Becoming a Place of Refuge

Not long ago I gave myself the gift of a three day, silent meditation retreat. It was held in a beautiful setting outside of San Francisco and one of the instructors was someone I have admired for many years. Sylvia Boorstein is this impish, eighty two year old woman who is a master story teller. She is funny, quick witted and shares her wisdom with a generous, gentle spirit.

Being devoid of responsibility for engaging in any conversation and meditating for hours each day provided lots of time for thoughts and emotions that have been bouncing around in my mind and heart for a while to reveal themselves. Such a mixture of things arose, some soul-enriching, others kind of ugly. At one point I crawled down the rabbit hole where my confusion about the privileged life I have lives. I felt like a ping pong ball, being bounced between gratitude and guilt, and everything in between. Several times my thoughts landed on – “How can I sit here in this lovely retreat center when there are so many people suffering in the world? I should be using this money and my time in service to others!” This really troubled me until the other instructor, Matthew Brensilver, shared something that calmed my mind and helped alleviate my angst.

“When we attend to the undigested issues of the heart, we can become a refuge for others”

I loved this because it connected my efforts to have a more clear and calm mind with my desire to be more of a safe and loving place for others.

A few days after my return from California, I headed to New York to see my new grand daughter (and her parents!). She is growing and thriving and I pretty much held her every moment I was there. She’s weighing in at around 11 pounds now so, not surprisingly, after the first day I woke up with my biceps a bit unhappy. It made me think that I am going to need to amp up my strength training game because she isn’t going to get any lighter and I WANT my arms to be a secure and protected place for her to land. And then I started noticing this way of thinking about what I need to focus my effort and time on arising everywhere. And it really fell into alignment with the Metta Meditation (Loving Kindness) that we practiced during the retreat –

May I be safe…may I be happy…may I be healthy…may I live with ease

If I can cultivate that in myself, I can give it to you.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *