I have been leading ‘Soul Care’ retreats for 12 years and been experiencing the ‘journey into stillness’ for over 15 years now. I would never have chosen this, but in a way it chose me and I became a student and learned and continue to learn what it has to teach me.
The essence of the Soul Care retreats I facilitate (whether a few hours or a few days) is to create a space where one can have the opportunity to enter into stillness, with oneself, with others, and ultimately become awakened to the Presence of Love within and all around.
I recently spoke with a teen music student of mine who told me how much he hated being alone and how much he hated silence. I find that most people are rather uncomfortable with even the thought of being alone, much less being alone with silence. There is a lot of anxiety around both of these elements.
I too was extremely anxious when faced with both solitude and stillness and would never have thought to pursue them as gifts of transformation in my life. However, it was when I was extremely distraught and fragmented in my mind and heart that I experienced 5 minutes of group silence for the first time. I thought my mind would burst. It was running wild with irritations and discomfort. I couldn’t wait for it to be over.
I thought it was a complete waste of time. The surprise came later. I found that the silence even for those 5 minutes had been like a big spoon carving an opening of space in the clutter of my heart. And I found that it changed me. It created an awareness, a curiosity, a softening.
When I had a chance to then attend a two day retreat at a nearby Trappist Monastery, I said yes. What happened to me in those days simply changed the course of my life and I’ve never been the same.
The stillness and the silence evoked an awareness of the state of my being. Which wasn’t that pretty to be honest. I was troubled. I was angry. I was distraught. But what happened was then an opportunity to be real. To really face what was inside of me and to allow it to emerge into the light. I was terrified when I allowed that honesty to emerge. But that journey of soul honesty became the template for increasing soul freedom which I sing about today.
When I first began on this journey, my dear mother whom I love was not impressed. She said, ‘why would you go be silent? Why would you go on retreat? Aren’t you just navel gazing?’ I didn’t know the answer to that at the time. However, I learned that I wasn’t navel gazing. I was learning to gaze at the One who truly loves me and in receiving that gaze, I could know a love that allows for heart transformation like no other. In turn, I have been called to live out from that gaze. That gaze is known in the quiet and stillness of the soul.
For upcoming Soul Care retreats go to: http://cathyajhardy.com/events/
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