Yesterday I had the opportunity to briefly share my thoughts and feelings about how I welcome “Spirit” into my life, with our beloved UU community here at the Unitarian Universalists of the Cumberland Valley in Boiling Springs, Pennsylvania. I chose to share some of my experience at a meditation retreat a few years ago. This is what I said:
I encounter the spirit primarily through the contemplative practice of meditation, specifically vipassana or “insight” meditation, from the Buddhist tradition. Through this practice of focusing on my breath and body, consciousness relaxes and sinks into a peace that is boundless and indescribable. When thoughts arise, I recognize them as thoughts, acknowledge them, and then let them go. And slowly the thoughts subside and my mind comes to stillness in what I essentially am.
I learned this practice first in reading books, but it was deepened greatly by two 10-day silent meditation retreats that I attended a few years ago. The second one, in particular, I feel was quite transformative to my consciousness and perspective of reality.
Since it was silent, we did not talk to any of the other participants until the last day. The first few days were rough, as my body and mind settled into the practice of sitting in meditation for up to ten hours a day. But then there was a kind of breakthrough about half-way through the retreat, when my mind let go and simply observed things as they were, without judgement, without analysis, without thought.
The whole world around me came alive with richness, light, and beauty, and I felt a oneness with it all, no longer did I feel like a separate person sitting there meditating, but as an inseparable part of the world.
And by the last day, when we could finally speak with the other people there, I found I had grown to love them, deeply, even in silence. It was that same union, that same oneness, that same experience of being, the same aliveness that I felt with these people. It seemed as though we were the same Spirit.
We were One, and that oneness was Love. And this Love wasn’t something that came into being, but had always been there, hidden under the surface of my perceptions.
Today, I continue my practice daily, sitting in meditation for at least 40 minutes a day, focusing carefully on my breath, and then becoming aware of things as they are. And this leads me back to that same experience of oneness, of Love, of who I really am, and what I feel we all are.
The photo at the top of this post is of one of the cabins at the beautiful Camp Sawtooth, in the mountains near Sun Valley, Idaho, where my second 10-day silent meditation retreat took place from May 31 to June 11, 2017, with the Dhamma Pasava Intermountain Vipassana Association. They now hold retreats at a new meditation center near Lava Hot Springs, Idaho. There are retreats from the same organization held in many locations around the world.