The end-of-year silent retreat has been my annual ritual for the past fifteen years. It has helped me greatly to release emotions and attachment, gain more clarity about my path, and open up for potentials and possibilities in the new year. I have also witnessed how the retreatants I guided rejuvenated, had an important realization about their lives, and found a new approach or direction. A silent retreat is a valuable opportunity to refrain from talking and listening to others and slow down physical and mental activities. During a retreat, I remove my phone and computer from my space and stay alone. I shift from doing to being and spend most of the time resting, meditating, practicing mindfulness, doing yoga and slow walking, journaling, and watching the wonder of nature. As my body and mind rest, relax, and settle in the here and now, I descend into my inner world. Through the veils of images and senses, the emotion I have not been in touch with emerges. I let myself fully experience and express it. As my heart gets purified in the process, my mind becomes clear, and the inner wisdom shows me where to go from here. I arrive in a place of peace, love, and gratitude deep inside me. I need to do this inner work of releasing and cleansing at the end of every year. In the past few years, I did a ritual of making a bonfire and symbolically burning what I wanted to let go of. I wrote down on pieces of paper what I decided to release and threw them into the fire. Watching them first turning into the flame and then ash gave me a profound sense of closure. I know a retreatant who burned a dozen journals at his end-of-year retreat. He told me how the ritual helped him let go of a part of his past. Since my relocation to the Texas Hill Country five years ago, our retreat cottage has been the place for my retreats. While meditating at the porch surrounded by the trees, big sky, birds, and deer, I let myself dissipate into nature, into the magical time of now. Lately, I have taken the retreat-in-nature theme to the next level: camping retreats at state parks. I love hiking mindfully through the woods, watching the trees, wildflowers, and animals, resting and napping on the ground, and sitting under the starry sky to meditate. Nature is my kind teacher. It shows me answers to all my questions with endless generosity and love. As I contemplate what I want to let go of this year, a dried-up leaf quietly leaves the branch, dances with the breeze, and lands on the ground. Nature’s way of letting go is simple, effortless, and graceful. Anything that has completed its life cycle leaves without any attachment, resistance, or suffering. I ask myself with nature as my witness: What has ended in my life and inner world? What is ready to leave me as a leaf falls off the branch?
As a leaf falls off the branch
As a wave leaves the shore
Keep going with the flow of life
No holding on, let it go