Caravanserai Magazine Archive

Published 1988-2000 semi-annually on behalf of the Sufi Movement International by the Sufi Movement in Canada.


1989 Volume 3. Roshan Buwalda. "About Three Days' Retreat"

Three days of silence produce some interesting reflections.

What do you think about when you hear the word retreat? Perhaps your first thought is: maybe it is just the right thing for me, I am very much in need of silence and of turning inward, but I am afraid that I will not be able to sit still and to keep my thoughts away for such a long time! Maybe we are allowed to walk around? Make music? Or sing a song? Of course one can do all these things and much more: during a retreat something is happening to you and I will try very carefully to tell you about this.

Because I hold silence with so many other people, it is not difficult to drop the daily thoughts. The mind becomes quiet, the breath becomes slower, deeper, more intense. We concentrate on prayer. I come across the phrase, 'Comforter of the broken hearted...' This directs my thoughts to a book about a poor Norwegian woman who had to give away her new-born baby because she was too poor to bring it up herself. She had to sell her milk to a rich lady, who did not want to nurse her own baby for fear of getting old, wrinkled breasts... 'Comforter of the broken hearted...' She felt this divine comfort, she was always grateful for life, although she had to work from dawn till late at night to serve her employers if she wanted to go to bed with a full stomach. She used to say: me and my hands belong to God!

After a long silence my feelings want to express themselves. My body starts moving softly: Divine intelligence is taking over the flowing movements that follow. Without the direction of the will, there is a feeling of an expanded state of consciousness in which I am being uplifted, floating and moving on a level of spontaneity. No tensions are left in my body. It seems as if the body has become a rag-doll. My whole being is in complete in motion.

We have our meals together in silence. The first day everybody is very seriously occupied with his or her silence. The following days this finds its expression in a change of consciousness in our beings. Observation becomes more intense, we all see things as they really are! Things that one hardly notices in daily life constantly attract one's attention. I open a small plastic container of butter to spread on my bread, and to my great surprise I see a nice decoration on it that looks like a flower... How beautiful!

Somebody breaks his plastic fork. At once he receives two new ones — one for breaking tomorrow! We explode with laughter, but we do not speak! Constantly we are laughing about silly things...we feel so free and happy! The flowers are laughing at me a moment later when I sit in the hall again. They have a very subtle radiation, full of colours. The Divine Light candle shows that the Beloved One is omnipresent. I become deeply conscious of this, listening to the singing of Murshid Musharaff Khan, a beautiful voice, full of love, harmony and beauty. A voice which deepens and perfects the silence.

bear and a The second day I notice that my sense become sharper. Rarely have I seen the colours so deep, red so red, yellow so yellow and green so green... When I look around me, standing on the terrace, the view dissolves into an 'endlessness,' for it looks as if the dunes are repeating themselves for hundreds of miles, rising and falling in waves of yellow sand, in a melancholy satisfaction. The dunes seem to be confirming the relative unimportance of human beings on this earth. They are the pure earth-element yellow in colour, and they feel closely related to the green-dune grass, filled with the water element. Together they form a symbiosis.

After a wonderful, refreshing walk I arrive on the beach where I let the cosmic rays penetrate my being; I feel that I become one with the cosmic balance. Slowly I lie down on the sand and listen to the rolling of the waves, coming and going. I feel their vibrations travelling towards me through the sand. It is as if the earth underneath my body is slowly beginning to respond to these vibrations, this insistent beating of the waves. As if the earth wants to open herself for a secret message knocking at her door, the door of her deepest core, the core of the mountain. I sit up and suddenly remember a deep experience which I once had in South Africa. I was up early, walking on the beach, dawn had just arrived with its soft, indulgent light. I saw the moon in the dawning sky above the sea, it was a full moon! Its soft light reflected on the water underneath. When I turned around I saw the sun which had just risen above the horizon, greeting the moon, which was exactly opposite, in a straight line! I stood perplexed half way between sun and moon. I felt as if I was the centre of the cosmic balance and experienced this as a deep symbol: the full moon receives its light from the sun. Hazrat Inayat Khan presents this as the symbol of the Messenger. The soft light of the full moon is the messenger to man, who cannot assimilate the enormous power of God, the sun, but who receives inspiration and revelation through the voice and the words of the Messenger. I experienced that deep cosmic balance there, just as I feel it now, here on the beach in Katwijk. Feeling that balance is not dependant on such an experience. It can always be felt if you are only open to it! Besides, all of us must sometimes have experienced such a deep cosmic balance — for instance after a hurricane, when silence is returning, or after a big thunderstorm. This is the balance that preserves man and nature.

In this period of evolution — in view of the overpowering and destructive forces in nature as well as in humanity — we should be more and more conscious of this balance. The awakening of this consciousness will be an evolution for all mankind, because only that gives meaning to all the restlessness, doubt and destruction that prevail in people and nature at this moment.

A while later I silently drink my bambu coffee. Near the staircase, two persons are gesticulating with their hands and fingers and miming with their faces. After all, one needs this form of communication if one has to say something important! It also happens several times that somebody taps you on the shoulder in order to say 'wait a moment.' A short written notice is handed over to tell you what is expected of you. These things are fun to watch. Late in the evening we drive home with four guests.

Early in the morning I greet our guests with the palms of the hands together touching the forehead. I receive their greetings in silence and so we make our round through the garden privately, admiring and observing the flowers and plants one by one, every day there is a miracle to be seen! That miracle in nature I also observe the next day when I retire a while into the valley after sunset, the atmosphere radiating an unbelievably tender twilight. I watch some seagulls floating over my head, on calm impassive wings; their feathers delicately overlapping each other, they seem to be covered with silver sequins in the sunset glow. Head and neck outstretched, they seem to reach for the future, longing for that which the Divine Presence will bring them, be it pleasure or disaster. They cry out their last greeting to the Lord, full of gratitude for another beautiful day now almost faded away behind us. In full darkness the silence is really complete, but only for a short moment. I close my eyes, ready to turn within, but things that are happening around me distract me. True enough, there is nothing to be seen anymore, but I hear a noisy rabbit, very nearby, nibble at the dune grass. The silence has come alive! Alive with all kinds of different noises of small animals and insects around me! As if all of nature is in a profound experience of prayer, a prayer of gratitude and glory to the Lord. I am deeply moved and out of the depth of these noises I gradually perceive the sound of the zikar, a continuous Huuuuuuu... all-pervading.

Man will find in the end of his search along the spiritual line that all beings including trees and plants, rocks and mountains, oceans and rivers, are prayerful; and that all attain to that spiritual summit which is the real longing of every soul. [Aphorisms]

The evening has become night, a night full of life and light! A moment later I blow the ants off my hand, and deeply moved by the 'silence' of the night, I return step by step to the Universel.

The next morning, the retreat has ended. We talk to each other, without putting our heart into it. We want to keep the silence as long as possible, but already at home during breakfast we see so much humour around us that we soon start making jokes. I go to the kitchen to fetch something and my thoughts are still with a joke. I ask one of the guests who is in the kitchen at that moment what am I looking for here?

"The Truth," is the apt and profound reply!


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