A retreat participant shares how practices from a recent Courage & Renewal retreat soon informed her approach to life. (Posted January 22, 2013)
My aunt called from Buenos Aires to tell me that my mother’s health was deteriorating rapidly. “This is the end,” she announced.
It’s been quite a rollercoaster since then. My mother is now in hospital and, although her condition is still worrisome, she is in good hands and we will hopefully have a diagnosis before the end of this week.
What I want to share with you is that even in the midst of all sorts of emotions, even when anxiety and fear threatened to take over, something inside me remembered what we do in a circle of trust. We trust. We wait. We honour silence. We listen to our inner teacher and the voices of other circle members. We speak to the centre of the circle without rushing, with words that carry truth from within. We practice respect for ourselves and everyone else. We conspire in love.
So, miraculously, when my aunt said “This is the end” I didn't react in desperation. I had to deal with difficult feelings and thoughts, but something in me refused to believe it was time to cross the threshold of life and death. I’m not sure why, but I just didn't believe it – even though my mother has been trying to let go of her life for the last two decades. Anyway, it is a long story, but suffice it to say that through a friend from elementary school I managed to get in touch with an excellent specialist and between him, my aunt, and me from so far away, we got my mother to the hospital.
This was a true test for the inner life and how it translates into concrete actions in the world when important decisions have to be made. Looking back, it feels like all along I was holding the rope that ties the back door to the barn. And I was not alone.
Plus… Guess what? Now my closest and dearest relatives in Argentina know who Parker Palmer is and will be getting his books as gifts!
Speaking of books, as soon as I returned home from the retreat I started reading A Hidden Wholeness and slowly savoured it for over a month. Oh, WOW.
This may sound strange, but I was glad I didn't read the book before going to the retreat. While I’m sure it would have been helpful to read it beforehand, not doing so allowed me to (a) live the retreat experience moment to moment, without knowing what was coming next, with an open and fresh mind and heart, and (b) approach the book “in 3D,” hearing other voices in between the lines and enriching the reading with memories of our own version of a Courage weekend.
Going back to that weekend, I wanted to say a bit more about one particular threshold moment. When we were having dinner on the Saturday night, and you explained the dynamics of the clearness committees, you asked us to write the names of people we wanted or didn't want on our committee. When I was done with my list, I felt there was something more pressing I needed to write. I wanted to tell you how utterly scared I was and ask that one of you to be on my committee. I was feeling such paralyzing fear in my body that I had to ask for some kind of protection or I knew I would bail out. So, I started to write something along the lines of a polite request. Then something happened. I tore the little bit of paper where my confused words had started to take shape, and decided to dive deep into trust. There was a split second of complete surrender, of knowing that whatever happened would be the right thing. This fleeting but essential turning point was a sort of initiation for me. If I hadn't embraced the fear in my gut exactly the way it was, I wouldn't have experienced the letting go that followed and that depth of trust – in both of you, and in life’s wisdom.
Thank you once more for offering the wisdom in your lives to us, thank you for the sweet and bold taste of wholeness you shared. May that wholeness be with you and your loved ones every single day of this new year.
The author's name has been withheld for privacy.