When was the last time it didn’t feel like the end of the world? I’m always in a hurry. In a hurry to be the best version of myself – now, to get all my biz and work done – now, to face the world with unbound energy – now. In this rush, I am struggling to get anything done and can hardly sleep. I feel so much pressure because I can see all that I’m doing wrong, all the ways I have not grown and all the ways I’m still the same.
So, my scheduled whole-day retreat at Cenacle Retreat House, Quezon City was right on time. I remember standing at the door, and when the lady let us in, I was stunned by the sight of lush green, the faint chirping of birds and the serene statue of Mary. It felt like I entered a resort! My intention for today was to just reeeelax and take it easy, holding space for whatever the experience had in store for me.
We were a group of 15 women plus our guide and a chaperone from the Christian Ministry Office of our school. Our guide for the day was Sr. Hazel Suarez, an elderly sister who was analytical, grounded, spiritual, and yet relatable to our group of mostly 20-year-olds.
The day was unforgettable and magical. We took time to stay present and it helped that the environment was calming and beautiful. Not to mention, there animals like bunnies and turtles to keep us company! We were fed three times that day with healthy food made from the freshest ingredients. Vegan and special diet friendly. My friend and I couldn’t stop snacking on the fish sticks, the vegetable soup, and savoring the banana split vanilla sundae.
For me, the best part was the grounding wisdom Sr. Hazel imparted to us. My friend suddenly asked me why humans are so stressed out all the time. I told her it was because of short-sightedness and forgetfulness, and Sr. Hazel’s guideposts helped us remember what are essential. Sr. Hazel reminded us that what we get out of today is ours. She wasn’t going to connect the dots for us–we were.
Here are the guideposts she gave to help us connect the dots of our life…
Identify your roommates.
The most common theme among us 20-year-olds is that there’s so much noise in our life: noise in our minds, the noise of distractions like social media, the noise of other people’s opinions, and etc. Sr. Hazel taught us about our “roommates”: the voices in our head that split us in different directions. These roommates come from different facets of our life from the voice of our parents to the voice of society. These roommates all desire different things that may not be aligned with our highest good. I identified 3 roommates: the roommate who was my critical voice who saw everything I did as “not enough”, the roommate who was very stressed out and was pressing me to remember and think about all the agendas that won’t finish themselves, and the last roommate who acted like a mediator: reasoning out to and silencing the critical roommate, reassuring the stressed roommate, and forming a game plan.
Our life is driven by a car, the car representing ourselves: Which of the roommates were driving the car? Are we going to let our roommates drive our car? When you identify your roommates, ask yourself, “Is this life-draining or life-giving?” When we don’t identify our roommates, we can mistake our roommates to be us. Sr. Hazel invited us to take charge of our steering wheel, because we are not these roommates. We are the consciousness aware of and beyond them.
Life-draining or life-giving?
How do you choose what to prioritize and what to do? Ask yourself if it’s life-draining or life-giving. This came up when one of our fellow retreat buddies mentioned how she went on a social media detox because social media addiction was eating away at her life. We are encouraged to cultivate the eye to spot out what drains us from life from those that promote life.
Very important vs. MOST important.
We unknowingly are sucked into the illusion that the 5Cs in life are what matter most: career, cash, credit card, condo, and car. Though these are very important, they are not the most important. Sr. Hazel recalls how most of the richest people in the world are the saddest despite having the 5Cs. Why is this the case? Because when all is said and done, and the years go by, friends and family wither away, it becomes clear how much relationships and connection matter. She described relationships and connection as heaven while disconnection and isolation as hell. We musn’t build our lives to buy all the things and to focus on generating while although it is definitely important to build stability and security. Our challenge is to relate well, meaning that we connect with our fellow human beings, not isolate ourselves. Because we all have limited time on earth. Plastics, objects, money have well over thousands. We only have limited time to be with our friends and family who may even die ahead of us. So we musn’t live for money and material things. We must live to relate well: to share ourselves, connect, and spread our gifts, love, talent, and knowledge.
We had a mirroring exercise. We formed a circle and the task was to say what we noticed and what struck us about our “mirror”, the person beside us. At first, I was frightened. One of my fears was to ask or know what people felt about me because I always assumed it would be negative. I always assumed that I was the odd one out, and though I was smiling, I was scared as my turn came and people described me.
When sharing happened, connection happens. I realized that I was so disconnected from others because of my fear of knowing. And what did I come to know? That I was loved. I was appreciated. It was healing to face this fear, to know that there’s so much that connects us than divides us. What struck me about this exercise is that when we knew each other’s thoughts about us in this safe space, it led us to become closer to one another. If we were scattered puzzle pieces before the exercise, we all collectively connected like a circle afterwards.
Sr. Hazel said that when we’re angry, when we’re afraid, when we avoid and hide, it’s because we don’t know.
So, know. When you are conscious of it, life can move and flow. It’s one of roommates who thinks we can’t survive the knowing. But the truth is, it frees us.