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This is a true story to inspire the start of a meditation practice; it
is my own experience from my first spiritual retreat.
At that time, in the newspaper I read about a one week New Year's Silent Spiritual Retreat to be held in the hills of Santa Barbara, hosted by the Integral Yoga Institute.
The accommodations sounded like it would be a comfortable stay with dormitories to house men and women separately, 2 or 3 to a room with bath. Also on the grounds was a large cozy conference room with sofas and fireplace, a beautiful chapel, dining hall serving vegetarian meals, and smaller sanctuaries on the wooded property of mostly eucalyptus trees with a stream running though the woods.
The timing was pure synchronicity as it was my 30th birthday that week, and my children were going on a trip to visit relatives in San Francisco on their winter vacation, so I had the week free to myself.
After settling in to my room and receiving the week's itinerary I enjoyed the vegetarian dinner and chatting with some of the more than one hundred participants, and my roommates, too. Of course that was to be the end of our conversations as the silent portion of the retreat began at daybreak the following morning.
At 5am we heard the gentle notes of singing to a guitar coming by on the outdoor sidewalks. That in itself was like waking in heaven. To be lying in silence and then hear that uplifting music as our first sound of the day was energizing.
We arose and prepared ourselves for our first sessions of the morning in the still hovering darkness and I walked to my first class called "Beginning Meditation" according to the placard placed by the French door.
The room was still dark and across the front end was a low altar with a lighted candle, flowers and incense burning. Scattered over the large expanse of floor surrounded by floor to ceiling paned windows were participants sitting cross legged on folded blankets. These folded blankets went everywhere with us during the week; draped around our shoulders walking to classes; then becoming our sitting cushions for the following hour or so.
Back to the first morning of meditation. Our instructor, one of the monks in the IYI gave us our beginning instructions on how to sit, and what the plan for the meditation would be. When not chanting or in group prayer, we were to maintain personal silence.
Well, if you know me, that was my biggest challenge as I am a very social being. But I resolved to sit in outer silence so I could discover my inner silence, a dive into that deep well of splendid refreshment.
But, I'm sorry to say, my first lesson in silence was difficult for me to keep, because no sooner had we sat upright with our legs crossed in, then I opened my mouth to ask a question.
And, no sooner were the words out of my mouth, than the monk was reminding me to be silent and become as a little baby, unable to speak.
That was my biggest lesson at the beginning of meditation: Be Quiet. Listen to the inner sounds, the song coursing through the mind that is present during all the ups and downs of existence.
What I'd like to leave with you today is the suggestion that at the beginning of your meditation practice be silent and listen.
Whether it is your first session, or the beginning of a daily meditation session over the years, listen to words of wisdom arise in your mind to solve problems, listen to the inner melody, and quietly hold intentions for personal and world peace.
In every meditation enjoy the quiet that gives rise to wisdom and a harmonious life.
Be still and know yourself.
Be Still and Know Yourself and photo credit copyright © 2011-2020 Susan Helene Kramer
A meditation and yoga practitioner since 1976, Susan Kramer writes on practical spirituality, family and social issues, and dance. Her instructional books are listed at her web site – http://www.susankramer.com/books.html