I've just come out of a 3 day silent meditation retreat--the first that I have done since my children were born four years ago. I knew beforehand that the focus of the retreat would be the practice of Metta, which roughly translates to Lovingkindness. Metta is cultivating the feeling of love in your mind, heart, and body and then extending it outward. You start by wishing Metta to yourself, then, those who have supported you, then those who are neutral or invisible to you. Next, you wish Metta to those who are difficult for you, and ultimately, all living beings. It is a beautiful and heart-opening practice.
I entered the retreat with some expectations of how it would turn out, which should have been the first red flag. I imagined myself returning from the retreat, after 15 hours a day of this singular focus, heart ablaze with love, compassion, and gratitude.
I am home now. The retreat, while beautiful, was not the experience I envisioned. Alas, I am a far, far cry from the radiant self I imagined. For example, it took me less than 24 hours to snap at my husband, who so graciously supported my retreat, single-parenting all weekend long and even welcoming me home with a warm meal. And yet, I am coming to recognize that something much more subtle happened. That something is a tenderness with myself for these persistent missteps and ways that I am unskillful with others in spite of my best intention. It is a tenderness that pushes me to first see where and how I strayed off the path, forgive myself, take responsibility for my actions, and begin again. And again, and again, and again.