Sunday, October 31, 2010

Short & Sweet

I have just a few minutes to write today. All of my weekend (ALL of it - I haven't even looked at my mail or opened my email) has been occupied with conducting a meditation retreat with my friend Mary Gates and tonight is the special Halloween edition of our monthly Community Pizza and Movie night. So I'm squeezing this in between things.

The meditation retreats are a real favorite of mine. Mary and I got started on them out of desperation. We had an Insight Meditation retreat that we regularly held on the Labor Day weekend, and it was always popular. Then one year the teacher who regularly conducted it couldn't come at the last minute. His daughter was going away to college and parents' weekend was on Labor Day and he couldn't do it and we were stuck. Mary and I were both attending a class on Buddhist teachings at the time and I was agonizing about it, wondering how were were going to replace that retreat (and that income). Jose, the teacher of our class said: "Why don't you do it?" Well, I had been teaching the Jesus Prayer for years and Mary had been teaching Centering Prayer for a long time. We looked at each other and the Christian Meditation retreat was born.

That was 2001 (I think). At first we offered it yearly - on Labor Day weekend. It was an introductory retreat, and we designed it to offer people some exposure to 3 methods of meditation commonly in use in Christianity today (The Jesus Prayer, Centering Prayer and John Main's Christian Meditation). We allowed plenty of time for people to actually meditate in the 3 different ways, and plenty of time for questions and reflection. It went very well, so we did it again the next year, and after a while people started asking for more so we added a "Level 2" retreat, with more meditating and less discussion, each spring. And so we've been going on with it ever since. We have quite an alumni group by this time.

This year's fall retreat moved to October so that Mary and Dan, her husband, could have the Labor Day weekend for themselves. But it was its wonderful self. Great people. Quite a wide age range, from people still in school to those nicely settled into retirement. Some racial and cultural diversity, too. Interested and hard-working people. The questions and discussions were really good and deep. And we used our newly-renovated crypt as our venue, and it was wonderful. A great place for silence and for inner work. Couldn't have been better.

And working with Mary is always a joy. We are a great team, and those who come always comment on how we work together. We are very much on the same plane and we have an intuitive understanding of each others' way of teaching. My experience of it is that we are able to work together pretty seamlessly. After all these years we can tell which one of us should handle a particular question just by a glance. A really great working relationship and both of us enjoy it.

And the retreat really gives something to people. It helps them deepen and change their lives. One woman who has been coming yearly almost since the beginning said this time that she originally came just because she liked the quiet and the food at Holy Cross and not because she particularly wanted meditation. And she got caught. Very slowly, little by little and now, years later, meditation is a non-negotiable part of her daily life. She got hooked because, she said, she notices that when she doesn't do it, she feels different, in a way that she really doesn't like. It does "work".

So here I am, really tired from the weekend's work, really happy at how it went, and really contented with what we have created over the years. Not a bad space to be in on Halloween.

2 comments:

Fred said...

Yes, you and Mary do make a wonderful team, and as first-timers Kathy and I had an unforgettable time at the retreat. I'm also so glad I followed the *gentle* guidance not to read any of the books I'd brought. On getting home I picked up one, the Paulist Press edition of Ignatius...and right there in the introduction was a dissection of the differences among different kinds of prayer, contemplation, and meditation! Now at least. I have a sturdier base for deeper reflection on these topics. Thank you for giving us so much time, patience, and care.
Fred Miller

Br Bede Thomas Mudge OHC said...

It was a joy, Fred. One of the best things I do. I'm glad you were with us.