When Monking Friend and I arrived at the monastery on Thursday, the sheep pastures were still covered with snow, with ripples of dried grasses showing gold above the white. But warm winds that night melted much of the snow, and a steady rain the next day released the smell of spring mud. We woke to twittering of spring birds.
A rainy day at the monastery is a good day for spring cleaning. Whether I am hiking across the sheep pastures in a light rain or sitting inside by the fire in the guest cottage, I turn inwards, thinking over the past year, uncovering warm memories, old resentments, and all kinds of things I thought I had forgotten. I put away disappointments and catalog growth. Like any kind of cleaning project, a retreat brings some discoveries, like an old box of childhood memories I thought I had packed away long ago.
Spring cleaning makes creates new spaces inside me, spaces for new experiences, new friendships, new growth. Sometimes it is time to let go of clutter, those old CDs with their negative messages. When I come across a hurtful memory, I analyze it, take it apart, and then sweep the pieces into the fire. I linger over the warm, wonderful memories – I pack them carefully and keep them near the surface for times when I need them to sustain me.
During this retreat, I wrote pages and pages in my journal, pages that I will never show anyone. Writing just for me. Somehow it is always healing to write my feelings out, even if no one will ever read them. The peace of the monastery quiets the chaos of my mind. I walk into the chapel, breathing in the musty smell of incense and descend down the old stone stairs to my favorite spot. Alone down in the crypt, I sit cross-legged on the stone floor in front of the candles and let feelings rise to the surface.