My first silent meditation retreat is now a week behind my brand new cushion and shawl… but it didn’t begin how I had envisioned…
Hendrix the cat had been without a list (listless, right?) for a couple of days, but by the eve of the retreat, he’d made his own retreat to the back of the closet. He was there when we went to work in the morning and he was still there when we came home from work.
So at 7 pm we took Hendrix to the emergency vet where they quickly, with the help of some Vaseline, discovered he had a fever. After a little more squeezing, prying and jamming, they found an abscess in his mouth. By 10 pm when we picked him up from debriding and stitch-filled surgery, we’d already made the equanimous (Doc B’s word of course) decisions that
1. It wouldn’t be right to leave Hendrix with our awesome pet sitter,
2. Doc B. would stay home with him, do her own silent retreat, and tend to his aftercare, and
3. I was, without argument, going on my first silent meditation retreat…alone.
As you might imagine, I slept full of fit (fitful, right?)
The next morning I procrastinated as long as possible before loading up the car with all of my meditation paraphernalia. The accoutrements included an unopened container of Rescue Remedy that I proceeded to eat as though they were jujubes. At one point I’d chewed up so many that I thought I might pull out a crown or a filling and have to cancel the trip.
My destination: Southern Dharma in Hot Springs, NC. Established in 1978, the retreat center is an hour north of Asheville and is on some stunningly beautiful land bordering the Pisgah National Forrest.
During the 4 hour drive, and my last expected opportunity for non-silence, I passed the time by listening to radio stations come in and out of reception. The further into the mountains I went, the less choices there were. For the last hour I alternated between bits and pieces of NPR’s broadcast of the March on Washington’s 50th anniversary celebration and the local Christian radio station reading the obituaries. Regarding the latter, there were so many deaths in the north Georgia Mountains that I began wondering if pets, including pet rocks, were part of the list.
Despite all of the mountainous S-curve roads, John Lewis profundities and never ending death announcements, I made it safely to the retreat center. I was pleasantly directed (by the man I would later learn was the retreat center’s Gardener) to pull my Subaru into the lot with the other SUVs from North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Georgia. One of the vehicles had a bumper sticker that said “Don’t believe everything you think”. Our 16 cars easily remained silent for the full 5 days.
Much more to write about – stay tuned…