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On Retreat: Part Three

It is now the last day of the retreat. We are once again on our cushions at daybreak. It is difficult to be still as sadness is present. There are farewells ahead and leaving dear people whom I may never see again. Already I am in the future, anticipating. Aware of dread in the pit of my stomach and anxiety tightening my throat, being here now seems close to impossible. I attend to this moment.

We have been exploring awareness, accepting what is and opening to the next moment with a still mind and a calm heart. We have considered trusting in the unfolding of things, letting go of agenda, planning, and old ways of thinking and behaving. I am reminded of the impermanence of things and welcome both the delight and the uncertainty of change ~ of “not knowing”.

In this present and aware state of mind, we are invited to listen deeply and speak the truth as we prepare to encounter one another in verbal communication. As we learn to understand the truth of our own experience in a direct way, any attempt to correct, “help” or impress is inappropriate here. Yet how easily the mind floods with excitement, opinion, and wanting to relate to another person! Out of this activity of the mind, how do we choose what to say or not to say?

Being asked to speak the truth means we choose not only what is truthful but what is useful and lovingly appropriate for that moment. Angeles Arrien asks us to “speak our truth without blame or judgment”. This can be a tall order. By simply trusting our thoughts, inspirations and feelings in the moment, speaking with confidence and calm, we are being as truthful as possible.

In listening deeply to one another, a quote from Mark Nepo comes to mind: “We often don’t take the risk or time to stand before another long enough for their truth to surface.” So again, pausing in the moment is present. As we stand before another, boldness in speaking our truth is balanced with an attitude of inquiry and a state of mindfulness, of full awareness and attention. We must step away from our own constructed thought worlds to be present and available for the other person.

Language is a profoundly conditioned and habitual way of understanding one another. There is no way to ever know exactly what the other person means and no way to be certain of how we are perceived. When we bring mindfulness and centered awareness to dialogue, we begin to see more deeply how associations, words and gestures can be triggers for us. It is possible to watch reactive thinking and how the body responds to our thought constructs. In short, speaking the truth and listening deeply is a potential for great learning. The beauty of people being present with one another cultivates freedom in speaking and listening, and holds the promise for peace in the world.

Once again, we are gathered in the meditation hall, sitting with all that is and trusting what arises. I sense a fluid motion between anticipating closure and returning to “now”. As a group, we are about to practice “listening deeply and speaking the truth”. We are contemplating “wanting things to be different”. As the bell rings, I stand to join another, face to face. I have absolutely no idea what will happen next. With simple serenity, I step into the moment.

“If you listen,
not to the pages or preachers
but to the smallest flower
growing from a crack
in your heart,
you will hear a great song
moving across a wide ocean
whose water is the music
connecting all the islands
of the universe together, and touching all
you will feel it
touching you
around you . . .
embracing you
with light.”


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