Circling In

Eight women sit in a circle. The rattle, that we use as a talking stick, lays in the center of the circle. This is the last day of four-day retreat. Soon one of us will reach for the rattle and speak. The closing ceremony will begin with her words. For now, we sit in deep silence.
First nights are different.  Silently sitting together seems uncomfortable. Busy schedules give way to uncertainty. Our minds buzz with questions. “How will I deal with long periods of silence?”  “What might I discover?” Can I let my words flow across the pages of my journal?  Can I sit still for meditation?
Even though we may not be fully aware of it, yearning for a deeper connection to ourselves brings us to retreats. Practices we use are designed with that intention. Silence becomes a powerful teacher as we observe it from 9 PM until 11 AM each day. We even refrain from making eye contact with each other during that time to maintain an inner focus.
During retreats, we stop looking outside of ourselves for answers and start listening to the whisper of our soul.  We stop attending to what others might need and pay attention to our own needs. We stop checking off the next thing on our “to do” list and pay attention to our own longings.
The joy of dipping into the moment surprises us. We notice things; flowers, birds, squires, the way water ripples on the shore, or how the sun warms us. We taste our food. We listen to the breeze rustling leaves. There are also times of laughter as we see how similar our paths are.
Retreats seem magical. They are mountaintop experiences. They are also a result of the choices we make during the retreat. 
Soak in silence
Eat mostly healthy food
Do Yoga each morning
Keep good company
Create sacred space
Appreciate nature
Meditate daily
Write words that reflect our truth
Speak from our hearts
We know a life lived this way is difficult in the village where we live and work. It is possible. Making these practices a priority creates a pathway between the mountaintop and where we live. The more often we travel on it, the easier it is to find.
Often it comes down to small choices we make all day long. Do we scan Facebook or sit in meditation? Do we play another game of Words with Friends or write in our journal? Can we drive in silence or do we fill our car with noise? Do we start an endless Google search or take a moment to search our senses?
Retreats are mountaintop experiences. It’s partly why we sit in stillness now. Leaving this sacred circle means returning to the village. That is where our next piece of work begins. We have different questions than we had the first night. Now we wonder; How do I keep this energy alive in my daily life? Can I explain what I’ve learned here?  Which practices can I add to my busy life?
The woman sitting next to me picks up the rattle and begins speaking, “This is what I will keep doing when I return home… This is what I will start doing… This is what I will stop doing.”  These words begin to weaving the retreat experience into our village lives.
These questions are good to ask ourselves anytime. They help us clarify how we want to shape our days. How would you answer these questions?
What do you want to start doing, stop doing, and keep doing?