Two weekends ago I ran a retreat called the Wild Woman Experience. It was certainly wild, but not in the loose or crazy way.
It was wild in the most natural way.
It was the kind of wild we find when we peel away the layers of tech, stress and ambition.
It was precisely the kind of wild that meditation leads us to.
Contrary to popular belief, the practice of meditation is symbolic of Life itself. It's not just about sitting on the mat and 'watching the thoughts'. Meditation precipitates a grand unravelling of our psychology, and it continues to show us more and more who we are.
If we are fiery we will see it. If we are full of grief or guilt, we'll notice that too.
By creating stillness we become the silent witness of our thoughts, habits and behaviours.
Meditation is our teacher. It isn't something we need to strive for. We can just sit and do nothing and let the show begin.
With some gentle guidance we learn not to use what we discover about ourself against ourself. Insight (vipassana) is not about seeing our flaws and then self-flagellating until we become perfect. It is simply a means of coming to observe ourselves and letting that teach us.
We'll soon realise we don't need to start digging a grave in which we will bury all our bad habits. On the contrary, we can gently hold the truth in the inner well of our heart and let it rest there.
We learn to watch from a patient distance as our fears bubble up to the surface. We might see how we armour up in certain situations or cower away from speaking our truth.
These are the beautiful and perfect lessons of our meditation.
This continuous flowering happens 'off the mat' as we go about our lives. With increased humility and accommodation we might softly choose to take a different path. But it doesn't matter if we don't.
Becoming different or 'better' isn't something we need to achieve.
When we realise we aren't broken and don't need to be fixed, bearing witness to our inner world becomes a nod to – and from – the soul. In time we might look in the mirror and see someone new.
We might still carry a lot of fire but now we're more aware of it. We'll sense it rising and be able to sit next to it rather than spray it all over our family or colleagues.
Likewise, our grief becomes an old friend who we sit with. Through mindful awareness we cease the need to reject or deny our truth and instead we become able to hold it.
On retreat we get to do this in a more intentional way.
We can shake out our trauma, or chant mantra till our heads are spinning or we can breathe our way into an altered state of consciousness.
Or, we can approach a retreat with a gentle reminder that this can be a time to Do Nothing.
We can simply sit.
We can allow ourselves the opportunity to enjoy some space from our busy lives and busier minds.
Softness and slowness are not places we generally inhabit. We prefer to gargle dynamic energy, punchy one-liners and consistent doing.
But we can choose something different. And when we do, it might take us by surprise.
Our ego will want to know What Are We Doing Next?
But, imagine what could happen if we just sat there and allowed the retreat or our meditation to do the work.
At worst, our nervous system will co-regulate with Nature and we'll feel more serene. Or, if we're lucky, something even deeper might awaken inside of us.
We might realise that even though we're technically doing 'nothing', we are more whole and complete in those moments than we had ever previously recognised.
We might come to realise that we are enough.
That we do not need to do anything to be worthy of life's grace.
That we do not need to perform in order to be loveable.
That we are so whole and complete just as we are and we never need to put on a show or express anything in order to be seen, felt or understood.
We might realise that by incessantly 'doing all the things' we actually detract from our natural beauty. It is our persistent competition with others, ourselves, and ultimately Nature, that makes us feel inadequate.
Because the truth is, we are divine beings and can never not be that.
The only reason we feel we need to prove ourselves is because we've forgotten what we really are: Pure Hearts that just want to Love and Be Loved. It's easy to forget that because we simultaneously exist in a physical realm of jobs, mortgages and grocery lists.
But underneath it we are all the same. We are Sat Cit Anand (pure bliss consciousness).
And we needn't meditate to know that (although it can act as a pathway).
There are so many paths.
In order to know ourselves and experience our bliss, we can do the opposite to what we've been programmed to believe is true…
We can peel back the layers.
Step away from the TV.
Take a walk in Nature.
Breathe the air from the lungs of the earth.
Look at the sky.
Touch the ground, or dip our toes in the ocean or a river, or lake.
Watch a butterfly as it dances past on its way to somewhere…
When we do that, something happens. Our minds have the chance to become more still. And when that happens, the heart begins to peep out from behind its armour and it steps into the sunlight.
As the Wild Woman retreat showed me, when we stop and listen, the world opens up into a vast and magical space where everything is possible.
Sure, we can return to our lives and watch TV and eat all the things. Nothing needs to change. But when we choose to observe ourselves in our lives, things naturally begin to fall away.
The silent stillness that we experienced will work its way into our Being. It will glide through us just like the blood in our veins.
Because Silence has a lot to say.
Are you ready to listen?