We gather our books, our notebooks and writing pens, and go into retreat. We leave everything else behind. Perhaps we take a cup of tea, a jug of water, an apple or two, but little else. We leave the phones, laptops, all forms of communication with the outside world, and disappear. No one knows where we are. For the time we’ve allotted ourselves, we are free.
We sit amongst the catbirds, quietly conversing or silently reading. We meditate, or perhaps even doze in our chairs. A doe and her two fawns come out of the woods and walk past. We are so invisible in our intent to retreat that they take no notice of us. We are present yet not present.
We reject all attachments, including the needs of those closest to us. On another day of retreat we sit in our canoe on calm waters. We drift, going nowhere. We let the world rumble by, all its troubles and turmoils, all its fears and desires, all its crisis and calamities. We are free.
We know what awaits us upon return to the reality of our world, yet we allow ourselves to turn from it as often as possible. In this manner we offer ourselves balance, we create a container in which to nurture our spirits. We offer ourselves sacred space in the midst of everyday life. We lift the veil of one world and enter another, rejecting the chaos that constantly seeks attachment. In the simplest of ways, at little or no cost, we seek retreat as often as possible.
Perhaps we take a walk at dawn, or at midnight. Perhaps we go to a movie. Perhaps we sit on our deck as the sun rises. Perhaps we build a fire and watch its sparks light the night. Perhaps we take a friend out to dinner and sit in a calm garden cafe. Perhaps we take a yoga class, or hike along a new path. All of these things offer retreat from the energy of the world constantly stirring around us.
Part of going into retreat, part of disappearing for a few hours or a few days, requires careful planning. It requires honing detachment by setting limits on the self and the outside world. It requires that we reject the chaos. It requires that we leave everything behind that might interrupt our retreat, anything that might interfere with our solitude. Often enough it requires leaving behind worry and fear, leaving behind the thoughts and ideas that we are needed, that we are important, that the world might collapse if we are not available every minute of every day to those who need us, want us, rely on us for whatever reasons. Going into retreat requires honing nerves of steel while simultaneously extending a tenderness toward the self that we might not ordinarily feel. Foremost, going into retreat requires rejection of all outside energy.
In turning inward, in going into retreat, in rejecting the chaos of everyday life, we learn how to care for ourselves. We learn how to detach from the critics, whether outside of us or inside. We learn how to suspend judgment: what others might think of us, what we might think of us, how the world judges us every day.
In successful retreat, we achieve calmness and contentedness. Our minds slow down; our hearts slow down. We become better givers, lovers, kinder more gentler people, because we give to ourselves, love ourselves, are kind to ourselves. In desiring to be giving beings we must first learn how to give to ourselves. In desiring to become more compassionate beings we must first experience what that means, and the best way is to practice compassion toward ourselves. In desiring to be loved, we must first learn how to love ourselves.
If we are in the midst of painful recapitulation we have already learned how to leave the world behind, for we do it every time we go into a memory. We know how to retreat, but it’s vastly important that we give ourselves sacred space for healing retreat during recapitulation too. In small increments we must learn how to care for ourselves, even though we are not used to caring about ourselves at all.
Recapitulation is really a time of retraining our minds and bodies, of reawakening our spirits, and remaking ourselves into a different being altogether. It’s a time of rephrasing how we think and speak, recreating our life styles and agendas to fit the changing beings we are in the process of sculpting. And so, even when deep into painful recapitulation—especially when one is in deep painful recapitulation—one must take responsibility for occasionally pulling out of the chaos and advancing the healing process. By finding some means of rejecting the chaos—however captivating it may be—one establishes balance.
Keeping in mind that the intent of recapitulation is to heal, the balance comes in learning healing activities and skills, and actually practicing them. Nothing will change if one does not act on what one is learning during recapitulation. This entails regularly stepping back from the intensity of the process and assessing the progress made. This entails reevaluating the self, appreciating the self in a new way, actually rewarding the self for the difficult work that has been accomplished. This entails reframing the state of one’s mind by offering it positive accolades as one rejects the old negative thought language. This entails learning how to be gentle, kind, and compassionate with the self, and eventually learning how to love the self.
Although recapitulation is an ongoing process of change, there will always be times when it is appropriate to reject the chaos of recapitulation—even if only for a few minutes at a time. In such moments of respite—think calm retreat—one builds stamina and regains balance that may have been lost during intense memory recapitulations. One learns how to detach from energetic attachments, nurturing one’s own reclaimed energy in the process, experiencing small doses of freedom along with a newly unfolding self.
A young woman told us of losing her phone and how free she felt. Sitting in a circle of friends, she noticed how everyone had their head down, looking at their phones, texting, reading, only peripherally attached to the conversation of the group. In that moment she clearly understood the addiction that she normally carried in her own pocket, the addiction to constantly needing to be in touch, to not missing something, to having everything at her fingertips. In that moment she saw her friends as slaves and she experienced her own freedom. Forced to break her own habit, she experienced a sense of relief, for a moment glad she had lost her phone. For a moment she basked in her own place of calm retreat.
No matter who we are, where we are in our lives, no matter what is happening, we must learn to take moments of retreat. We must learn how to reject the chaos, turn from our addiction to the chaos of life, and take responsibility for our spirits needs for calmness and balance. We must learn to nurture ourselves. It’s not that hard to do.
Love to you all, as you find calm retreat today.
Rejecting the chaos,