Being in surroundings outside of my home environment, and adopting a routine unrecognisable to my ordinary week, stirs things up. Grist for the mill in abundance, in fact. I realise very quickly my attachment to the known, and to the familiar, and to that over which I have some control. Joining a group most of whom I do not know, who have come together with the sole purpose of being on a silent retreat is a strange scenario indeed. There is something profoundly artificial about our circumstances. Out there, in the real world, none of us pass our days and evenings in quiet contemplation. We get on with being busy. So here, the slowing down is more like applying the brakes hard.
The first 3 days of a retreat is said to be the hardest. We begin to come face to face with all that we have brought with us, in addition to our bags. As it is allowed room to surface, we are able to see with clarity that which frightens us, that which we dislike and that with which we are struggling. Our hopes, and our fears are all brighter. Perhaps rather too bright to begin with. The practices offer metaphorical sunglasses, to ease the glare. The aim is to remain in the sunshine, rather than immediately seek shade.