Posts Tagged ‘retreat’

The Sweet Longing
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Sunday, June 26th, 2011

Summer Solstice 2011

Long days
Infused with light, color, sound
Lush green
Flowers and bird song

Hard to imagine the darkness of winter

Yet underneath this celebration
An emptiness waits
Longing to be filled

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a wet spring

Taking Time to Feel the Longing

Ah, the longing – a relentless yearning for our heart’s desire.

Many of us live within a culture which defines progress solely in terms of material comfort and offers little wisdom for the perennial unrest of the heart. We try to fill this vacancy inside with food, sweets, intoxicants, stimulants, possessions, wealth, fame, and endless dramas. Our holy grail is romantic love filled with passionate sexuality. And as each fix fades into the veneer of memory, we keep searching for the next.

The truth is that, despite an affluence and material abundance unprecedented in human history, most of us in the developed world are starving. We simply have not found a way to address our emotional and spiritual needs beyond drowning them out with denial or over-stimulation. The spirituality we are offered through the traditional church or temple is often defined by antiquated superstitions which bear little relevance to our life here and now. And our real religion of science, though it has given us a remarkable handle on our physical world, has nothing to say about our hunger for meaning and purpose. The natural yearning that comes with being human is largely misunderstood, displaced by our frantic efforts to establish more material security and comfort.

Western culture is spreading now throughout much of the world due to the zealous conquering of our European ancestors and the relentless seduction of modern day corporate advertising. Yet as we gallantly proffer the “good life” to our less fortunate neighbors, some of us are becoming increasingly aware of the shadows inherent in our model of civilization. We see the cracks in the wall and rightfully question the sustainability and wisdom of our approach to development.

Amidst this gaping lack of deeper wisdom in industrialized societies a new spirituality is being born, inspired by ancient teachings from cultures around the world. A doorway opened in the cultural upheavals of the 1960’s that allowed some light to shine into the shadows of Western civilizations insatiable drive for material advancement.

This ancient wisdom re-packaged for the “new age” is naturally marginalized by main-stream society just as all radically new movements of truth have been throughout human history. Consider how Galileo was mocked and imprisoned for suggesting that the planets in our solar system revolve around the sun, Columbus was ridiculed for his assertion the earth was round, and Jesus was disgraced and crucified for saying that he was one with God.

Today we know that these seers were telling the truth and we celebrate them as heroes, along with many others who were once considered too far out to be taken seriously. So we can justifiably assume that this strange spirituality incubating in the midst of our frantic industrial development will one day be the basis of a new paradigm for humanity. The new forms are slowly developing and spreading like mushroom mycelia, those invisible strands weaving a fabric below the forest floor. And occasionally, when the conditions permit, they flower into sight, just as a perfect mushroom appears suddenly where there was nothing before.

Sky Meadow Retreat is one such mushroom blooming in the hills of northern Vermont. Incubated 22 years ago when I purchased this broken down hill farm, and born in 1999 in time to usher in the new century, the seeds for the retreat were planted in the mid-1970’s as my life was radically transformed in a Buddhist monastery in Sri Lanka.

Now a small family business, we see ourselves as catalysts for the transformation of humanity being called forth from the chaos of a world which is largely in denial of our real human potential. We have chosen to practice and teach a simple Buddhist meditation form that cultivates presence and inner peace, and a set of skills for meaningful relationships that we call Conscious Communication. These are some of the practical tools that we consider essential for our personal and planetary evolution.

We are also establishing a sustainable relationship with the earth through organic farming and forest management. When we are not serving guests on retreat, we spend our time in our gardens, orchards, and woods, cultivating as much of our food and winter fire wood as we can from the natural resources around us, while becoming intimate with this land that we call home.

In addition to teaching basic skills for developing presence, the purpose of Sky Meadow is to provide a place of stillness enabling you to feel again the deep longing tugging at your heart. This urge for truth can so easily be obscured beneath the pressures of daily life, and most of us rarely take time to allow it to bubble to the surface. Beyond any focus or teaching presented here is simply an opportunity to come back to your senses and get in touch with what is most important in your life. This may take the form of unanswered questions that loom larger than any one problem, and for which there are is no immediate fix.

We are not here to answer these questions for you, as that would be impossible. Rather, our intention is to provide a sacred space where you can explore these questions for yourself, and begin to discover the peace and certainty that lies beneath all the swirling complexity of your life. In the quiet of nature, the things that are most important become apparent, and you can realign yourself with what you most want. We invite you to visit us for a workshop or retreat, a self-directed solo, or private couples retreat.

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Who needs a heart, when a heart can be broken… ?
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Monday, February 28th, 2011
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Miles

What’s Love got to do with … anything?

We all want love. I don’t mean just the juicy romantic, sexual, kind of love, although there is nothing wrong with that. The problem with romance, however,  is that it is so temperamental. This sort of love does not come with a guarantee, as our tumultuous times make so clearly evident. How many marriages do you know where the love is steady, constant, and secure?

