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I Accidentally Attended a Buddhist Retreat


Once upon a time, I accidentally attended a Buddhist retreat. It was actually a writer’s retreat, but the instructor was a practicing Buddhist, so the retreat carried some strong Eastern influence. I’m not Buddhist, and some might say it was unwise and even dangerous to subject myself to the practices of a faith so different from my own. Certainly, I was aware of the differences. But I was also—I am also—aware that greater is he who is in me than he who is in the world or even in that room. I would take him with me. We go everywhere together.

Each morning of our retreat, we began with meditation. Thirty minutes of silence when the instructor guided us to clear our minds and become completely present. I wanted to be good at it, mostly because there is a solid part of me that will always want to do as I am instructed and show my teacher that I am teachable. Part of me always wants to be the star pupil. So I tried.

But I wasn’t good at it, not the way they did it. I could focus on my breath, yes. In and out. In and out. But I could not seem to make myself one with the rocks outside my window. I could not hear the curiosity of the trees. I could not anchor my awareness in the soles of my feet. They were feet. On the floor. I was failing at meditation.

And then I remembered where else I had heard that word, meditate. Ah, yes—in Scripture! The psalmists were meditators!

O God, we meditate on your unfailing love.
Psalm 48:9

I will meditate on your majestic, glorious splendor
and your wonderful miracles.
Psalm 145:5

Help me understand the meaning of your commandments,
and I will meditate on your wonderful deeds.
Psalm 119:27

Study this Book of Instruction continually.
Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it.
Joshua 1:8

So maybe I wasn’t supposed to try to become one with the grass. Maybe I couldn’t trust my own presence. I know my heart is deceptive and distracted, and trusting my own way is dangerous. Perhaps I could spend this time directing my thoughts to the presence of truth instead of the presence of myself.

I took the one thing of theirs that made sense to me: the breathing in and out. Instead of anchoring my awareness in the arches of my feet, I anchored my thoughts in the Word of the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

I chose the portion of the first verse that came to my mind: “Be strong and courageous! . . . For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9.

It’s one of our family verses, on display in the dining room. I made up a little ditty melody to teach it to the boys when they were three and five years old, when it was time to step back into our lives from our trip to Ohio after Robb had died. I felt so afraid of everything. I needed this truth as much as they did. We all know it now.

During the fireworks last night,
Tyler told me where he plans to get this tattooed onto his body.
And I was surprised to discover that I’m not opposed.
But I digress.
Back to the meditation.)

I gave each word my full attention. I breathed in and out. And I explored the depth of every word on the rise and fall of my breaths.

Be. Just be. Be here. Be you. Be in this moment. Don’t go anywhere else in your mind. Just be. Be here now.

Strong. Solid oak tree, planted by the river. Strong back. Strong legs. Strong muscles. Strong lioness.

And. This word means there is more. There is something else I am instructed to be. Wait for it. It comes on the next breath.

Courageous. Brave. Unflinching. Forward. Immovable.

For. It means because. There is a reason I am called—commanded!—to be strong and courageous. There is a reason that I can be those things.

The. The one and only. T-H-E. The Maker of heaven and earth. The God Who Sees. The one. The Great I Am.

Lord. King of kings. Lord of lords. He who sits on the throne. The earth is his footstool.

Your. Mine. My God. He belongs to me. I belong to him. He is mine. I am his.

God. Capital G. The Beginning and the End.

Is. Present tense. Here now. Here. Now. The Great I Am is in this moment.

With. I am not alone.

You. Me. He knows my name.

Wherever. Here. There. Everywhere. He hems me in, behind and before. He goes before me. I cannot go anywhere outside his presence. He is Wherever.

You. Me. Tricia.

Go. Action word. Go. Take the next step. I can do this. He is with me.

I repeated my breaths and these words. I meditated.
When the instructor rang the bell twice, the signal to finish, I opened my eyes, refreshed and renewed.

They may have been one with the trees. But I had spent time with the Lord.

~ an excerpt from my new book, Just. You. Wait.

~ ~ ~

A few more days to take advantage of this amazing GOGO – Give One, Get One.
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Tricia Lott Williford

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  1. Would love to have your book but don’t buy online. Could I mail a check or money order

    • Linda, beginning on Tuesday, July 9, Just. You. Wait. will be available everywhere books are sold – including your local bookstore. If that doesn’t work for you, you can email me a and we can get a book to you. Thank you for your interest in getting a copy into your hands!

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