The Retreat

A short story

We burst into the room apologies mentally prepared, one look at Peter and we stay silent, "we are just processing, going through a meditation" he says in his naturally kind voice. I glance around at everyone, they have their eyes tight shut and trying to look relaxed but they are obviously irritated by our lateness and this rude interruption and I don't blame them. I sit quickly and force myself to be relaxed. The conversations with Ritch on our extended walk are running through my mind and I realise that I am very, very flustered. Everything has changed he has shown me a new way to look at myself. Yesterday, during the story telling process he had asked me whether if when I was with a man I loved him totally, I had said yes, no half measures. I had been caught on the hop, led somewhere I didn't know I was prepared to go publicly, telling my secrets to these strangers within a couple of hours of meeting them. Ritch has a way, a way to make me open up, or maybe that should be to 'help' me open up. And the questions he had put to me in the last half hour during our walk were more intense, probing, asked in good humour and again I had found myself answering honestly, not sure whether I was telling him or telling myself, not even sure where the answers were coming from, but I knew they were coming from somewhere in me and they felt right.

I shut my eyes and tried to focus on Peter's voice, what is he saying? Something about walking in a beautiful place, feeling serene, everything perfect. Does he not realise that I have just had my world blown apart? How can I concentrate on an inner sanctuary when I have just realised the lies I have been telling myself for decades are not true. Yes I want to heal people, yes I am good at organising people and things, but... Then I remember what I wrote on my application to attend this weekend "I want to learn how to improve my personal relationships".

Oh my God! I have spent the whole weekend avoiding the subject and I am astonished to find that this bewilderingly humble Scotsman, about whom I know virtually nothing, has reminded me this is what I came here for, he has shown me that I cannot improve my personal relationships until I improve the relationship with myself. The penny starts to tumble.

We have been told that when the meditation is over we are going to be asked to share what we are going to take away from the weekends' experiences and how we think we can take this forward into our daily lives. I try to sink myself into the meditation, panicking I have no idea what I am going to say when the time comes, grappling for the masks of yesterday and this morning. I am laid bare and confused.

Applying long used techniques I tell my brain to shut up so I can let go and let the inner process do its thing. I listen to Peter's voice and all of my functions slow, warm sensations activate throughout my body, I am tingling all over. I know this feeling, know it is purity and truth being committed to my essence, I know that I can never go back.

Peter counts us back to reality, I am not sure I want to come back, I have been to the most wonderful place deep within me, the place where it is beautiful and full of joy, to come back would mean facing everyone, facing myself, facing Ritch. Regardless I open my eyes slowly, Ritch is sat casually in his chair across from me, beyond the the coffee table on which our discarded cups stand woefully and our retreat workbooks have been carefully placed with trust that no one will peek inside, but I see nothing of this. He is looking directly at me, inside me, his eyes boring into mine searching my soul, offering an intense knowing I have never witnessed before. Words cannot express, to come back from heaven and find I am still there. Neither of us blink, our eyes are fixed, it feels limitless, endless... then Peter speaks, we both look at him, it ends.