The energy of excitement filled me as I prepared for Unity on Greenville’s recent Sacred Silence Retreat. I moved about with great anticipation for another day of community shared silence. You see, being in silence is one of my favorite experiences. Touching the depth of silence within and communing with Divine Wisdom only causes me to yearn for more. I imagined gathering together, partaking in lovingly prepared foods that would nourish our bodies as we stepped out of the cacophony of sound and into the silence of our souls.
I woke extra early abuzz with energy for the day and the possibilities for what might be for each precious soul who partakes of this day of silence. With the car finally packed, my beloveds (Micah, Sophia, Arthur, and Luna) fed, hugged, and sprinkled with love, out the door I go. I’m on my way toward all that shall be revealed in the adventures of the silence.
As I arrive at the retreat site, I notice rambling thoughts that had been rolling around in the corners of my mind are now front and center. They are demanding my undivided attention. I pause for a time of mindfulness calling to mind the words of Thich Nhat Hanh:
Breathing in, I notice I am breathing in. Breathing out, I notice I am breathing out.
Breathing in, I notice my breath is deep. Breathing out, I notice my breath is slow.
Breathing I calm my body and my mind. Breathing out, I am at ease.
Breathing in, I smile. Breathing out, I release.
Breathing in, I return to this very moment. Breathing out, I know this is a wonderful moment.
Once again I am present and focused. I thoughtfully go about setting the alter for the day, moving peacefully around the space allowing each object to find its rightful place.
Our first experience is a labyrinth walk – in silence of course. I mindfully follow the path to the labyrinth. I pause briefly to pick up a smooth stone and slip it into my pocket reminding my self that by remaining mindful, I will infuse our retreat space with a peaceful presence.
I step onto the labyrinth and bow for the blessings of the sacred journey within. In moments, I noticed the spaces where the stones have shifted on the path and the earth peeks through. I noticed the spaces where the stones spilled over its boundary. I notice the large square pavers on one section of the path and speculate on their purpose. I noticed the spaces where blades of grass have made their way through the stones. Oh, the many things I noticed! Somewhat frustrated that I have so easily become distracted, yet again I slip my hands into my pockets and feel the smooth surface of the small stone. Ah, I thought, a reminder stone to bring myself once again to “present moment, wonderful moment.” I put aside feelings of self-deprecation and in a flash I am once again moving along the path and toward the center of the labyrinth. When I arrive at the center of the labyrinth, I pause and listen. In the quiet, I recall the story of a young Catholic nun who wondered about the ten thousand distracting thoughts she had as she practiced contemplative prayer. The words that the priest shared with her ring true for me this day. “Ten thousand distracting thoughts proved ten thousand opportunities to once again turn toward God.” I take these words to heart and continue on for a glorious day of contemplation.