Today, as I awake in my solitary little room at the Saint Francis Retreat Centre in Auckland, I’m filled with a deep gratitude so whole and consuming, I struggle to find the words to describe it. And I’m rarely at a loss for words, as anyone who knows me knows well.
The energy of this place always fills me with love and even excitement. That this facility is run by Franciscan friars, and I am a Buddhist, makes no difference to me. Their reverence for Jesus looks and feels the same as my reverence for the Three Jewels. There is no separation when I’m in a place of love. There are no differences, conflicts or opposition. Only connection and community.
Being on retreat always has such a transformative affect on my spirit. Being surrounded by a community of fellow seekers satisfies my spiritual appetite so completely. That I am blessed to be able to go on retreats as often as I do in various mediums (yoga, meditation, Buddhist and recovery-based, to name a few) fills me with enormous gratitude.
For my 50th birthday, I spent the week at a yoga & meditation retreat on a beautiful beach near my home. It was a time of celebration, connection, community and love. I made new friends and deepened a friendship I already enjoyed. My heart was open and my mind was stimulated in so many ways I struggled to keep up. It was the perfect way to step into the next half-century of my life. The idea of a big boozy party (and I don’t even drink) had no appeal to me. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good party and am often found dancing on the table tops. But I began this year with the commitment to myself that I would explore every opportunity that came my way that I felt would bring more balance, love, adventure and serenity to my life. And so far I’m having the best year ever!!
It started off rocky with a strange transition from the woman I’ve always been to this new woman that needed to emerge. I found I was at first uncomfortable, self conscious and feeling like I didn’t belong in the life I had created. I felt isolated and alone. I was the stranger at the party that didn’t speak the language. After the ass kicking I got last year, which repeatedly knocked me over, I struggled with how to integrate this new energy. I knew it was time to make some major changes in my approach to life but where to start eluded me at first.
I compiled the following list of aspirations to go forward with, which I admit seemed daunting at first, but as I learned in recovery, easy does it. Just take one step at a time and each day as it comes. I only needed to focus on the next indicated thing.
Here is my list:
* Step out of my comfort zone regularly;
* Move away from relationships that don’t nourish me and deepen the connections with those people that do nourish my soul;
* Say no to what I don’t want and hell yes to what I do want;
* Be fully present in my interactions with others;
* Choose my state of consciousness rather than being swallowed up by negativity;
* Have confidence in my power to steer my mind toward happiness and peace, and away from chaos and anger;
* Find compassion for myself so that I may be more compassionate toward others;
* And lastly, when I’m caught up in a cycle of “doing,” stop and step into “BE-ing.”
“BE-ing” means to me a place of awareness, of real presence. “Doing” is almost always in an attempt to move away from the present moment. When I’m overwhelmed with doing-ness, it’s invariably my attempt at proving myself worthy. It’s my egoistic way of ensuring I’m seen as capable and intelligent. That’s not to say we don’t need to get shit done and have goals. It simply means that running myself into the ground to prove my value is the opposite of BE-ing, which allows for mindful presence, acceptance of what is, right in this moment. It says, “Jana! Stop, breathe and check your motivation. What are you trying to achieve here? What are you trying to prove?” If I’m doing from a place of BE-ing, my motivation is to bring benefit to others in my life and/or the collective whole. If my doing is motivated by ego, which needs to be recognised and praised then I have to recalibrate my intentions. The biggest clue to when I’m in a place of BE-ing is a sense of calm and clarity. When I’m stressed, angry, chaotic and buzzy, my ego is totally in charge! This is where my burn out comes from. Not from being too busy but with filling my life with busyness to prove my worth. Wearing it like a badge of honour that says, “Look how important I am to have so much to do.”
So this year, I’m striving toward balance. There is a season for busting butt and gettin’ shit handled, and a season for going into retreat/holiday mode to refill my cup, while always being mindful of what my primary motivation is in each task.
I’d now like to make an offering of my favourite prayer, the Prayer of St. Francis:
“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Next up, Bali baby!!