Exiting Silence, and the Woman who found Goat Love (Retreating into Silence, post 10 of 10)
On the final day of retreat, Silence was broken at the last meal. Unlike our first meal together before official Silence began, I was truly happy to exchange words with this group of strangers who had come to feel like close friends, despite the lack of usual friendship building rituals (for example, having conversation). There was warmth and a kinship among us. There was the woman who planted the seed that I should be writing. There was the woman who had manifested the railing. There was also the guy whose job it was to monitor the hot water for tea. We talked about the yoga classes that I teach, and how his wife has also completed her yoga teacher training. He asked about my "other" work, and my initial, almost involuntary response, was dismissive, almost apologetic. "It's quite a departure from all this," I offered by way of vague explanation. Like all of us have been practicing for the past several days, he persisted with interest to learn more. So I continued, "My company helps its clients bring their customers into the process of how they make decisions. Almost every company says that they are, or want to be, customer-centric, but surprisingly few actually have figured out how to do this. It's harder than it sounds. We help them listen to and feel inspired by the people they serve."
His response surprised me. "So really not such a departure."
Another re-frame that I could appreciate.
After closing circle, we loaded our belongings into our vehicles and left Bethel Farm. I had only taken two pictures during my entire stay (the same scene - on arrival and on departure), and didn't otherwise use my phone, by design. And so it was that this was the time I discovered how poor the cell service is up in these parts; my GPS/Google Maps wasn't able to locate me.
My drive up to the retreat I was completely dependent on the GPS (as I nearly always am), especially as I'd not been here before. I hadn't left the farm the entire week (apart from a few hikes down to the nearby Beaver Pond, but that was by foot), and I was not sure which direction I had even come from, let alone any detailed navigation.
But something funny happens after a week practicing recollecitve awareness meditation. The latent memory sharpens. I trusted my instincts and took the turns that led me right back down the path towards home.
During my drive, I reflected on my experience. I thought of the elderly woman who had been under the impression throughout her longtime study of meditation that grasping at pleasure meant suffering, so paradoxically did not invite pleasure into her practice, which created suffering. During this retreat, she decided to position her meditation chair next to the window one day, and her face radiated pure joy.
I thought of the woman whose brother had also found meditation (and had spent two years on silent retreat - two years!). I found it interesting that these siblings who do not live near each other both took up this practice. When I asked her about it at the end of our time together, she seemed to have never considered the question. It was a revelation that perhaps they both discovered meditation in adulthood, one not influencing the other, based on the idea that "we both had a horrible childhood," as she stated plainly, without drama nor further detail.
I thought of the young woman who seemed often sad on retreat, or perhaps conflicted as she thought she ought to feel happy to be there, or maybe she felt guilty for feeling happy to be there. Feelings are complicated! In a group discussion early in the retreat, she shared that she had experienced a great deal of loss, which undoubtedly contributed to (/caused) these conflicted feelings. She confided at the closing circle that she had wanted to leave - and very nearly did so - on multiple occasions throughout the week. There seemed to be a turning point. She was outside on the farm, and there were these baby goats. She suddenly, desperately, needed to be near the goats. She sat near them. They approached her, curious. When she got up to move to another spot, she was surprised and delighted that the goats followed. To make sure it wasn't a fluke, she relocated again, and sure enough, the goats accompanied her. She didn't want to stay but she stayed and she found goat love, and this made all the difference.
I thought of how I was running around getting ready to go on retreat, and how much peace I felt in this moment, on the return. I was literally running around. The day before leaving, I had worn my new fall vest (a gift from my mom) on the train into Boston. It was a warm late October day, and I had walked to and from the train station, one mile from my house. As I approached my street, I considered how warm it was and how this time of year the morning is much cooler. That's when it hit me; I had removed my new vest on the train ride home, and left it there. It was only the first or second time I had worn it. After the train goes back into South Station, all abandoned items are deposited into the giant lost & found. Leaving the next day for New Hampshire, I would surely never see my new vest again. Unless... I checked the train schedule from my phone app. The train that deposited me at the penultimate station to the end of the line would turn back around and return to my stop in a few minutes on its way back into Boston. Why not at least try? I ran full sprint the rest of the way home, grabbed my car keys, and drove myself right back to the station where I'd left not 20 minutes ago. As I pulled into the lot, the train was approaching. At this hour, there are very few if any passengers heading downtown, unlike the early morning rush. The conductors opened the doors and I panted, breathless, "I'm not actually going to Boston. I just came from Boston. But I left something, a vest -" A train conductor called out, "Blue one? Third car down. Go get it, we'll wait." And there it was. Phew. I thanked the MBTA conductors, rushing to fetch the littles from after school care. From busy-ness of everyday life to the stillness of it. Finding balance.
I contemplated the question posed to me on retreat. To whom is the narrator narrating? It stumped me at the time. And now, as I put the proverbial pen to paper and press "publish," I guess it's my way of seeking an answer.