Going on Retreat
At the end of August each year I attend a 2-week meditation retreat. This is an important time for me to exit from my busy life and look inward and upward for direction in my life. There is a large group of us who congregate at these events and we generally like each other’s company a lot. We have time to socialize in the morning over coffee (@ 5:30 am) prior to practice, and we work together during the daytime breaks, creating a sense of community and personal usefulness for being of service.
But the most important part takes place during the 3 meditation sessions each day, which can last from 2 – 5 hours in length. As we are guided by our Guru to connect more and more with the power, peace and knowledge that exists within, all sorts of insights, memories, insecurities and competencies are revealed. Studying ancient Eastern spirituality gives a refreshing perspective that can provide a rudder and a search light in life. It allows each of us to recognize we are much more than our physical self or our so-called material or professional success. This opens up new ways of being in the world that for me, are much more meaningful.
Life comes with a healthy dose of suffering for most of us. Survival often means putting up our guards and moving on, never really resolving or making peace with the hurt and/or anger. During meditation I get an uninterrupted opportunity to pull down the zipper on my defenses and begin to embrace parts of myself that are normally drowned out by the noise of everyday life.
Taking Time to Look Within
Growing up I learned not think too highly of myself because it was considered arrogant – “full of myself”. I learned that any real success came with a price tag – the danger of losing those who could not or would not dare to risk, like I was willing to. The benefit of looking within is the opportunity to heal old messages that can damage self esteem and cripple our significant relationships. I had one such message surface, totally unexpectedly one day.
Here’s what happened. My mind began to wander onto a presentation I was planning for my Master Mentoring group, based on something I was “proud” of. I knew what I wanted to do and I was letting myself play with some ideas about it. Then, suddenly – like a great white shark torpedoing out of the depths of the darkness – came this immense sorrow. I was crying as I “remembered” how embarrassed I was made to feel for being “too big for my britches”. As hard as it is to make sense of, it was not ok to be too happy, too smart or too proud of my accomplishments. An environment where achieving 98% on a test was not enough, leaves little room for feeling good about one’s self or for building on one’s success. I know I’m not alone when I talk about the shaming I endured for wanting more from life. I’ve talked to so many others who have had similar experiences to this.
I embraced this ‘feeling memory’ that surfaced and created a loving acceptance that despite all the years of therapy I have done, there was still residual pain around this issue. Transforming pain begins with the conscious awareness that it exists. Only then can we pledge to disentangle the pain of the past from the life we chose in the present. Our present can be full of success and proud and grateful moments – only if we can allow it. We can only allow it if we are not running on old limiting beliefs about our worthiness.
The greatest gift we get from creating time and space to go inward is the ability to access the wisdom that is already there – to “know” that we really do have everything we are seeking externally, within ourselves. That’s why I love “The 4 Agreements” – that small but powerful book written by Don Miguel Ruiz. He has summed up how to keep our focus on what matters – bringing our best qualities forward. By developing this awareness, we can live a good life based on sound principles.
I think when Ruiz wrote his book, he was offering us a recipe for accessing the best of ourselves that is lying dormant within.
The 4 Agreements are:
- Be impeccable with you word. This means to speak truthfully but also do so in a way that does not hurt others.
- Don’t take anything personally. This means that you begin to separate yourself out from what others say and do and recognize that it is a projection of their inner world. As Ruiz says, “when you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.”
- Don’t make assumptions. This means that we have to develop a curiosity about others that allows us to ask good questions and get to know someone without believing that we can or should know. If you think about, the only way you would know is by ‘assuming’ the other was ‘just like you’ as you are your only point of reference.
- Always do your best. This means you accept that on any given day all you can and must ask of yourself is to show up and make an effort. It doesn’t mean you are always going to be “on” and in fact, the real test comes when you can allow the flow of energy within to guide you. Some days you may have tons of energy and others very little. In the former, you get a lot done, in the latter, you learn to take time to rest. This is what it means to be your best.
Putting it in Practice
If this is important to you, see if you can make some time and space in your busy life to challenge yourself to apply one of the 4 agreements each day. Put your focus on this task without being hard on yourself in any way, or setting your expectations too high. Know that if you begin to bring awareness to how you are being more of who you aspire to be; this is who you will become. Feel free to leave a comment letting us know about your success.
Next time, I’ll send out a follow up that focuses on how we can use the 4 agreements in our relationships.
Until then, I wish all the best in you from the best in me,