This month I’m turning 40, and I’ve never felt more at ease and peace with myself than I do now. I’ve committed to immersing myself in a spiritual practice unlike any path I’ve ever tread. My intention is to take my sedentary meditation practice from lotus position on the mat to a more meaningful, sacred space rich with the potential for greater self-discovery.
For 10 days I will venture to a Buddhist monastery nested in Southern California, surrounded and protected by oak trees and the natural landscape that stretches for miles. This is a welcome retreat, requiring a level of presence and sense of self that I feel so ready to embrace. I want to learn to meditate in my life, not just during the special occasion that I sit on my yoga mat trying to be quiet and still. I want to be able to tap into my purpose effortlessly, and renew the joy I feel deep inside about the work I’ve been called to do.
Lately I’ve found myself feeling less than inspired about the day-to-day rhythm of my life. Doing the dishes, cooking, even organizing all feel heavy and rote. I find it difficult to eat without the comforting hum of the television in the background. I find it difficult to talk on the phone without music or other white noise keeping me company. And I think all of these things are signals that point to my need for mental space and clarity as well as a spiritual re-awakening.
I’ve been reading and re-reading Thich Nhat Hahn’s works, and every time I turn a page I feel as though I am being led home. Yes, the upcoming retreat to the monastery is going to provide an opportunity to get away, unplug, relax and go off the grid. But more importantly, this retreat offers a unique opportunity for me to turn my attention inward, to cultivate a deeper appreciation for my talents and the special wisdom that comes with having reached this milestone in life.
Learning to Live in the Present
The goal going in is to learn how to become more mindful in daily life, and to be aware and awake to the present. This is the path toward experiencing and savoring life moment by moment, and radiating gratitude. The Buddhist monks who live at the monastery believe that even the most mundane tasks like cleaning or taking a shower have something to offer: an opportunity to bring the mind and body into balance and harmony with one another. I’m filled with glee and childlike abandon as I think about walking slowly and mindfully in nature, enjoying the process of making meals and reconnecting with my purpose.
At this stage, I feel truly at peace, and not in the least afraid of going there. Everything I’ve experienced in my life has led me here, and I’m ready to receive the wisdom and abundance that await. There will be many moments of solitude as well as group meditative exercises. There will be many moments of rest and contemplation, of breathing and touching the earth, of pouring tea and reciting poetry. All of it excites me, wildly.
As enthusiastic as I am, like a child, it doesn’t escape me that I have been fortunate to travel the distance of the sun 39 times over. There is depth, meaning and insight that come with age; though I still have much to learn. But here, at 40, I can sit with myself in silence and just be. I couldn’t do that up until now. This Buddhist retreat represents crossing a threshold, yet I don’t quite know what to expect on the other side. I have no doubt I will return a changed woman. It is my hope that upon that return I will come bearing gifts of passion, love and light, all of which I can share with you in ways I never imagined possible.