Tuesday, March 7, 2006

Clean Monday Retreat of Silence

I have to tell you about our retreat yesterday. It was amazing! Paul has led a retreat of silence before, but I didn't attend, as the kids were small and I had other things to do. The kids really got into this one, too.

We started out at 9 am (yawn! Awfully early for a homeschool family!) and did the service of Holy Unction. They always used to do that at the seminary, have a healing service on Clean Monday, and Paul has always tried to do it every Clean Monday whenever he was in a place where he could. I got to chant! I enjoy it a lot, and I've been happy that my knowledge of the tones has seemed to gel, since learning them intensely at St. Nicholas Ranch, where I chanted for Presanctified Liturgy every week during Lent (I asked Paul for one service a week all in English, and he said sure! but we'll need someone to chant....so.....).

So, we had a beautiful service of healing, where we were all annointed with oil, and Paul shared how this is the meaning of Lent for us--healing and wholeness.

We then sat and talked about silence, and Paul read from Met. Anthony Bloom's book, _Beginning to Pray_. He is so earthy and real. He talked about silence, and how after you have said to yourself "now I am alone with myself" you begin to feel bored and you go through layers and layers of silence until the only response you have is crying out to God.

Then we at lunch, and with lunch, we began our silence. To eat in silence is an interesting thing. Paul said the food has so much more of an intense flavor when eaten in silence. I noticed that it was a relief to not have to think of things to say, but just to be together, to commune together.

Paul also noted later that even the children (there were three other than our kids) got into the silence. After the little chit-chat just after we began our silence, we all settled into it, and the silence was infectious.

After lunch we were all free to practice our silence however we felt led. I walked outside for a bit. It was raining and I didn't want to get too cold and wet. But I did sit outside under the shelter for the barbecues for a while and contemplated the ferns, the trees, the shelter itself, the chair I was sitting on. I found myself looking at a thing and thinking about it's essence, how it works, and how it interacts with it's surroundings.

Two hours is plenty of time for lots and lots of existential thoughts, I found.

I came back inside, and sat with others in front of the fire. I looked out the window and saw the trees. I tried to imagine myself as the very tippy top portion of one of the trees, but I found I couldn't. I had to imagine myself as the whole tree. I closed my eyes, because I also couldn't imagine the tree seeing, and felt what the tree would feel and heard what the tree would hear, the wind, the sun, the animals, the whole forest.

I looked at the floor and saw a crumb of bread. What will happen to this crumb of bread? Is it just lost? It will be swept up and thrown away in the trash. But is that the end of it? Is it just destined to be trash? No, I thought. An animal might eat it. Or it may just break down. Either way, it will go back to the earth, to nourish the earth and the earth will bring forth more of everything that it brings forth.

So, nothing is lost. Things may be tied up where they are not a part of a whole for a time, but they are not ultimately lost.

This morning, while we were eating our oatmeal, Paul had what I thought was a disturbed look on his face, and I asked him why. He laughed because he was just concentrating, not disturbed, and those two looks seem to get confused a lot. He said he was focusing on what he was eating, really tasting his food. He said when you look at a loaf of bread, really look at it, you can see not just bread but the hands who kneaded it, and the hands of those who, for many millenia, have kneaded bread and passed on this skill. You can see the farmer who grew the wheat and other ingredients for this loaf of bread, along with all the farmers who have passed on the skill of farming, seed saving, tilling, and caring for the land. You can see all the animals and creatures who live in the ecosystem where the loaf of bread came to be, one dependent on the other. If you look hard enough, you can see the whole universe.

Everything is connected, and nothing is lost.


Mimi said...

Everything is connected indeed!

I've never heard of Holy Unction on Clean Monday, but what an amazing way to start Lent. The retreat sounds fabulous! Thank you for taking the time to write about it.

Susan said...

I thought of Mimi at the last of your blog.
If you do that next year I want to come. It sounds really introspective.

Christina said...

That sounds wonderful. Thank you for sharing it. And the Holy Unction Service... wow.

dana said...

That is a wonderful essay! In Meeting for worship I sit near the window where I look to the trees and the sky.