Sunday, June 21, 2009

My De Mello Retreat: The Statue

Two weeks ago I spent a week at Mariandale Retreat Center on a retreat based on the writings of Anthony De Mello, a Jesuit from India. His books – Sadhana, The Song of the Bird, Awareness – contain wisdom from Eastern religions as well as Christianity and exercises that are a great help in self-understanding and in meditation. I am amazed at how quickly I seem to come down to earth after a retreat, diving right back into busyness and "too much to do". Yet I am so grateful for having had the "time apart" to refresh body and spirit.

Today I share my favorite "fantasy" exercise from the retreat. It’s called "The Statue". There is a statue of you in a museum. Which museum? Where in the museum is your statue? How big is it? What’s it made of? Title? You enter the museum and find your statue. You converse with it. Is there something you want to tell it? Then you are in the statue and hear people’s comments as they look at it; your friends stop by and you hear what they say. Then Jesus comes. He knows you are really in the statue. What does He say?

My statue is in the Met. In the rooftop garden overlooking Central Park. It’s a marble statue, bigger than life, of me walking. The wind is tossing my hair gently, my arms swing out, my trusty Le Sportsac around my neck. Clad in jeans, T-shirt and walking shoes. The caption is "She Who Loved to Go Out and Walk".

I find this statue of me easily. I love this statue. It’s when I am happiest, feel free. Walking, saying little cheers to myself, meditating, focusing. Walking to stay fit, lose weight, be healthy. The only exercise I ever enjoyed. And it had to be out of doors. I always want to be OUT. Even as a child, I would gaze through the kitchen window to look at the back yard and my grandfather’s garden. So this is the perfect location for my statue, atop the Met overlooking Central Park, where I began my walking in earnest, where I was gifted with poems and marvelous insights. No wonder the expression on my statue face is of quiet joy. I never realized before how happy this combination of nature and walking makes me. It’s where I’ve experienced some of my most profound spiritual gifts.

Now I jump into the statue. Passersby wonder what the silly pocketbook is doing there. Well I do have my baggage, don’t I? I am still "attached". I know it. Not ready to "let go" of everything yet. But someday, maybe it will chip off. The people notice the statue is of an older woman. Wouldn’t a younger person be more aesthetically pleasing? But this is not about external beauty. This is ME when I finally came to discover the most important lessons in life – the decade of my 50’s. When I was truly blessed in the midst of suffering and pain.

Now my friends pass by. Especially my Met Club. Well she sure belongs here, they say. They know me. They know this statue puts it all together: my love of nature, art , walking and my "stuff" (in the Le Sportsac). Yep, they say, the sculptor really captured Eleanor.

Enough for today. Maybe I will share more of my retreat next time.