I received a precious early birthday gift while leading a retreat with Jenny Hayo in Guatemala last week. Per Jenny’s request, every morning we held silence as a group until after breakfast.
At 6am we met in the Tara Temple and practiced meditation for 30 minutes. During meditation, the moonlit darkness of night would shift shift to light and we’d open our eyes to brightness for our two hour asana and pranayama practice.
Most mornings I would sit on the dock after practice for a few minutes before eating, and watch a local fisherman in his wooden skiff. At the breakfast bell I would walk to fill my plate and eat in silence, sometimes seated with others, sometimes alone. The birds were the only ones talking, and we could hear their different calls.
The last two days of our retreat, my swimming buddy and I agreed to jump in the gorgeous lake before meditation. A tap on my window, a short walk in the dark to the dock, a running dive, and then silent stealth-operation hike back to our cabins for warm showers. No words, but a few giggles after the plunge. We were kids again.
By the end of the week, I began to crave silence. At first I was distracted and resisted, but at times I felt like an explorer, moving into the unknown, pulled into the depths of consciousness that continue to unfold. I was ready, for this stillness, for this gift.
Tomorrow I turn 40 years old. I am thrilled at the prospect, and feel lucky and grateful to have had a week on retreat to prepare for this milestone. Though I was one of the retreat leaders, we all had hours of free time, a luxury I don’t experience very often at home. I didn’t check email, I made only two phone calls, and I came back to my family and work completely refreshed. Check out a few photos from our trip. The last photo captures how I felt at the end of the retreat.
I look forward to celebrating with lots of you on Sunday March 14 at 8 Limbs Capitol Hill for my Birthday Celebration/Kirtan with Sean Johnson & The Wild Lotus Band. Click here for event details.
Lastly, it occurred to me this week that though I need/want nothing for my birthday, if you have a poem to share, I would take it gladly.
Posted by: Anne Phyfe Palmer, Director 8 Limbs