I'm in Sedona, Arizona this week at the Sedona Method 7 Day Retreat (www.sedona.com). I'm enjoying being, and letting go of doing, at least for this week. So, here's a piece I wrote in January on a snowy New England morning after returning from my first trip to Sedona. New writings will appear next week...
There are blessings in the snowflakes, benedictions of peace and love and joy, falling from the sky. The earth is blanketed with silence, my house is silent too. I try to be as quiet, on the inside, as the space that surrounds me. Trying though, is struggling, so I stop trying, and just rest as silence…listening for God.
God’s voice is very quiet – like a hum, low but steady, always there beneath the surface noise of this world, and my chattering thoughts. God spoke to me in Sedona, in the land of the Red Rocks, the sacred sites of Native Americans, and the energy vortexes that twist the limbs of trees as they spiral towards heaven. I traveled to Sedona in December, to spend a week at a meditation retreat. It was all very last minute, I almost cancelled the day before, feeling the constraints of my world closing in. But somehow I found myself on the plane, then in Phoenix, then on a shuttle bus to Sedona. The landscape spread out before me – desert and cactus and pinons and mountains. The mountains were red, and the color was like food for my eyes. I wanted to soak it up, from my eyes directly to my brain, then to my heart and body and soul. I was hungry for the color – the deep red mountains against the brilliant blue sky.
In Sedona, my body was humming all the time, a low vibration in every cell of my being, a gentle energy flowing through me, waking me up, inviting me to be present. I welcomed it at first, and effortlessly slid into a different state of being. The meditations were powerful and easy. Too easy, thought my mind that always wants to make trouble for me. So in the middle of the retreat I hit the wall. Didn’t want to meditate, wanted to sleep, be away from the people I was engaging with, wanted to isolate myself, crawl into my familiar cave of ignorance. But, the gentle vibrations of Sedona broke through that wall, letting God’s love flow again.
I’ve been on many retreats over the years, I’ve sat for hours on the meditation cushion, quieting my mind, wrestling with my demons, glimpsing peace and yearning for more. This experience was different, although it’s difficult to find the words that describe just how it was different. This was easy, effortless, as old beliefs slid away, revealing the truth beneath that there is nothing to be done, that all is well as it is. I laughed more than ever that week. And the laughter was also a way to release burdens, to sing praise to the Universe.
Sometimes the retreat leader, Hale Dwoskin, would start laughing, and before we knew it, we were all laughing, the room was filled with laughter, echoing between the distant red mountains outside, and the tender walls of my heart. There was the hearty laughter of another that caught my heart, and caused it to skip a beat – the big Texan, with the deep, smooth drawl and brilliant golden/green eyes. The man who once lived on sailboats, and had just moved to Sedona. Who would have imagined I would meet a sailor in Sedona, another spiritual seeker, with a laugh that makes my bones vibrate. Such a sweet connection was formed – sitting across from one another at dinner that first night –when we realized we were both sailors, then having lunch later in the week, surfing the internet with his laptop – sharing our favorite sailing websites. Then my last day in Sedona, driving through the canyons and up into the mountains together. A perfect day of ease, of being with another without expectation. I hear him laugh now, and it shakes the snow from the highest branches of the trees in my backyard.
On other retreats, coming home has not been easy, as a matter of fact it has been disastrous, as I try to reconcile the peace and quiet of meditating with a supportive spiritual community, with the life of a single parent with 3 teenagers. I used to compare re-entry to my life with that of the space shuttle entering the atmosphere after its peaceful orbit of the planet. Would I be able to withstand the pressures, the friction, would my heat shield fail?
But this time, there seemed little difference between here and there, almost no separation between the world I discovered in Sedona, and the world I returned to. The world is the same, it’s me that’s changed. My fear of heights is gone – as is the disabling anxiety that used to grip me when I drove over bridges. I’ve driven to Portland, Maine, and southern NJ since I returned. At least 10 bridges – all of which I struggled with in the past – but now I traveled with ease. No fear. Just incredible views of the Pemigewasset River, the Hudson, the inland waterways of coastal NJ and the great Atlantic Ocean beyond. My ‘story’ is that bridges represented transition for me, going from the known to the unknown, and that however much I might want to get to the other side, I might avoid the trip altogether because of fear. Could I allow myself to be as fearless in all areas of my life? Could I welcome the unknown, let go of trying to figure everything out, let go of wanting to know how the story will end before I even start writing it?
Life has supplied an abundance of challenges since my return – my mother had a mild stroke, my youngest son had a mild concussion, and yet time spent in hospitals and nursing homes did not carry the same energy as in the past. I wouldn’t say it was stress free, but there was more ease than I would have expected, especially when I remembered to ask for divine guidance, and to listen to the silence. And my inner life is busy as ever, as I wrestle with my demons, although maybe now it’s not wrestling, it’s more like Aikido, redirecting the energy, letting it all arise and be released, lightening the burden of attachment and aversion, leaving room for God.
I close my eyes and I see the powerful red rocks of Sedona, emanating their own energy and healing. I open my eyes and I’m here, in the snowy white world of silence. I hear God whispering. Each snowflake is a blessing, a benediction, a quiet reminder to be still, to listen, to simply be.