If we have learned anything from the epidemic of broken marriages and the heart crushing betrayals demonstrated daily in our divorce courts, it is that romantic love is just a shade away from a kind of hatred that can turn the blood cold. Of course this kind of experience, or the fear of it, would make us guarded and suspicious of love itself.

The tragedy of our understandably skeptical view of love is that we end up defended against the one thing we all desire and need the most. Our resistance to love is like being afraid to drink water or breath air. After a while our life force begins to wither and fade.

We naturally conclude that other people are the problem. They can’t be trusted. We cannot ever fully give our heart to another. Given all the ways that we have been betrayed, it does not make sense to be vulnerable again in this way. And so we become wary of people, and of love itself.

If we don’t work our way out of this predicament, we spend our lives perpetually caught between our desire for other people’s affection, and our fear of their rejection. We settle for seemingly safe relationships where we don’t risk too much. Yet this also means that we don’t gain too much, and we end up secretly starving for love and appreciation.

So, what is the answer to this seemingly impossible situation?

Platitudes like “we each have all the love we need inside” or “we need to love ourselves first” are useless. These nice sounding ways to approach our despair simply hide it beneath a veneer of affirmation. They allow us to pretend to find a way through the shadows of a loveless world without actually facing our fear. You may be able to shore yourself up for a while through beliefs like these, but sooner or later they will collapse and leave you more desperate than before.

We don’t find the source of love by some whimsical hope, wish, or fantasy. Yet this doesn’t mean that love is not real. Don’t believe it until you see it for yourself, but do have faith that it is there. Our habit is to look for love outside of ourselves. We believe that it can only come from other people. This is our fundamental problem.

It is not that love does not come from other people, or that we have to isolate ourselves to find it. However, we do have to be disillusioned in order for love to reveal itself to us. The usual ways that we seek for love have to fail us, and we have to give up looking outward, before we can look inward. Our illusions about love have to be shattered, and this is obviously going to be painful for many of us.

When our heart breaks, it also opens. If we can resist the tragic story of betrayal and the temptation to see ourselves as victims of another person’s carelessness, we can ask why. Why is this happening to me? Why is love so hard to find? The trick is to open to these questions without immediately filling in the answers. Accept for a moment that you do not know, and keep asking, believing that there is an answer.

Go into your fear. Go through it. Head directly for it, instead of always turning away as your instinct tells you to do. Trust that love is real and is there for you, even if you cannot see it. Don’t look for that love to come from other people. Find the source inside of you, and don’t settle for anything less.

Then, perhaps slowly, a way opens up. It gradually becomes apparent that we have a choice only to love or not to love, and that being loved is beyond our control. If we choose to withhold our love, thinking that this will protect us from further pain, we start to shrivel up inside. We cut ourselves off from our most essential need.

The paradox is that we need to activate love from our own reserves in order to access it. We have to give it away in order to recognize that we have an endless source inside of ourselves. There is nothing rational or logical about this process. We have to take a leap and trust something beyond our perception – something we cannot see yet.

If we are willing to stretch ourselves, something shifts.  Discovering the source of love in this way hurts a bit,  the way a good  exercise or diet or yoga routine hurts. This kind of hurt does not damage us, but rather makes us stronger and more resilient. We have to go through some discomfort, and we have to learn to use painful experiences to grow and expand ourselves.

To get beyond the simplistic and superficial platitudes, you have to make yourself work a little. You have to give, even when you don’t feel like it, and when you don’t think you have anything left to give because it has all been stolen from you.

Just try it.  Give it away anyway.  At this point what do you have to lose? Once you have locked yourself up in your grievances and fortressed yourself against love, can it get any worse?

The trick is to give love away without making it an exchange. We have to let go of our habit of demanding an equal return on our investment. Most of us are stuck in this way of thinking which obscures the source. We have access to an infinite source of love – the thing we all want and need more than anything else – yet we cannot see it because we think love is something to be exchanged between people.

Don’t trust what your head tells you on this one – rather, trust your heart. Once you start giving love away, it starts to flow again inside you, and you feel better – instantly. There is nothing magical or mysterious about this, and it is not superstition or fantasy. The love is there and it is real. In fact, it is the most real thing there could be. We just have been looking for it in a place it cannot be found.

I find that simple practices such as meditation

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and conscious communication
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help me to unblock the natural flow of love.  When I take time to breathe and relax my mind into the present moment sensations of my body, I notice that the love is there – always. It was merely my stress and attachment to my own story that made it seem as though the love was gone.

Likewise, when I set down my judgments or defensive reactions and listen to another person to see things from their point of view, I find myself caring about them, even as I may feel threatened by their behavior.

If all this seems to impossible or “pie in the sky”, perhaps it is time to take a retreat

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. Getting away from your ordinary life responsibilities for several days can sometimes provide just the opening you need to see things from a new perspective.

The Dilemma
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The Dilemma

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