02/15/2013 01:43 pm ET Updated Apr 17, 2013

Silent Retreat: Discovering the Heart Inside Our Heart

Through the ages, seekers in all traditions have taken time away from the chores of normal life and sought out nature and silence to answer a longing that seems to be unsatisfied any other way. As they pull back from the demands of work, relationships, all the activities that keep them busy, there is a relief coming back to one's own energy and being. This physical withdrawal from the daily routine brings a welcome mental and emotional clarity. To take time for retreat is to take ourselves out of worldly life and put ourselves in a world where we can hear and respond to another calling, a calling from within.

Beginning our retreat, there may be anxiousness or restlessness separating from our habits, the routine we think we are dependent upon. Soon, there is a lightness of being, freedom, and joy in our surrender. Simple peace is present.

Stillness instead of something to fear or think necessary to fill with some activity is in fact a gentleness to enjoy. As we become available to the quiet, the quiet of our heart becomes available. Where normally life is stuffed full of the details of managing our day, in retreat we become aware of the presence of our heart. Yes, there is a presence in our heart. What we call this presence is not as important as the experience and the gift that is offered.

In the quietude of our retreat, silence, nature, and meditation are providing shelter for our personality. We are no longer on duty. There is nothing to do. Our thinking machine can be turned down, if not off. Something in our heart is opening, inviting. With everyday life not pulling our attention, our awareness is simply present. We have space from our personal story. In meditation, we find more space inside of us. This vastness opening within is somehow special, important! Underneath our busy mental world is a heart of being. Underneath the noise of our thoughts is a vast stillness. No matter how challenging life may be, the love inside begins to shine like the sun through a cloudy day. No matter the difficulties, the love in the silence of our heart is proving greater.

There is a heart inside our heart! This inner heart is not easily described. Everyone has their own experience. A joy and inner harmony is present. Like the ripples of a pond becoming clear and calm, our inner heart comes forward in the peace of our retreat. We offer everything we find inside. Instead of holding on to all our thoughts, our disappointments, and expectations, we offer. This calms our thinking and creates more space for this inner sanctuary. We receive deeply the heart inside our heart. Like a sponge, we want to soak in this pure experience. This is our retreat practice. Many times each day and in the night, we practice offering and receiving everything we find in our heart. The heart inside our heart is unfolding.

In the protective silence of our retreat, we are uncovering our inner heart. Our thoughts slow down and stop as we enter. Here is an altar, covered over for some time but nevertheless present. There is a heart knowing as if it comes from the center of the universe. Heart intelligence is different than learning information. In this experience, the light we find inside is very bright. Many of our struggles are receding. The silence of our retreat has quieted the mental noise of life. We understand. We see deeply. As our mental worlds grow thinner, the heart inside our heart gets stronger. Despite the ups and downs of our personal story, here our natural awareness is unspoiled, free. The heart inside the heart is what we feel in all the loves we discover in life. Now we know these loves are centered within us. It is always our own heart we are feeling that connects us to the many loves we enjoy in the world.

As the retreat progresses, our busy thoughts lessen and our awareness grows in the heart inside our heart. Typically, the experience at first is small and limited. Slowly, the experience of our inner heart expands until it includes our entire body. Our whole being becomes a heart to breathe in and out of. Then, the meditation experience grows with the heart reaching beyond our body out into our life. Everyone and everything in our life is part of the heart that is inside our heart. Our activities, relationships, intentions, everything is an extension of our heart awareness. The love is beyond measure, beyond description.

Our silent retreat is bringing the gifts talked about in all religions. But instead of intellectual discussion, we are enjoying our own sacred journey. How do we tell others everything is as close as the stillness within our own heart?

There is a great mystery in our interior silence. In the midst of our daily life, there is a heartfulness that is entirely ours. No one, nothing can take it away from us. Gradually, our awareness is anchored in the heart inside our heart. We have a new perspective. We are finding more heart seemingly everywhere. We want to honor, shelter, and be with this part of us that is showing us something about light, eternity, home. Inner silence and we find ourselves in greater arms. Inner stillness and our awareness feels carried. Silence is becoming an intimate friend. We want to turn down, unplug the noise of our mental world, and uncover our innermost heart, our original heart. Life is so brilliant and exquisite. There so much more of ourselves to share and give.

For more by Bruce Davis, Ph.D., click here.

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