I’m having the good fortune of attending a women’s writing circle, with an amazing group of women. We each get to write our stories from the heart and share them – and it has been an absolutely uplifting experience. Here is one story that has come out of me, based on Joni Cole’s prompt: independence.
One of the times when I felt truly independent in my life was on my 10 day silent retreat in Sonoma county in 2009. I had the wonderful good fortune to be in a small retreat – only 15 of us, with Michele Mcdonald, our teacher. Even though every day had a structure to it – periods of sitting and walking meditations, meal times, interview with the teacher and so on – I just remember time extending by. Time to simply be. I remember that it took a few days to settle into the quiet – but slowly the mind became clearer. I could really take in the beauty of my surroundings – the redwood trees were so tall – I had never seen anything like it. The zendo was so beautiful, the walkway from my cabin to the bath halls a lovely walk. The space in front of the dining hall was open and in late afternoon, deers would hop by unafraid or maybe accustomed to our presence. In the late evening, I remember seeing the sun set – the entire process talking over half hour as if slow motion – and I would see it through the cracks of the hall where I would be doing walking meditation – and I remember the pause before I would give in and came outside to see it more clearly. I remember walking by this slope by the garden and from there, I could see the entire valley – mountains, trees, stretching in front of me. I remember the silence this one afternoon when I saw a squirrel up there on one of the trees – seemed so impossibly high – and then drop down. Everything was slowed down – and that squirrel dropping had me hold my breath, until I saw it safely scurry up the branch below.
Freedom to me is surrender. It is surrender to our circumstances, our situations, so that we may have a choice in how we want to respond to it, to our lives. It is the freedom we have, when we get up in a crabby mood, and can see it and make a choice – on how to be with it. It’s the freedom we have to stop ourselves when we need to, and let ourselves go when we need to. It’s the feeling of effortlessness – that happens when there is no resistance. The precious moments of independence that have been most dear to me, have been when I really want to nap in late afternoon after a tiring day with our toddler Anjali, and its not possible – and I make a choice to let go of my needs and wants, and choose playfulness. Independence is for me, the feeling of time stopping – there is nothing I need to do. I have realized over time, that it isn’t necessarily that there isn’t anything to be done, but more that I am relaxed and there is no hurriedness so I can respond to what needs to be done with spaciousness.
Independence is letting go of my grievances – about my family or friends – so that I can make my choices out of love. It is letting go of the need to be on retreats to feel truly present. It is letting go of the need to feel or be a certain way. When I come out in the morning and look at the blue sky – it reminds me always of independence. There is so much space to hold everything – that even in the most difficult circumstances it is possible to be free. Independence is doing the things we care about while letting go of the need for them to be a certain way.
May we all be free and may we have peace.
with Love, S.