This was to be my second meditation retreat with Hamid, and my first time ever in Bali. The excitement that comes with discovering a new and notably beautiful place, along with the sense of security of returning to a positive experience such as this retreat, fueled my decision to sign up and go. I would be arriving from my home in Israel, worlds away both geographically and culturally, especially in these times of heightened internal turmoil and conflict. And that was just an external expression of the internal turmoil I was already feeling on a personal level, following nearly three years of isolation and anxiety due to the pandemic. With these intense feelings conflated, pushing and pulling at my sense of ease, I was so eager to escape the reality of the world, my country, and myself, and just sit in silence and stillness for a whole week, supported and supporting the others in the group. Comforted by the certainty of knowing that I would soon be cradled in the safety net of this retreat, along with the others in our group, I set out towards the perceived image in my mind of what the next few weeks would be like.
And then, as reality goes, things changed. Reality happened. Presented itself quite differently than planned. For reasons out of anyone’s hands, the retreat was postponed by a week. And then canceled. And then moved to a different location. And ultimately, thanks to the kindness and generosity of Hamid, our beautiful retreat was rescheduled for a shorter duration, still set in the lovely natural location originally chosen. The days leading up to it were filled with rapid fluctuations, uncertainty and fast-paced changes that challenged my inherent difficulty with change and basic need for certainty, now and always. And then, within the whirlwind of all the practicalities I was required to tend to, along with the dominant sense of uncertainty, something inside me just agreed to let go. I knew one thing for sure: I had traveled halfway around the world for something. My soul was headed forward, my eyes gently focused on the path, and all my actions were slow and filled with ease. I decided to just do my best and not let the emotions or distractions get in my way. I was letting myself surrender to what was happening and do what I needed to make it to the retreat.
As soon as we sat down on the warm wooden floor, a small group that had overcome the obstacles individually and together, I could feel the tension I had been carrying melt away, washed away with the overflow of tears pouring down. I had arrived. We had arrived. And as we each shared and witnessed each other; I could feel the burden being gently lifted off of my soul. Of the stories, expectations, desires and disappointments I had been carrying for so long. Hamid eased us into the moment and through the next few days with his profound wisdom and comforting words. The obstacles, he explained, are not in the way of the path. They are the path. We all carry our loads throughout life, but through practice we can learn to “carry it lightly.” Carry it lightly. These words have stayed with me and continue to echo in my mind and comfort my soul.
The retreat was exceptional, as I imagine each retreat is. Each experience has its own individual magic; gentle magic that permeates from each individual soul and collectively sprinkled along our mutual path on which we sat and walked these days together, bearing witness to ourselves, to others and to the beautiful world we are part of. As Hamid quoted and explained, we are all falling through the air. There is nothing to grab onto. And there is no ground. It is in this groundlessness that we are grounded. When we sit for meditation, we don’t know what will arise. We are silent, and still. And the silence itself is our ground. And we are invited to keep on walking.
During our afternoon walk throughout the village right outside the retreat center, our steps were silent, as we passed by homes, temples, men women and smiling children, as well as dogs, large and small. Some were laying peacefully on the warm ground, others rising on their legs to greet us with a bark. Sometimes, the barks were louder than I would have liked… But we kept on walking. Step after step. And in this unfamiliar setting, each step revealing something I had never seen or witnessed before, I felt at home. At ease. Comforted by the sound of my feet gently touching the asphalt, and the wordless knowing that everything was unfolding as it was supposed to. Nothing to hold onto. The obstacles are the path. And on this path, everything unfolds as it may. And we are there, grounded in groundlessness. And our soul calls us to keep on walking. And when we do, we can bear witness to the grace and gratitude that fills our hearts.