my own spiritual development. That in order to be of service to others I needed to be honest, authentic and always a student. And I have year on year gone about this exploring India, Japan and Australia studying and learning. Which is a luxury given I have a family and business to attend to. Earlier this year, I decided on moving to England to take this to another level, on a self-led Retreat would give me no outs, nothing indulgent in which to delight me, or distract me.
I have a rather intense schedule that will begin at 4.30am and involve hours upon hours of meditation, a single hour helping out in the monastery in silence (as is done in the Zen and Vipassana traditions) and two simple meals each day, no dinner, simply more meditation. There will be no caffeine, no stimulating food, no technology, no eye contact with anyone. This is repeated for 10 days in a row. This kind of Retreat is not glamorous or nourishing in the kind of way I host Retreats, its actually intense and back-breakingly hard work. And I have had friends ask why in hells name would I do such a thing.
In truth I live a very beautiful life, filled with wonderful people and opportunities and travels and it’s important for me to get uncomfortable. As a method for not take any of it for granted, one can take it all away for a moment. It strips the world back to its very bare basics. It reminds us of what counts. The solitude also allows the inner pulse of our souls to beat louder, and slowly move from a pulse, into words. To be heard on a much more intimate level, the conversation with oneself needs space. It’s very easy to avoid this kind of conversation with oneself, with phones and emails and responsibilities and the general chaos of running a home and the distractions of serving others and their needs coming before your own. Diving into that space is where the terror comes from. This is the kind of terror I welcome deeply. As David Whyte says, “The courageous conversation is the one you don’t want to have”. The discomfort of such an experience (and one I am volunteering for) sloughs off all the rough bits, the overindulgence, the taking of things for granted, it quietens the ego with its incessant poverty mentality that nothing is enough. Leaving my family leaves us all with space to consider each other, to yearn, to miss each other, and then to fold back into each others lives with a new perspective.
I was going to push through, scheduling all our Letters and social media in advance. Writing them all this week would have created a large amount of friction. The truth is, I am the only one who manages it all, responding to all the DMs and comments and penning all that we post. And it’s a bloody tonne of work and nothing I wished to lump onto anyone in our team to manage whilst I am away. So we opted to take a bold pause. The longest we have ever taken from contributing here in years. I hope you’ll understand the reasoning behind why we are doing it. So this is the last you’ll hear from me until I am back Oct 1st.
See you on the other side.
Written with love,