Saturday, October 23, 2010

Permission to do nothing

In my room at the retreat, there were four pieces of paper when I arrived. An envelope for a donation. I set it aside as I had written a check when I first arrived. There was a schedule of the services, meals, prayer times, a little bit about the Abbey and the life there. There was a map of the many acres with hiking trails and old roads and ideas for walks. And there was a goldenrod sheet of suggestions for a successful retreat.

At the heart of the suggestions was quietude. Just being so that God could find us, God could plug into us, and not the other way around. You may have come with problems to solve, it said. Just rest and be and the answers will come. You may have come to find something. Just rest and be and it will arrive.

In so many ways, this page seemed written for me. This desire to do little, this desire to wait and be spoken to. This desire to rest easy and see what might happen. I have been on perhaps a half-dozen Buddhist retreats. All lovely and soothing. But I had always wanted to get somewhere. To deepen my practice, be a better Buddhist, improve somehow. I had come with problems to solve and with each meditation when it didn’t feel solved, I felt frustrated. Each time I meditated and fell asleep, I felt unworthy. I was longing then too but figured I had to do something with the longing, not just wait.

When my spiritual director spoke of her retreat during seminary, of doing relatively nothing, the idea both frightened me and called to me. And I knew, in that moment, that it was something I wanted and needed to do. That I needed to let go of my identity as an overachiever, as the one in charge, in control, and responsible for the universe, if only for a few days. To see what that was like. To learn by not doing. To see what contemplation and rest could do for me.

And here in these suggestions was all the permission I needed.

1 comment:

sorella said...

Dear Jill,

You mentioned in your prior post how those of us who know you would be surprised at your resting and not doing much when you arrived at the abbey. Frankly, I'm not surprised at all! You have expressed a great yearning for such a way of being for a long time now.

An instructor for a screenwriting seminar that I took a long time ago congratulated us first thing: "Many people paid for this seminar and did not show up," he explained, "and some of them may have made it as far as the parking lot." He praised us for our courage in coming into the auditorium.

When you stepped out of your car, that was your biggest, bravest move. BRAVA! It seems your challenge is to figure out how to give yourself permission; once you "get in the auditorium," you have a clear sense of what you want to do (rest, not hurry, not overload on responsibility). Perhaps your relationship with food has kept you from noticing when those opportunities come up, or from taking them when you ARE aware of them, in your daily routine?