Richard headed off to begin a weeklong silent meditation retreat yesterday. I miss him greatly and will be very glad to welcome him home on Friday, but I'm also delighted that he feels ready to engage in inner activities that nourish his brain and spirit. Meditation–the practice of focusing on breathing or some other constant and letting the buzz of life pass by without comment or engagement–is widely recognized for its therapeutic effects, especially for those who, like Richard, are recovering from brain injuries or brain surgery. (Here's a Wall Street Journal article describing some early research on how meditation can "tune up" the brain.)
While he's off following a routine of sitting and walking meditation, punctuated by meals and dharma instruction, I'm fashioning my own sort of retreat. I'm not following any set routine; rather, I'm doing my best to listen to my inner voice and provide what's nurturing to me.
Mostly what I need now is peace and quiet, and time to focus on my writing. I've got that in abundance this week (except for the time I'll need to spend on the phone with my folks every other day, checking in and sorting out issues). So today, I rose in time to watch the full moon set behind a ghostly shroud of cloud over the peaks to the west. As I did yoga and saluted the dawn, Venus rose bright in the east. (That silver dot in the sky over the Arkansas Hills in the photo above is Venus, seen from the courtyard off our bedroom, where I do yoga.)
Afterward, I made my simple breakfast and then settled on the couch in the warm sun with the Sunday newspaper and a cup of hot chocolate (caffeine sets off my Lupus, so I settle for my next favorite drug–chocolate–and buffer its small kick with milk-fat). Once I'd worked my way from the serious news through the comics–seems to me that it's important to find some humor in every day–I picked up my computer and wrote my daily haiku, and then posted it on Facebook and Twitter. This haiku practice is my sneaky way of bringing a dose of nature and wildness, what Henry David Thoreau described in The Maine Woods as "The solid earth! the actual world!" to the virtual universe of social networking.
The rest of the day has passed largely in silence, except for the clicking of my computer keyboard. It's a welcome luxury to be able to ignore the world for large chunks of time, and write. I'm intending to do a lot of that for the next four days, including Thanksgiving. After all the travel to medical appointments and procedures, plus good visits with my folks and my brother in the past few weeks, solitary writing time seems like the best way for me to give thanks. (That's my mom, my brother, my dad, and Richard in the photo below, on a ghost tour of the venerable Brown Palace Hotel in Denver earlier this month.)
When I say the day has largely gone by in silence, I mean quiet: no background music, no television (easy since we don't own one), no movies on the laptop, no distraction of any sort. Just the wind roaring down the valley from the storm front blowing in that may or may not bring us badly-needed moisture, the ringing of the Paolo Soleri temple bell in the kitchen garden, and the other sounds of the world outside.
As I wrote in Walking Nature Home,
"I once was terrified of silence. Now I've come to thirst for it, or at least for the peace that comes when the busyness of life stills. 'True silence,' wrote Quaker William Penn, '… is to the spirit what sleep is to the body, nourishment and refreshment.' Stillness and quiet are undervalued resources, rarities in landscapes dominated by humans and our attendant noise."
Or in lives dominated by caregiving, no matter how beloved are those we care for. So while Richard is off attending to his inner needs, I'll be snug here at home reveling in the nourishing quiet. And writing up a storm.
Coming attractions: Tune in Tuesday evening for reviews of two new books that'll have you itching to travel, and on Black Friday, a new kids' book on why we might want to buy less, and love our planet more. See you then!