Last Thursday our spiritual services department at Froedtert Hospital had a retreat day. We met in a gathering place on the banks of the Milwaukee River. It was a beautiful fall day and it was just what I needed. Still suffering from jet lag from a recent trip to China and downhearted from all the election turmoil and the election results my spirits were in need of replenishing.
As we gathered to begin the day our retreat leader invited us to spend some time practicing our practice. If our practice was to journal he encouraged us to journal, if it was to meditate we could do that, if it was to walk we could walk. I thought of the words from Psalm 23 that say, “He restores my soul,” and decided I needed to walk out into the woods along the bank of the Milwaukee River. As I walked through the woods and down the hill to the river I heard the wind blowing in the tree tops. I saw the blue sky high above. I saw trees that had been living and growing for over a hundred years. Some of them had branches missing. Some of them had been twisted by storms and had lived through floods and dry spells. I reached the bank of the river and I saw ducks swimming and a crane flying down stream. As I saw all this and took in what I was seeing I realized that we humans are very small in terms of the big picture. While we fuss and argue our viewpoints and find it hard to value one another and hear one another the bigger world goes on around us. The earth turns. The sun shines. The galaxies keep on moving as old stars die and new stars are born and we all need to see the bigger picture. We are but a brief moment in time. How might we use that time to connect instead of divide? To listen instead of talking and shouting?
As we returned from our practice our leader asked us to pair up and share our practice with our partner. One person shared his practice while his partner listened without comment and then the partner shared his practice and the other person listened without comment. Three times we shared with three different partners. As I shared my practice for the third time I found my feelings from deep within began to surface and I began to cry. I found that when we can speak from deep within our hearts and when we are heard with compassion and respect we can find healing and hope and the strength to go on.
I share my experience last week with all of you because you too may be troubled and hurting at this time. I encourage you to practice your practice. Do what you do when your heart is troubled and broken. And then find that person who will listen to you without dismissing your feelings or telling you what you need to do. Find that person who will listen with respect and deep love for you so that you too can retreat and then return to the battles of life.