I could hear the sharp sound of my steps as I climbed up the wooden stairs. The silence was deafening and overwhelming. The aroma of the incense was intoxicating.
Am I really at the right place? I asked myself amidst the loud vibrations on my chest. My heart was beating so fast. I felt heavy and I knew that the things I brought with me were all adding up to my weight.
Finally, I was standing at the door of my room. Room 302, the sign read. I held the knob, but I hesitated for a while, trying to think if those numbers mean anything to me. Seconds slipped by and nothing came up. I decided not to overthink. I gently twisted the knob, pushed the door, and left it open behind me. The freshness and neatness of the room was delightful.
I was all alone for now, but the moment of privacy failed to excite me, and for the first time, the sound of silence suddenly became strange to me.
The silence was scary.
Two days later, I was ascending the same stairs, going to the same room, with my Danish roommate beside me.
“This is the most challenging part of the story, of every unexpectedly beautiful story that I write,” I told Martin. “The ending.”
His blue eyes looked at me and smiled. “It’s not an ending. It’s a beginning.”
I smiled back at him. Then, I looked down with all ears, feeling the lightness and listening to the quietness of our steps.
Words became unspoken as we entered the room. I gathered my things and organized them again in my backpack. We were preparing to leave.
The fragrance of the blanket, the pillow case, and the bedsheet lingered in my smell as I removed and folded them neatly on one side. I could still feel the softness of the bed, a patient cushion to my heaviness as I struggled to dwell in silence two nights ago. Time quietly passed our notice, but the essence of these things remained unchanged.
I gazed at the point of light on the wall above my bed. Once again, my emerging focus gave me a vivid awareness of words that are as beautiful as detachment and letting go, and the wonderful memories of our retreat downstairs came flashing back at me.
I loved what I felt.
“I admire your courage for taking the first step to know that something in you needs to heal,” the facilitator in immaculate white robe said to us. “Your effort alone can help you become successful in searching for what you came here for.”
My eyes traveled beyond the open door of the Peace Hall, to the garden where the plants and the trees danced gracefully in the breezy coolness of Tagaytay air. The positive ambiance was omnipresent.
I fidgeted in my seat as I surveyed the interior of the room. I was very visible. There were twenty-four participants in the session, seated in chairs arranged in semi-circle. I started to become more tense. I thought that many of them have lived far beyond my number of years on earth. I tried to gauge each face, searching for someone of my age who could somehow relate to my struggles. I was deep in that thought when the questions were asked and the ensuing answers somehow eased my tension.
What do you need healing for? Each answer from everyone carried its own gravity and a glimpse of individual human story.
Painful memories of the past. Anxieties of the present. Worries of the future.
I have all of the above.
What did you come here for? I mentioned two.
The retreat did not give me the right answers to my uncertainties; instead, it gave me the time, space, clarity, and spiritual tools that I could use to find my own answers. It did not take me right to where I want to be; instead, it gave me different insights on how to live out my journey and discern which destination I want to end up to.
It is all about my own choice.
The power of silence has re-connected me to myself, to the Divine Supreme, to my inner peace – my very nature. The series of meditations helped me focus my mind so I could clear away distractions, doubts, and unpleasant noise.
The personal reflections and interactions with all the beautiful souls around me brought me awareness of who I really am.
I received a strong affirmation that I have the power to change, that peace and joy are just within me; they do not exist outside of me. But I have forgotten that I have them in my possession because I gave my mind the permission to be disturbed by the deceptive, unloving, and sorrowful world.
It was my negative and waste thoughts that produced my feelings of unworthiness and spiritual disconnection, so I lost control of my God-given qualities that could empower me to travel to the depths of my spirit and tap my inner peace that produces joy.
I lack nothing. I am perfectly built.
I know that I have not yet fully mastered my focus. I know it is going to take time. I know it entails a conscious effort. I know I need to sustain my self-awareness. I know I would still be reliving the beautiful memories of our retreat. With my new found soul-consciousness, I know I am on the road to getting there.
Martin is right.
The retreat may have ended, but its creative effects will let me start the beginning of a new story.
I am still the character in the same form, but I am transformed in spirit. I am blessed. I am loved. I am peaceful.