Loving Encounters

I got home from my retreat yesterday about 3:30 pm. I intended to send out a blog but my blog-creating program was misbehaving and refused to bring up the page I needed for writing a new blog. After several tries, I surrendered to the situation.

The silent retreat was not as silent as I’d expected. I really like silent retreats but I sometimes feel the loss of an opportunity to get to know other attendees who seem to be seekers like myself. I guess I am just a curious person and not as committed to the idea of encountering God within as I sometimes think I am. At this particular retreat, I found myself learning quite a bit about my fellows and was extremely touched by them. If I could summarize their character, I’d say they are extremely caring people who have a genuine concern for the suffering in the world. They tend to be troubled by persons or institutions who would harm others. They believe that each of us can in some way encounter God personally. Change in the world begins with change within oneself and they spoke with incredible honesty and humility.

Like most people who choose meditation as part of their spiritual practice, these were very much in the moment and present. I could see this in the way they listened to one another, as though nothing else mattered during the encounter. I can’t imagine any of them thinking about what they were going to say next or distracted by thoughts of what might be going on elsewhere. You, the person to whom they are listening, is all that matters right now. This is an incredible thing. When I am in the presence of such a person, I feel…loved. I can’t think of a better word to describe it. It gives me a glimpse of what it means to love everybody, which we say Jesus did. Jesus had special friends with whom he hung out, but everyone he encountered felt love from him. I wonder if what I experienced from my retreat friends is what the people who experienced Jesus did.

Sometimes, when I have a task before me, like shopping or going to some organizational meeting, I try to stop and think about the people I will be encountering. My prayer is that I will remember a higher purpose in each encounter, not to achieve a monetary exchange or do some planning together, but to simply affirm the value of one another by listening deeply, even with a sense of wonder.