Before I left for my last retreat, a colleague asked why I regularly go to meditation retreats. I started to explain the technicalities of Acem Meditation, and she listened politely and then she asked again: “Why do you go to retreats?” It was a good question, and after the retreat, I wrote the following answer.
Part of the answer is that if I take myself into my arms now and then I feel good.
And it has become a habit.
Again and again I embrace myself and repeat my meditation sound, as lightly and gently as I am able to, there and then.
I embrace and tell myself: You are OK just the way you are.
I touch my cheek cautiously and stroke my own back and pause in order to listen to myself.
I try to listen without judgment and analysis.
Just listen like a heart with big ears and no mouth.
I explain to myself that here at the retreat center I am welcome precisely the way I am.
And when I accept myself like this, and when I am surrounded by silence, things begin to happen.
And that is another part of the answer to why I go to retreats: I like confusion.
Confusion and insecurity attract me, with a mixture of enjoyment and fear.
As Karl (Skorpan) says in Astrid Lindgren’s story about the Brothers Lionheart: “I am afraid, but I do it anyway.”
Over time I have learned to appreciate the insecurity my confusion creates.
Because now I know that I am on my way towards new learning.
Before every retreat, it feels a little like starting anew, in some way or another.
Not in any dramatic sense, like quitting my job or selling my house and moving to India.
More like remaining in the boat, throwing up into the air what is being actualized during meditation in order to take a calm and close look at it while it is whirling around like snowflakes in the air, before falling to the earth again.
In somewhat new formations.
But at times during meditation, all these philosophical thoughts may also be gone with the wind.
Possibly most of the time.
And when I start to doubt, I embrace myself, touch my cheek, and repeat my meditation sound as softly and gently as I can.
By Birgitta Hellmark Lindgren
Translation: Anne Grete Hersoug
Copy editor: Ann Kunish