I’ve been praying for a caregiver break for the last 6 months, an extended retreat for 3 months. It’s been 18 months with my current ‘end-of-life’ caregiving client.
“I’m ready, oh Lord!” The silent prayer goes. “And if you wouldn’t mind, can we make it at that lovely hermitage in Guatemala or what about the Kerala Ashram of that enlightened sage?” I suggest.
“You remember that sage. He chanted your Name ceaselessly for a year and then found out that YOU were everywhere. By the way, this sage has been dead since 1963 but he’s been speaking to me from beyond the grave. I haven’t asked for anything from him but like all true Master’s he must have heard my silent retreat prayer. For suddenly I find myself on retreat, right where I sit. It’s not at his physical ashram or by that wonderful Guatemalan lake but all alone in my room with some kind of acute infection.” I confess.
Three deer rest in the meadow outside my window, mirroring the bliss of being, as light rain falls. Squirrels frolic and chickadees scurry at the base of a redwood grove. A fine spider clinging lightly on his web, allowed to stay indoors during this rainy season, keeps me company.
The body feverish, with chills, pain and assorted symptoms and all of them are arising and passing away. Nothing will remain of the play, the slate wiped clear for a new movie each moment. Instantaneously, reel after reel, God spools out Divinity in all the forms.
Sure I am taking occasional herbal remedies, giving myself acupressure and using a neti pot. There is a natural movement towards this; all organisms want to be freely functioning. Can we take these supplements with no thought of outcome or need to change things or without a sense of desperation? That is the deeper question.
At this moment, I am here to experience whatever arises and then simultaneously move beyond all experiences, to realize the Self, the living presence of the Absolute. Much of humanity has forgotten their true purpose. It is clouded over with so many things. Removing this veil is the work we must do.
During intense moments, I take solace in my breath and notice that God is breathing me. I take inspiration in the lives of great saints, who have undergone such immense austerities far beyond my current situation, including: months spent with dysentery, bouts of malaria, a year without sleep. Through it all they remained unmoved, totally immersed in the living presence of God. Their stories and words remind me that I am in that beautiful Source- no matter the appearances.
Yes, this body is pinned down on retreat. What grace! No, it’s not a forest temple in Guatemala or an Indian ashram. The retreat is this moment. All the creatures and things I witness are elements of that retreat. They are the living Essence, the Great Light of God. In that Light we are all called to stay. We are always in that Light whether we know it or not; yet when we consciously remain in that Source, untouchable grace and love are ever at hand.
Some kind of infectious agent has arrived to purify and rearrange the Michael organism. All things no longer necessary are afforded the chance to fall away. It matters not one iota where the bodily malady comes from, virus, bacteria or rotten food. (Though I must say that having a chronic health situation and then being fed a spoonful of acute influenza medicine creates some interesting bodily symptoms, like a skull-cracking headache). These symptoms, though only a mass of sensations, can help us to move deeper within, if we are a sincere spiritual aspirant. If not on the conscious spiritual path, we may become more restless, dysfunctional and thought-obsessed.
This so-called sickness has come from the Almighty; it can be only for good.
During our entire human life span, we are on retreat. Most people would consider a retreat to be like a vacation to Hawaii or the Grand Canyon where the focus is: what can be acquired or what amazing things can I see and experience. And there is nothing wrong in this.
An authentic retreat, however, just like an authentic life well-lived, is an inner thrust into the depths of one’s Self. We go and find the Gold that is hidden within plain sight. And any kind of body difficulty is God coming in to tear down the walls that keep us from this innate Knowledge. In Truth, everything that comes into our sphere is an opportunity to attune to the Divine Heritage- for it comes from that very Source.