I received this beautifully articulated letter from a young man who has been attending our annual January secular, six-day silent retreat for several years. In between, he sits regularly with a Dharma group, works closely with a wonderful teacher, and takes classes like MBSR and MSC.
One of things I so appreciate about extended retreat practice is that we may access our inner wisdom in the midst of even our retreat struggles! As you will see, this happened in “Scott’s” report below.
I’m so glad he did, because I have “borrowed” his phrase, “I can’t fix this, but I can love you.” It has changed me. I also wanted to share it with you to support and encourage your own regular retreat practice.
Some of our upcoming retreats are directly based on MSC, and others are oriented toward a broader set of practices from the ancient traditions, including Loving Kindness, Compassion, Joy, and Equanimity. I invite you to read Scott’s transformational experience below, and if it inspires you to attend your own retreat, please check out these offerings led by teachers Certified in MBSR and MSC, and are International Teacher Trainers in both programs.
Hello Dear Teachers,
I wanted to share an experience I had at the retreat this year that has stuck with me since. I shared this with my MSC teacher, as feedback about how the MSC teachings have affected and integrated into my experience. I just finished my second pass through MSC class. I’m so grateful to each of you for reminding me of these teachings and their roots in the Buddha’s teachings.
I told Beth in my interview on day three, “I am not really wrestling with anything.” My mind had been noisy but I was letting things be. Not resisting. Observing. Then I woke on day four with feelings of dread and regret. Dread at returning to normal life soon. Regret that nothing felt resolved or better after four days of retreat. My mind was just as noisy as when I came to retreat.
I had noticed the previous evening that I wanted things to be fixed. To be better. And was hopeful that compassion would make things better. I had previously correlated shifts in experience with bringing in self-compassion. But then I recalled from MSC that true compassion doesn’t come with expectations. That and the teachings about the possibility of cultivating an inner compassionate voice were the seeds that made this loving voice and phrase possible.
That loving part of me then asked “what is it that you need?” The response that came back was “I just need a break.“ My mind got quieter, more settled after that. I was able to focus on my breath more steadily.
For the remainder of the day, I experienced moment-to-moment mindfulness like never before. Afterward, the following words came to mind. “There is no next retreat. There is no next step. There is no next bite. There is no next breath. No next moment. Only the one thats happening right now. Each one is right here to be experienced fully. Each one could be enough. I don’t want to keep deferring to the next, hopefully better moment so that, in the end, I regret that I was never really here for this precious life.”
Even after returning to home and work after retreat the phrase “I can’t fix this, but I can love you “ has stayed with me. Sometimes shortened as “I can love you.” I encoded a reminder of the short version into my work computer password which I have to enter at least 10 times a day, usually more. No matter what’s going on when I enter that password it always touches me and brings me back to the present moment and the possibility of being loved and having that love in me, no matter what. And so far I never tire of hearing it.
I wanted you to know that what you do, what you teach, what you model, really matters and changes the lives of your students. I suffer less and I see how that ripples out to those I relate to.
My Deepest Gratitude to You,