Today’s guest blogger is Dana Coffey, a junior at DePaul pursuing a double major in Theater Studies and Peace, Justice, and Conflict Studies. This article was originally posted in Dana’s blog which can be viewed here.
This past Friday night I went on a night long meditation retreat. The theme of this retreat was darkness and how to embrace the parts of our life that may be in darkness.
This retreat was not something that I was 100% on board with the minute that I heard about it. Quite the opposite actually. We were finishing an interfaith cafe meeting and people were making announcements. Somebody invited us to the meditation retreat. My gut reaction to this was not positive. I actually recoiled a bit. The thing about me is I am a grade A, well practiced compartmentalizer. I tend to store anything overwhelming in a cobweb infested part of my brain until eventually, I run out of cobweb infested spaces and it all spills out together in such a rush that I can’t remember what it was about in the first place. I am trying to change this, but any compartmentalizer will tell you that old habits die hard and sometimes, it is just easier to fall back on that. Any compartmentalizer will tell you that meditating is the last thing that we want to be doing. We hate those spaces where your mind can simply flow. The stuff that we have stored might come out if we let our minds get too free!
I dropped the idea and walked to Clarke’s with a group of interfaith-ers for a milkshake. As we were waiting for our food, I started to truly feel connected to these people. I was in a group of mostly new people but I felt at home with them. I was relaxed and felt so completely welcome with these people. I think it is truly the interfaith attitude and space that interfaith creates that made me feel this way. Interfaith establishes a space where people are truly excited to hear other’s stories and develop a sense of community. It was at this point, and maybe along with my resolution to step out of my comfort zone and live more actively through love this year that I decided I was going on the retreat. Even if I started to have an unexpected outpour of my compartmentalized feelings, I was in the right space and with the right people for it to happen.
I got to the retreat and we shared a wonderful meal with a great group of people and got down to business. We started sharing stories, journaling, drawing, and meditating on what darkness we had in our lives. I was tense through the entire first meditation that we did. It was a serious task to pry open the parts of my that I work so hard to close usually. During our second meditation, I started to get the hang of it. And the thoughts started to pour out. But in a great way. Here was space that I found for these thoughts to come out in a healthy and productive way. I was also comforted by my friend’s faith that views darkness not as something scary but something healthy.
After we finished, I was the first to bed. I was exhausted. I woke up with the beginning of a cold coming on, but I was reminded of what my mom would tell us when we were little and had a runny nose: “it’s the badness coming out.” Maybe it wasn’t badness coming out, but simply my body continuing the cleansing.