2015 Spring Renewal Meditation Retreat Recap

One Dharma just completed our fourth Spring Renewal Residential Retreat at Bethany Hills. Each April I especially enjoy our time in this beautiful and natural setting where our hearts can open in tandem with the flowers and leaves after spring rains.

Ferns by the Pond at Bethany Hills

Ferns by the Pond at Bethany Hills

altarflowers

Altar Flowers by Frankie Fachilla

I appreciate all of nature’s seasons but spring is my favorite. In my twenties, during some of the darkest, loneliest years of my life, immersing myself in spring each year gave me a sense of possibility that my life could be more than the sadness and grief I lived with daily. As I witnessed newly leafed trees growing greener each day, purple wild iris opening along the water’s edge, and birds breaking into a melodious but raucous symphony every morning as the sun rose, I allowed my heart to open completely, to release my armor and touch the warmth and vulnerability of new life. This tenderness of heart nourished and fortified me through this otherwise long and lonely season of my life. Slowly, as the years passed and I reached my 30’s, the possibility of renewal that had once seemed so removed from the rest of my life blossomed at last. This awakening enabled me to live my life more fully, to move through my grief and find friends and love again. Thank you spring for sustaining and warming my heart when I had no other way to touch this moment with love and gratitude.

Double Web

Double Web

These two lovely poems, speak to the retreat experience of opening heart and mind in this moment. Both were written by attendees at our spring retreat.

Water Meditation

Water extinguishes fire
Takes away the angry,
burning desire to eat
everything in its path.
Be water,
drown in this moment.
Watch the world and its stories
pass like waves.
They aren’t yours to grab.
Try to grab them and
they disappear like
scattered stars,
reforming later, still
constellations of emptiness.

Instead, let the waves
crash over you,
their powerful fingers
tear at you then recede
into foamy nothing.
Crash and recede, crash and recede.
Nothing to do
but feel the sun.

– Andrea Hewitt

Cattails by Pond

Cattails by Pond

The retreat ended, rain stopped.
The geese have landed at the lake,
Sun shining thru clouds, I see clearly.

– Jeff Miller

Reflect1

Clear Skies Reflected in Pond

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Guest Blog from Saturday’s Writing and Meditation Workshop

February is always a little tricky for scheduling events — there’s always the chance, no matter how slight, of snow. Last year I awoke to snow on the day my writing and meditation workshop was scheduled and I deliberated for a couple of hours whether to cancel it. Ultimately I went forward as the temperatures warmed up  just in time to melt the snow. This Friday on the eve of my workshop, the Weather Channel predicted an 80% chance of snow with a 1″ accumulation for Saturday morning. I went to bed unsure whether the workshop would happen.  Thankfully, though, the snow passed us by again here in Nashville. We may be one of only a few southern cities to have avoided snow this year – so far.

During the workshop everyone had a chance to read their writing in small, intimate groups or at the end of the day, to everyone there. Andrea Hewitt read a beautiful and inspiring essay she wrote that morning and I want to share it with you here:

When It’s Time to Fly

Andrea Hewitt

What touched me today was reading about the actress Ellen Page’s coming out and particularly watching the video on the Human Rights Campaign website. Here was this accomplished young actress speaking in front of a crowd–something I’m sure she has done many times before. You could hear the nervousness in her voice–the wavering and uncertainty.

But what I was most transfixed by were her hands. They were shaking so much that she had to hold them cupped together for almost the entire time. At one point, she let them go to make a point, and they were like tiny birds released, but still unsure of how high to fly.

About halfway through her speech when she finally said the words, “I’m gay,” and the audience stood and cheered for her, I thought, “Wouldn’t it be marvelous if everyone upon coming out had a cheering audience swelling with whoops of joy, mirroring back to you the terrifyingly awesome feeling of finally releasing your authentic self out of your mouth and into the world?”

It’s like watching a birth: the long wait and gestation before, the agonizing pains of labor, but then the deep knowing that there is no going backwards–in fact, what’s back no longer exists even–and you are propelled into a shiny, brand new, sparkling world that blinds you with its rightness. And you wonder how you ever lived in the dull past with you old, small, tightly-reined-in self.

Letting it all go–the expectations, the dreams of someone else for you, your own dreams that never quite fit no matter how you cut and sewed and re-sewed them–it’s the scariest thing ever. It’s tough enough to do that for yourself and your family & close friends privately, let alone on a widely-broadcast YouTube video.

But to live every day as authentically as you can–what a gift to yourself and the world! I could see the relief on her face when the words came out of her mouth. Naming ourselves, saying the words, and believing that you can say them and there will be a bridge to carry you to the other side requires such a leap of faith.

I remember testing out the words myself before I dared to speak them aloud to anyone. It felt like I had a tiny baby bird inside me–me, its nest–and it was time to push her out. Keeping her in the once-safe nest was no longer an option for that would only stunt her growth. I had to have faith that her wings were ready and strong enough to take on the world.  It was her time to fly.

Please go by and visit Andrea’s new blog: A Late Life Lesbian Story