“When you feel a peaceful joy, that’s when you are near truth”. Rumi
Earlier this year I went on a retreat to one of my favourite places, a Carmelite priory near Oxford. A mystical place of being and contemplation. A place not to be active in prayer, but to be patient and receiving. I have been there on retreat a number of times.
When I had contacted the priory to book myself in, I heard that unfortunately the retreat centre was fully booked. ‘However’, the lady said, ‘as they know you so well it may be worth asking the Prior if you could stay with the Friars in the priory’. ‘Of course, we’d be delighted to have you’, was the response when I followed her advice and spoke to the Prior.
Needless to say, my private contemplation was wonderfully enhanced by being able to leave the others in the retreat centre and retreat even further into the house to savour the incredible energetic poise that pervaded it. The Friars were kind and courteous, while respecting my space. Much emerged from the depths of my being during the week and I found the ‘Holy Spirit’ was there to assist me as I found forgiveness for myself and others as trials and tribulations from my life’s journey chose to uncover and emerge.
On the last morning of my retreat and after having joined the friars for morning prayer, I felt a welling up of tears from deep inside my heart. ‘What is this’ I thought, something else emerging from the box of pain inside me? Yet another layer of the onion? I could find no articulate expression for what this feeling represented, so left it for another retreat or therapy to be fully worked with.
Having packed my bags and ordered my taxi I knocked on the Prior’s door to say goodbye. His assistant answered and as spiritual people can, looked deeply into me. I thanked him for the order’s hospitality and said that I found it an honour and privilege to stay with them. ‘Anytime’ he simply said. At that moment the tears flowed out of me, I could say no more. We hugged and I left, still sobbing, heading for a final sit in the chapel. The mystery tears of earlier were tears of joy, something that had not even occurred to me. Joy at the wonderful way I had been treated. Joy at the wonderful week I had. Joy at the kindness I had been shown.
This has set me wondering since. How often as a therapist do I miss joy or not give joy the space it deserves, busy looking for ‘the work’. And yet, joy is’ the work’ too, healing and balancing, revealing and guiding. I wouldn’t say never, but often enough, probably not. Until now.