I went on a retreat last weekend, and here’s what I expected.
I thought we would wake up in the morning and stretch outside under the trees, listening to the birds and feeling the cool air on my cheeks.
Then we would sit and do some spiritual reading in a comfortable chair or while laying down, and it would definitely be air conditioned.
After a nice breakfast, we would sit down and meditate, and I would feel really really blissful and happy about myself.
I was paying for this retreat, anyway! All of that stuff is what should’ve happened, what I should get, right?!
Well- uhhh, … no.
It was hot, sticky, and itchy.
I was so emotional I could barely say two words to anyone.
There was no AC in my room. There was a fan that blew the hot air around LOL.
The evening brought a cool breeze, but there was a big forest fire nearby, so my allergies were kicking my ass the whole time.
And, well, it was nothing like what I expected.
No stretching, no journaling. A little meditation, yes, which was overwhelming.
On the second day, I got away from the holy grounds and went back to my room. I did some stretches, showered up, and felt a bit comfortable.
I stepped into the sanctuary on my own to have a simple, peaceful meditation.
By the time I sat down, it hit me. HARD.
I didn’t bring a gift.
When you approach the Divine, through the Spiritual Master, you are supposed to bring a gift.
A flower, a leaf, a fruit, a letter of gratitude. Anything. Simple.
And I brought nothing.
I heard it loud and clear,
“Do not approach me without a gift.”
I sat there thinking, “Is He talking to me? Or was that my imagination? No- can’t be. I think I’m OK. I’ll just meditate here and relax. I’m finally feeling better. I needed this alone time.” And before I knew it, this thought, this feeling of not having a gift, ate me up from inside.
I was dumbfounded.
After finally getting the chance to be at peace with my meditation, I couldn’t even enjoy it.
Later, I asked my friend Tim about it. He told me that it was definitely not my imagination. He said that you have to always bring a gift to the Master when you approach Him.
He went on to explain how the Divine, through the Teacher, gives us unlimited Gifts. But we can not receive those gifts unless we ourselves are giving. It’s like if a friend gave you things every day. Little things and big things, flowers, clothes, money, even houses and cars. And you never gave him anything at all! At some point, you are going to just stop accepting the gifts- you are simply not able to receive any more.
It’s the same in our spiritual lives.
You see, we have been duped into always expecting to get things.
We are always looking for what we can get for free, and what we can get without giving. We are always looking for a good deal, trying to maximize what we get and minimize what we pay. From a logical, pragmatic point of view, there is no problem with that. But from the point of view of trying to grow spiritually, we must transcend, or grow beyond, that type of thinking.
In our spirituality, we do the same thing. We go to church and hope that the message helps us. We pray, asking for better health, more money, and to feel better about ourselves. We meditate in hopes of feeling good and increasing our spiritual knowledge and understanding. We are expecting to get things out of our spirituality. It’s a consumer based approach, which has been ingraned in us as we live in this consumer based world of advertising, which constantly tells us that the next thing that we get is going to make us happy.
I went on my retreat thinking about what I would get out of it. More understanding, more peace, meeting other great people and having great connections with them, deep meditations, etc. Meanwhile, my retreat coordinator told me on the phone, “this is a service retreat.” Service? I didn’t think twice about it. And when I got there, my ego fought me tooth and nail!
How can we give?
It’s only by giving that we can open up the channels to receive Divine Grace.
We can not “get” grace! The Divine Gifts are GIFTS! We can not “get” happiness! True, deep happiness is a gift- it is THE Gift, that comes from the Divine.
You don’t “get” gifts. You receive them! We are so embedded in getting, and taking, and buying and selling, that we have forgotten how to give and to receive! We need to find that, again. Let all of life be a gift, whether given or received. Every breath. Every moment.
Start with the Divine. What do you receive from the Divine? Love, compassion, peace? Emotional stability? Patience? Better relationships? Understanding? Now, how can you give back? Financially? Through serving others? Serving at your local church or place of worship? Helping children? Mentoring?
What about buying and selling? At your place of business, don’t sell just to get paid. Sell to serve and to bless your customers. Whether you own a large corporation or your work at Taco Bell, it doesn’t matter. You can make that taco with love, and give it your patron as a gift. And when they pay you, you can receive those few dollars with love, instead of “taking” the money from them.
Look deeply at your intimate relationships. What do you expect to “get” out of them? What are you expecting to get from your partner? What can you give your partner as gifts? What do you already give to your partner, but instead of expecting things in return, you can give them as gifts? What does your partner already give to you? Can you adjust your perspective, and receive their gifts AS gifts, instead of “taking what is mine?”
Giving and receiving. Not taking, getting, buying and selling.
So I learned my lesson. I never approach the Master without a gift. I approach the Divine with a broken heart. I don’t listen to my ego’s complaining and whining. I go outside and I pick a flower, and I offer it at His Feet. I pay my tithes without complaining. And I’m now scheduling weekly time to spend in the service of the Divine. And it all feels right, and it all opens my heart to receive the Divine Blessing.
I send you this letter, as a gift. I hope you receive it with love. 🙂
Please sign up above or below, but not both! Thank you!