Men’s Gratitude Retreat – January 2016 – The Hermitage
– Jay Landry
I looked forward to this retreat as it approached, considering that I had not been on a retreat in years. I give many of them but my days as a retreat participant are truly back in the day. This retreat did not disappoint. I found the drumming to be a helpful entrance into presence, that is, being present to the present moment and my journey within it. The meals were fantastic and the men giving and participating in it were quite welcoming. I especially liked the “Green Scripture” as some of the presenters described God’s Bible – nature. As a wannabe biblical scholar, I found this image evocative. All of this was up against the death of my dear mother, Sherry Landry, in late October 2015.
The highlight of the retreat was a talk given by Richard on The Parable of the Pearl of Great Price. He invited us to enter the Green Scripture and ask ourselves what our pearl of great price might be. Further, what are we willing to sacrifice, to give up, to get this great pearl? I found this quest to be enticing. So I launched myself out the doors and into the Green Scripture. I figured that I needed to find a nice quiet spot to meditate for a while and my pearl of great price and the needed sacrifice would manifest itself.
Well, the more I thought about meditating and focusing on this quest, the more I resisted it.
I am, by evolution, an extraordinary control freak. I quickly realized that I did not want to meditate on anything. Rather, I wanted to play. So I said to myself, “Self, let us break the rules and play.” My self said, “That sounds great!” So we did. I frolicked around the grounds, singing the Cat Stevens song “Morning Has Broken” just loud enough to wake the flowers and the other participants who were quietly meditating. I then found the most fascinating tree that I could not decide if it was a tree or a bush. Who cares! It had a trunk, branches, and this amazing fruit like blooming. I spent a long time with that tree just admiring it and wondering how much fun God had when She created this type of tree. It was truly an out-of-the-box tree that reflected something about its Creator.
As I realized that it was getting close for me to head back, I sat down and wrote for about 5 minutes…I wrote three pages in 5 minutes. I realized that my pearl of great price is the freedom to play, to be the person – the inner child who is free of anxiety – who plays and celebrates all of creation, including myself.
Thus, my playing and enjoying that fascinating tree was exactly what I needed. As I delighted in that tree just as it was, I realized that God delighted in me…just as I am regardless of what I do and whether I am successful or not. God’s invitation to me is the ability to delight in myself and all of creation – it is why She created us and all things. What sacrifice do I need to make to get this freedom? What do I need to give up to get this great pearl? CONTROL. Simply put, I need to gradually give up control of all things in my life as if it depends on me. As a victim of sexual abuse, I have morphed into a seeker who tries to stay on top of all things – “just one more try and I will do it…watch me! – including the death of my mother whose death I could painfully do nothing to stop.
Finally, I am quite grateful for this retreat and this evocative exercise of the pearl of great price. It has helped me take a few steps along the journey of life, slowly realizing that if I put all things into God’s hands and give it my best, She will work things out…and I can do lots of playing, grieving, crying, and celebrating amidst it all with an evolving spirit of gratitude for what is and not for what I demand that it must be.