My Silent Retreat: The Shift

Lake at Sacred Heart, sunrise

Lake at Sacred Heart, sunrise

I ended my last post saying I would write about the shift that I’ve felt coming for a while.  I’ll pick back up on the third day of the retreat when I was so very tense and then had some release.

Typically, the third day of a silent retreat is hard for me.  I had a retreat leader years ago say that on the third day, the world becomes a mirror.  That you see yourself in everyone.  And that often what you see isn’t the self you like.  I think I start to see my Jungian shadow self.  But honestly, this time I was so absorbed in trying to reframe that I hardly noticed others.

That mirror came later in the retreat for me.  But the third day was significant because I felt myself let go some.  I awoke the next morning feeling much better.  I felt less tense and somehow lighter.  The energy was still powerful.  I’m sure my chakras were still very open.

Between breakfast and the 10:30 centering prayer session, I sat on a bench on the hill by Mary Hall.  In past years, this bench was used a lot because it was in the flow of where we retreatants walked to the meditation room and to the dining hall.  But this year, the flow shifted.  The new retreat center is on the other end of the monastery, so this bench was open nearly all of the retreat.  You can see the lake from it, and it typically has a nice breeze.  It was given in honor of Sister Maurus and has “Om Shanti” engraved on it.  That’s not what you typically expect from a Catholic monastery, but my experience has been that many nuns and monks are very open.  This bench felt like the right place for reflection.

I thought of how this place was once a college campus as well as a monastery (read here for the monastery/convent explanation) and that now the old college dorm, Mary Hall, was about to be torn down.  That the flow of this retreat center was shifting.  And I realized that I was experiencing a shift.  I’ve gone on centering prayer retreats at Sacred Heart four times in the past six years, and I’ve visited there on shorter personal retreats quarterly these past 12 months.  But last Tuesday, as I sat on the Sister Maurus bench, I realized that I didn’t feel the attachment to this place anymore.  That something had shifted.

I didn’t feel sad.  I felt grateful that this place had provided me something I needed.  But now I didn’t need that anymore.  I may visit again, but it won’t be with the same attachment.

And that’s another thing that has shifted lately.  Many places that have felt like “home” no longer feel that way.  I think I’m experiencing nonattachment.  I don’t dislike these places.  I just don’t feel attached to them anymore.  It’s a freeing feeling.

The feeling of a shift continued during the 10:30 session, and after lunch I was drawn to the labyrinth.  Before I began my walk (here’s my earlier post on that procedure), my prayer was “I am open to any guidance and miracles.”

Sacred Heart Labyrinth

Sacred Heart Labyrinth

As soon as I stepped into the labyrinth, I saw the compass that is always there.  In this photo, it’s between the white-looking rectangles to the right of where you enter the labyrinth and take the turn to the left.  This labyrinth faces east, as most labyrinths do.

The compass has always pointed east.

On this day, however,  it indicated west (and a hickory nut was on top of the marker).

What??!  I knew that the sun set behind where I was standing.  The compass was backward!  I thought that it was made of stone and was a permanent marker, but I realized I had to be wrong about that.  I bent over and picked it up.  It was made of plastic.  Someone had put the compass down backward.

Or had they?

I wasn’t sure what to make of this message.  I continued into the labyrinth, walking the path to the center.  When I reached it, I breathed in the moment, looked in all four cardinal directions, and began the path out.  A mantra came into my consciousness and matched the rhythm of my steps.

I am, I am reborn.

I chanted that in cadence my mind as I walked out.  When I was almost at the emergence point, I heard a big creeeeak!  It was the gate to the nuns’ cemetery.  The wind had blown it open.  Hmmm.  I kept walking.

I felt lighter, more free as I walked the path out and emerged from the labyrinth.  It felt like a birth.  Some say the labyrinth is a womb, and the Cretan version (of which this is one) is sometimes associated with this image.  That sure felt right to me.

I was happy, lighter, so very, very grateful.

Cemetery at Sacred Heart

Cemetery at Sacred Heart

I was about to walk back to the dorm, but then I remembered the cemetery gate.  Maybe I should take a look around inside.  But just before I arrived at the gate, when I was a few steps away, the wind blew it shut!  I felt the Trickster at work.  The cemetery isn’t the place for me to explore now.  I’m having a rebirth.  I’ve looked at death recently, but this time now is not death-focused.

Birth is my cycle right now.

I wanted to pack up and get in my car and drive home at that very moment.  Because it was for this that I came.  This was my shift.

But the retreat didn’t end until Friday.  This was only Tuesday.

So I stayed.

And my next post will deal with the rest of the retreat.  Post-shift retreat.

4 thoughts on “My Silent Retreat: The Shift

  1. Pingback: I Know More Than I Know | eddiesandcurrents

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