I absolutely must be in bed at 10 tonight, which is in 38 minutes, which means tonight we’re doing snapshots from my weekend at Spirit Rock:
- I checked my email confirmation at 7:25am to make sure what time I needed to arrive for the Daylong in Nature and for the first time noticed that I was supposed to be there not at 9:30, but at 8:45. Which meant I’d have to leave in 20 minutes. I flew around my apartment eating breakfast, packing my lunch, showering, not washing my hair, and jumped in the car with only 45 minutes to do an hour’s drive. Rushing to a meditation retreat is ridiculous. I sped over the bridge and once on Sir Francis Drake realized I’d be about 10 minutes early. And I felt my brain click over to the next thing to worry about: would I have time to use the bathroom, find a refrigerator for my lunch, and get water? I didn’t even spend one second feeling relieved and grateful before moving on to the next worry. But at least I noticed it.
- In a related story, later on that day a woman at the retreat mentioned that while meditating, she had a fly buzzing her left ear. Then her right ear. She was really irritated. Then the fly flew away, and she felt “lost.” We talked about how the fly could represent anything and how we all live from fly to fly, wondering when we’re going to get chocolate cake.
- Back to my arrival: I checked in, used the bathroom, got water, and learned that there was no fridge available. I sat in the warm sun in the overgrown grass putting on sunscreen when I met two women sitting near me. I learned that their names were “Spring,” and “Rain.” I said, wait–did you say Spring and Rain? And then Rain says to Spring, “I thought your name was Stephanie?” and Spring says serenley, “Spring is just easier.”
- We spent the day in silence, starting when we walked up the hill. I realized that it was my first full event in silence. I loved it. As much as I enjoy meeting people, it’s a relief for once to peel that layer off the whole experience and just focus inward. We were given permission not to speak, gesture, or whisper. We shuffled along the path together silently–and suddenly I noticed a lizard, a spiderweb, and a brilliant blue sky.
- The nature event included less teaching and more meditation–alternating between sitting and walking. Sitting is going better for me, not so uncomfortable. Walking meditation is surprisingly mind-blowing. The point is simply to walk mindfully, which means walking slowly. I always get a zombie vibe when I look around at the people ambling aimlessly. But when I stop looking around, I get totally lost in the moment. I discovered wildflowers (orange, yellow, and purple, wished MM were there to identify), found patches where deer had slept, studied a dead tree against the blue sky. I walked barefoot. I ambled along the trail, up the hill, down the hill, into the bushes (here’s hoping no poison oak). I put my hands on a large rock, partially embedded in the earth, warm in the hot sun. It reminded me of similar rocks on my grandparents’ property and I had a moment with them. I came back to my cushion feeling like I’d had a busy day at work–but a whole new kind of work.
- I noticed this weekend how many people at meditation retreats are on the verge of tears, how many going through true crises, my heart blew up with compassion for some of the people who shared their stories.
- Today’s daylong was with Tara Brach, a famous meditation teacher from DC whom my friend A raves about. A went as far as giving her baby son the middle name Brach–such a deep connection to her spiritual guide. There were around 200 people there plus another few hundred online. I was excited to experience Tara’s teaching after listening to a few of her podcasts, and now I know why she has such a massive following. Her guided meditations were extraordinary. I pushed past stuck thinking in at least four different personal life issues. In one case, she had us envision a situation where we were triggered and reactive, to play it through like a movie, frame by frame, and then pause on the most triggered moment. Then imagine someone you admire (Pema Chodron) filling in your shoes in that moment–how do they react? What advice do they give you? Tears poured down my cheeks as I realized how she’d tricked us all into connecting with our own deep wisdom.
- Afterward, I had her sign my book (she wrote: “For Katie, with blessings and love. <3, Tara”) and told her I’m a friend of A and another aspiring single mom, and she wished me the best. She told me her sister was an SMC. I put my hand on my heart and she put her hands in prayer and I am her newest fan. www.tarabrach.com (check out her weekly podcast)
- I feel inspired. I remember what and whom I love. I am aware of my body. My heart is open.
- I bow to the divine in you.