“To get what you never had, you have to do what you have never done.” Those are the words that kept ringing in my ears as I slammed my laptop shut.
It was late and I was up researching silent retreats. But I really did not want to go on a silent retreat, or at least that’s what I kept telling myself. Having recently left my position as the Executive Director of my family’s Foundation, my life craved the new and unfamiliar. Two days passed by, and I still had not booked the trip because I was certain I could find a much better vacation option. Maybe something with a prerequisite of swimsuits, a beach and endless tropical cocktails. Yet again, I found myself going back to the silent retreat option.
As I drove in silence to the gym the next morning, I heard the words again ringing loudly in my head “to get the things you have never had, you have to do the things you have never done.” This was not going away. Later that afternoon, I called two places that I had researched. The first place I called was noted as a place where some of the world’s greatest spiritual teachers have gone to seek solace. That definitely seemed like my type of party. But when I called the center, the man on the other end of the phone was not very knowledgeable of the programs offerings. With a hefty price tag associated, I was not moved to put my credit card down. I kindly thanked him for his time and said I would call back another time.
When I called the Art of Living Center in Boone, North Carolina, I was greeted by the most pleasant woman on the phone. For every question I asked, she quickly responded with knowledgeable enthusiasm. I knew I had found the perfect place to get exactly what I needed. I paid in full with no questions asked. The date was set and I was about to embark on my first silent meditation retreat.
Standing in my kitchen feeling proud of my next endeavor, I told my mom and my sister that I was going on a silent mediation retreat for five days in the mountains. They both looked at me as if I were crazy, both stating this was not something they were interested in doing. The reminder again rang loudly in my head, “to get the things you never had, you have to do what you have never done.” The few weeks leading up to my trip quickly rolled by and there I was, packed and ready for my journey into silence.
I elected to drive to Boone, North Carolina as it is only a five-hour ride from Atlanta. It would afford me the opportunity to fully process my trip alone, both heading there and returning home. Plus, I could load up on all my favorite snacks and juices for the week away from home. I felt prepared as I arrived that evening at the retreat center. I knew this was about to change my life.
At the end of the first session, our instructor asked our group to reflect on two questions: What do I need to be happy and when will I be happy? I wrote in my journal that night:
‘I guess that’s why I’m here, to connect to happiness. I need love to be happy. I need love for myself and the love of others to be happy. I need a deep soul connection, the kind you get from having meaningful conversations, but also the connection that needs no words at all. I need compassion to be happy. I need kindness. I need to express kindness to others, but I need that same kindness extended to me. I need peace and serenity. Quiet time is essential to my happiness. I need music and the freedom to dance and sing to be happy. I need companionship and friendship to be happy. I need my soul to sing in order for me to be happy.
I will be happy when I resolve that I already have those things. I will be happy when I make a mend with my past. I will be happy when I close my eyes tonight to rest. I have stepped that much closer to my happy. My happiness is already here. My breath is happy. My living is proof that happiness is wherever I am.’
The first day of any new endeavor, we are excited and full of gumption. Our thoughts always land somewhere around ‘who can stop me’ to ‘the world is mine’; cue blimp and trap music. But to be very honest, five days of silence was one of the hardest things I have ever done. During those five days, I laughed, I cried, I felt alone and many times I questioned why I was doing it at all. I reminded myself that I needed this. I needed to breathe and I needed to understand that I was not alone here or anywhere else for that matter.
For eight hours a day, we did some form of meditation or yoga. We closed our eyes, we focused our breath and we silently dug up things in our past that were meant to stay buried neatly away. This trip was meant to unlock the closet door to the rubble in my life. I stood on that mountain taking note of all the things that forced me into silence. On my final night in the silent mountains, I journaled:
‘I stood outside of class today in the cold and rain, just standing. Soaking it all up. The crisp air, the trees, the leaves, the colors and the mountain. Oh my God, the mountain. The mountain reminds me that Jesus went to the mountain to pray, to seek guidance and to renew his spirit. The mountain speaks of solitude and oneness with the Creator. It’s as if you are standing at the epicenter of heaven and Earth, ready for God to pour into you. But, this morning I stood looking out onto heaven, the heaven right here on Earth. Beauty and wonder and all things divine. I smiled. I am so grateful for the decision to be faithful and follow the divine voice that told me to come to Boone, North Carolina. To meditate in the mountains in silence with people from around the world. I stood there thanking God for allowing me to have a mountaintop experience.
I am leaving some old bags on this mountain. I am leaving things that no longer serve me and are too heavy to carry. I am leaving some old thoughts and ideas that are no longer needed to continue the rest of my journey. For the next chapter I say thank you and you are welcome. Have thine way. Let thy will be done. I believe that is my greatest lesson I take away from this week. Have thine own way and let thy will be done in my life and all the lives you want me to teach and touch God.
I leave ego and selfishness on this mountain. I leave the need to have the opinion and approval of other on the mountain. I am a divine manifestation of the Creator, made with love, care and a keen sense of detail. I leave low self-esteem on this mountain. This experience has made me far more beautiful and radiant than ever before. I am the sum of God’s divine wisdom, love grace, compassion, beauty, depth, ingenuity, creativity and kindness. The Creator bestowed all that upon me. How can I not win? How can I not have everything I want? Material is ok, but joy and peace, that’s what I came here to get. The priceless stuff. I got it. This trip to the mountains was my own invitation to breathe. Inhale joy, exhale peace.’
To get the things I did not have, I had to do something I had never done before. The silence humbled me. I was grateful to have joined the allegiance of souls who took the journey inward and this moment was just the beginning. Silence made my life bigger, more fulfilling and more abundantly blessed. I am grateful for the mountains and the honor I have to spend time in communion with God’s divine beauty. The silence has made me a better teacher, lover, sister, friend and daughter. I found my own divinity on that mountain. I found God on that mountain. And the one thing I know for sure; God is divine.