After years of deliberating the merit of my time and resources to afford a month's leave, I was finally ready to travel and volunteer for 6 weeks at the major Buddhist retreat center in Colorado. As it turns out often, if the Kala/time is ready for us to get moving the opportunity will open up unexpectedly and easily, even.
First, in early Spring my Jyotish teacher had told me that “the time for a deep retreat is coming this Summer; make sure you don’t put it off again”. She asked me if I want to accompany her to Costa Rica where she will be teaching in one of the retreats on Samkhya and Yoga, and although the images of lush Pacific greenery and warmth sounded appealing to the Mediterranean soul feeling perpetually stuck with yet another Ontario winter, I, being slow and deliberate in my moves as always, felt I need to align to respond to particular patterns I have recognized in my life in the past and responded to well.
First, about six years prior I began a self-directed Kapala Training when I came across Machig Labdrön’s lineage and practices for the first time that I found myself to be very much attracted to since. Seeing myself as a mother and community worker, who also happens to be a spiritual seeker, I found I need a certain dose of hands-on practicality on my spiritual journey: chanting that is infused with the work on the land and in gardens, prayers that are offered while harvesting, cooking, sewing, and tending fire, and learning from contemporary female activists as much as traditional, largely feminine deities. Places affiliated with Machig seemed to be an adequate choice for what I was looking for.
Next, at a certain age, or early in life if we were gifted with mature souls, we also hope that we can recognize our life's choices as patterns and evaluate how close to the center of our core we have been. The belief is that the closer to the core we are the freer and more fulfilled we will be. If we are not able to recognize some of our “core patterns”, hopefully, we do have a few people around us who knew us when we were children to offer their views.
For me, for example, the closest to my core is the search for seeing and understanding the mystery of feminine force/movement but from an observer perspective. They were signs in my youth already when I was managing an all-girls, 5 graders band but never assuming the front line. The front-girl was never as exciting as watching our play from the back - our voices coming finally together, our dancing synchronized, our apparent "popularity" followed by a rivalry changing our dynamics. And then there was my feminist youth - determined, convinced, articulated, outspoken, and angry as hell - yet, never joining any political party, never speaking at the assemblies, never recruiting new members but always watching, watching because the moment you assume the limelight you lose your freedom to change your mind, to exit the stage. Finally, in early 2000 the Universe provided a role I held quietly with my husband for close to 18 years advocating for home and water birth. It started with our own experience but, over the years, we witnessed close to 500 babies being born largely in an unassuming and unpublicized way. The personal power and incredible responsibility that these women (and men) shouldered, choosing to listen to their reasoning, being supported by an island of practical midwives and an ocean of fears and misunderstanding around female bodies constituted quit but, de-facto, birth justice movement of a kind. Nobody marched or evangelized or advertised. We were watching and waiting, believing that when the Universe will want movement it will connect those who belong together, effortlessly.
Because of these experiences, some short and sporadic, others long and deliberate, I also became convinced of the special power that the “quite/hidden/ backdoor/ unpublicized” movement could have. And if personal is political then the quiet, determined, and unpublicized, be it a personal decision or travel or the movements of people and ideas toward a political or social justice ideal in various forms, might constitute various types of a spiritual journey that will lead to similar outcomes we hope for - freedom, peace and a quiet joy.
Going back to the above retreat story, although the place I found for myself was resonating with me genuinely - a female lineage, exquisite natural setting surrounded by mountains, working with my hands in the kitchen and garden, having opportunities to learn about Buddhism, meditate and hike while limiting my interaction with people - it was not sufficient to curb my irrational fears around leaving my family for merely a month. My husband of 20, and a child of over 12 years who was never left alone for more than a week sounded perfectly content facing the prospect of living independently without my protection (frankly, mainly occasional dinner cooking and laundry making). It was me who needed to abandon the role I thought myself to play rigidly. I was trapped. They were free of my mothering already. All journeys must start from a place of abandonment.
I did sheepishly send my application to be invited for an hour-long interview. They wanted to understand what they knew from the experience they should ask for - am I running away from something or somebody, because the retreat will not help to solve my problem. Is my heart recently broken because someone dear to me has left or died, because this retreat will not bring them back to me. The interview was rather short (no, and no, I am lost only myself, frankly, and I need to get myself back) and they welcomed me with love and openness, kindness, and friendliness that filled my heart with certainty. And then, as it happens with movements when the Universe decides to say "Move!" all was connected effortlessly within the new space that opened up by me making this decision: a convenient, cheap flight booked without delay, a chatty travel agent practicing meditation found, a stranger at the arrival airport at the time of arrival to offer me a ride to the destination appeared.
And from there the doors were just open, open, open - including the cost (material and otherwise) of my absence being fully paid off, incredible friends I made for life, deep insights I gained that changed me forever.
That being said, nobody can guarantee that the exact outcome of our decision to move toward any particular direction will be satisfactory in the end. Happiness is not guaranteed. The main idea here is that all movements toward or away in all directions are constant and simultaneous and always available. What encourages us to seek or connect with them is a sudden emergence of something that resonates with our core being deeply and the removal of expectations around what this should be. That often sets in motion the effortless component, and when that happens, the perfect storm of within and without, the flow cannot be stopped from manifesting.
In some ways, and I am not sure exactly how to word or explain it but people who experienced it do understand, these movements (personal, political social) also work by themselves and have the energy of their own, although, all of them need to be serviced by our energy too. Classical subjects, Sutras and Vedas have their views and explanations as to why the movements behave like entities, which would be a whole separate discussion into the nature of motivation and destiny. For example, even the Chinese Wu-Wei - literally "non-doing" or "effortless action" - embodies the same conceptual metaphor of achieving a state of effortless ease in action paired with a complete lack of self-consciousness as the ultimate spiritual ideal.
I often feel that we should be immensely thankful to our parents, teachers, friends, and all beings who are loving us generously and compassionately because they help us to remember and recognize who we are. To have the recognition, guidance, clarity, and courage to trust the timing of when the resistance must be abandoned is the definition of grace, a gift of effortless action manifesting in our lives.