I just returned from a week of sitting in silence in a beautiful lakeside home with a view of snow-capped mountains. For the first few days, my storyteller was fairly quiet. I was fully open to life, right here, right now. We are all homesick for this: actually experiencing life as it is happening (rather than thinking about it!) In this spacious state, when my storyteller would start telling stories, it was easy to see that they were just stories and I could let them go.
On the third day, however, when I woke up, the deep fear I took on being raised in a very unhealthy environment came to the surface. A part of me knew that my fear wanted to be included in this spacious healing place I was in, but a very young part of me was afraid of the fear and resisted it. At the same time, I could see that resistance was amplifying it. So I turned toward it, bringing it my accepting attention. As I was willing to directly experience the fear in my body, it moved right on through me, leaving a deep sense of joy in its wake. This is what Rumi means when he says: “Don’t turn away. Keep your gaze on the bandaged places. That’s where the light enters you.”
The fear came again four more times during the week, and each time there was initial resistance, but then a willingness arose to actually befriend this fear. Such joy! At some level, for most of my life, I have been afraid of my own fear so, in a sense, it was running my life. But when I was willing to directly experience it – to honestly look at what was going on inside of me – it lost its power over me. I came out of this retreat with this statement: “In every closing there is an opening. Stay open to the closing.” And, “Fear is nothing to be afraid of!”
You can’t be this open to life by trying to be open. That is just more struggle. How we come back to life is to first understand that most of the time we experience stories about life, rather than being in life. In other words we think about life rather than actually experiencing it. It is such a wondrously nourishing experience to actually be open to life again like we were when we were very young! This is what Eckhart Tolle means when he talks about being in the now.
We don’t need to stop this storyteller in our heads that is always trying to do life and do it right. All that is needed is to discover how to see it and touch it with our hearts. The more we do this, the more its stories dissolve like the morning fog does when touched by the sun. This is why I offer semi-silent retreats – so we can see our storytellers and see how afraid they are and discover that we don’t have to identify with them, whether they are stories of fear, shame, anger, or even despair.
I leave you with a few lines from a poem called “Dancing,” from Steve Deverel’s new book of poetry called Whispers from the Awakening Heart. It is a very rich little book of nourishing, heart-inspiring poems that remind us how to stay open to ourselves no matter what is happening, so we can stay open to life!
How does one enter this dance?
Only one thing is needed:
Watch in stillness with beginner’s mind,
Let thoughts float in open heart space
Like butterflies in the meadow
And fireflies flickering and fading into nothingness.
Openly receive each moment and you will know freedom.
Easier than you think
hold not to freeze-dried mental models
that imprison the soul and obscure the Dance of Life Now.
Let heart flow to what it needs.
Feel life directly
You already know.
Be light, Mary