Even though I work this way with others, I have not gone into retreat for a long, long time. I am inspired by the effect of retreating on those for whom I am companion and guide. But I forget how vital this work is for me.
I determine that it is time again, to go into retreat, in preparation for the turn of the year. As is to be expected, this feels inconvenient to do now, hard to find time for, requiring too much from me. Still, I persevere, and sequester myself in silence, light my candles and bring out my rattle.
The past year floats under the glare of my gaze, and I rescue forgotten blessings, feel my heart tighten with unresolved pains and fears. I honor all of the energies I find, witness them wholly.
In the smoke of the incense, I release what does not serve me, and feel lightened, heartened.
Then I remember, one last thing.
This year, too often, I have felt disconnected; disconnected from Nature, from the cycles of the year and my body, from awe and from what is sacred in my daily doings. As this recognition comes to me, along with the question of how to release this large, heavy energy, a movement outside my window catches my eye.
It is a great bird, with powerful wings, gently coasting past, and my mind is slow to grasp, to process, to return to me: owl. The bird alights in the high branches of a towering tree, the tree that I gaze on as I do my daily practices, the one that reminds me that trees are also my relations.
It can’t be an owl, I think. This is the city. It is broad daylight. Could it be? The bird is still, imposing, enormous, unblinking. It is indisputably an owl.
My mind is startled into stillness. I remember the thought of disconnection and, immediately, a new thought arises: I could never be disconnected from Nature, from what is sacred, from my Self.
No sooner does this thought rise in my awareness, as the great owl takes flight and coasts away into the white sky, disappears from my view.
I could never be disconnected from my Self; Owl has come to remind me of it.