Wednesday, June 10, 2009

THE PURPOSE OF A SILENT RETREAT

A silent retreat is a rare and wonderful opportunity to dive deeply into awareness of what is true, enduring, unchanging. This "substrata" of existence is always with you, never abandons you, and yet rarely is noticed. Anything at all that we say about "it" is superfluous and indirect. It is best communicated by pure physical presence. The best art, music, and poetry reveal it to us. External and internal silence helps us to recognize this subtle yet continuous undercurrent of the real awareness of what is. Natural settings facilitate our ability to notice the world instead of our mental constructions of the world. A shared group intent formed as individuals practice attunement to reality together raises everyone's ability to pay attention. In the Zen Buddhist tradition this energy has its own name: joriki. This group-generated energy is very real, almost palpable. In the previous retreats I have led, the emergence of this group energy arises predictably within 24 hours or so. I have rarely felt it as strongly outside of a retreat setting. Silence, concentration, lack of distractions, and seriousness of purpose facilitate this flow of chi-like energy.

Metaphor, allusion, and simile are the spiritual teachers' forte. In the Gospel of Matthew 13:3, it is noted: "Then he told them many things in parables, saying 'A farmer went out to sow his seed….'". The best spiritual teaching always occurs in a format that is relevant and understandable to the audience at hand. Shakyamuni Buddha, Moses, Abraham, Ramana Maharshi and countless others have taught those with eyes to see and ears to hear in a similar manner. Narrative and story-telling often by-pass the ordinary defense structures and are utilized freely. The deepest truths are communicated through a kind of energetic resonance that is difficult to describe yet also strangely familiar. This different way of learning requires a letting-go of our ordinary death-grip on the illusion of personal control. Slipping into this open awareness is effortless for some, torturous for others. Some relaxation of our hyper-focused attention to data, logic, and reason is necessary for all who wish to recognize who and what they actually are, always have been, and can't not be.

Yet there also is a role for direct, factual, and somewhat structured teaching. I have tried to combine and interweave these two forms of teaching/knowing, as they aren't really separate for me. During this retreat the structured teaching will focus on healing emotional, physical, and energetic wounds. I will present a model of healing that appears to benefit all forms of pain and suffering. This model incorporates my realizations from over 30 years of full-time practice of psychotherapy, yet is simultaneously attuned to the correction of energetic disruptions. Ultimately pure awareness heals all. Seeing clearly, things just are the way they are as we lose interest in comparing what is with what we believe should be but isn't. As even two days is an incredibly short period of time, this will be a beginning, not a completion of this exploration into the roots of healing. However, I have found that even one fresh idea intuitively experienced and recognized can benefit oneself and other life in profound ways. Let's work together to allow awareness to unfold and manifest through us for the benefit of all beings.

2 comments:

Ruth said...

I know you just completed one, but when is your next Silent Retreat?

Michael Hall PhD said...

November 20-22, 2009.