About three years ago I decided I needed a vacation. I’m not very good at lying on a beach and having a cabana boy bring me drinks so I started to research alternatives. I was interested in doing something that would enrich my inner life so I Googled “spiritual vacation british columbia.”
What I ended up finding was a little piece of paradise in Naramata, BC, where the Naramata Centre sits on the edge of Lake Okanagan surrounded by lush vineyards and rugged hills. As I leave here today, after my third retreat in three years in this giving place, I am truly grateful for Google and its astonishing wisdom.
What a spiritual vacation gives me that a regular vacation does not is discernment. This computer’s dictionary describes discernment as “perception in the absence of judgment with a view to obtaining spiritual direction and understanding.”
I go on spiritual vacation in order to perceive what I cannot yet see so that I may follow the next course of action in my life.
Last week, after the presentation of the Big O Project in front of 10,000+ people I reported that except for one glitch the show went off without a hitch. I also noted that participating artists and presenters were all ecstatic with the final results.
A few friends responded to my concerns about the glitch with tremendous support. “No one notices these things,” they said.
But I noticed. And the glitch was, in fact, a team of live dogs that got so scared by the noise, the lights and the crowd, that they cowered on stage and had to be pulled off by their handler.
At the time, I was on stage myself, in the role of happy crowd-pleaser, encouraging the masses to clap and dance to the rockin’ music being played to accompany the dogs.
Talk about acting! I was mortified to see the dogs so disturbed and if I had been being truthful to what I was really feeling I would have gone immediately to comfort them instead of clapping and dancing and smiling with joy.
After it was over I was back stage, in this enormous stadium, standing beside the giant torch that was the eye-popping centrepiece for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the 2010 Olympics, breathing deeply and trying to digest the remorse in my gut. I felt full of shame over what had happened. It was not my greatest moment.
Coming here, to Naramata, seeking discernment, seeking rest, I have been given “perception in the absence of judgment” with regard to this incident, which I’ve been trying to process since it happened. I am glad to say that I have been given the spiritual understanding of the situation that I was seeking. I am now at peace with it.
Without going into everything that happened to get me here, I will tell you the story of the very last piece of the puzzle:
Last evening, as the sun set and the birds danced and sang all around me, I stood on the threshold of the Centre’s Labyrinth, a mystical path used for meditation, with a question.
“What can I offer? What can I give?”
I entered the single path that leads by twists and turns and curving lines, by one way in and one way out, and I walked, step-by-step toward the centre, listening for the answer to my questions.
Just two steps away from the flower-shaped centre two dogs came bounding up to me, seemingly from nowhere. As I greeted them with great love and affection I realized that the answer to my question had just arrived, manifest in the very real figures of these two shaggy beasts.
As they bounded away and I stepped into the heart of the Labyrinth the words washed over me.
“The dogs. I can offer the dogs.”
I had been blaming myself for the terrible fear I saw in the stage dogs’ faces, for putting them through that ordeal. The Labyrinth dogs represented the permission I needed to finally let go of my shame over the stadium incident, AKA the “glitch”.
What can we do with a situation that plagues us in order to move forward? How can we let it go? How can we accept and learn from it?
We can offer it to the same Loving Power that sends us the answers to our deepest questions.
Beats the beach and a cabana boy any day, no?
Inspiring Message of the Day: When I am carrying a heavy burden I can offer it up. I do not have to hang on to that which weighs me down. I can give it to the Source of All Things and be free.