My vision in creating the Create Stillness retreat was simply this–to help people to free themselves up from the shameful inner critic that yammers away when we try to create stillness in our lives, telling us that we’re not doing it right or we’re not disciplined enough or we should have done this or that. I wanted to create an experience for people of going deeply into something and realizing that the point of meditation or stillness is presence. Showing up for all of it. Going into all of it deeply, with attention, so as to be in the living of life and not outside the living of life.

This is related to the fact that the most profound inner revelation I had had in the two years prior to doing this retreat was that slowing. down. was what was needed in order to really shift the inner critic voices. I kept trying to work with those voices, thinking, “Oh, yes, I will speak to myself with unconditional regard; I will not pooh-pooh an idea before it has started; I will not tell myself that I am a pathetic piece of shit.”

You know how that goes, right? Before I knew it, hours had passed and I’d been beating up on myself about something, or–worse, in my mind–taken my upset out on someone else and felt the shame hangover.

It is quite obvious, but it is true

When there is less on one’s plate, it’s easier to give attention to that which remains, and once you’re putting focused attention on something so that you can observe it and see all of its ins and outs and bits and baubles, then there’s a real chance of change. I spent the summer of 2008 living in Italy, and it was a time of intense transformation for me. I had nothing on my plate, nothing I “had” to do, and in the quiet of my little room tucked away in a villa, I felt such spaciousness that I was able to hear those critical voices the moment they surfaced, and then listen, and do so with presence, and then make a conscious, present, focused choice about what I wanted to do, next.

It was also in Italy that I learned that the point was not necessarily meditation on a cushion with the right mudra. It’s absolutely a worthy practice, one that will bring a person deep, but it’s not the only practice. I learned in Italy that getting present to food, to silence, to nature, to art, to taking a photograph–all were forms of practicing stillness.

Look. There are people who think I’m wrong, and they’re quite vocal about how wrong they feel I am on this topic. If the proof is in the pudding, let it be in how insistent one needs to be on saying that someone else is wrong–not very “still” or “present” of them–but I know that each of us is presented with the exact thing that is the next step in our own growth. Sometimes we all choose to push up against something.

What I know is that this weekend was profoundly touching for me. I so enormously appreciated meeting each of the participants. (P.S. There’s one person who is not linked here because I don’t have her website info, however, I’m giving a little wave to Suzie!).

And there are not words for how much I love, adore, and am hopelessly smitten with the courageous, ferocious, tenacious, gentle, soul-FULL Darlene Kruetzer Paetz, who assisted and lead part of the retreat.