Turn any moment, day, event, activity, trip, or formal retreat into a meaningful
spiritual experience. By using capping phrases and/or haiku poetry, you can maximize
turning your moments of insight into lasting self transformations. “Name it and claim
it” is a way of using language to give yourself a “handle” to make your experience
accessible and available for further elaboration and growth.
I. Is Your Switch On? Prime the Pump.
First, you have to “prime” yourself by having a mental set that there are teachings
all around you waiting to be discovered. Turn on an inner switch that puts you into
a retreat-mode attitude. This retreat mode is an attitude of being open and receptive,
rather than assertive and manipulative. Do not actively assert your own agenda or
expectations upon your surroundings. Instead, be gently mindful of what you’re doing
and quietly observant of what is happening around you. Accept the moment for what
it brings you, rather than judging the moment. Welcome surprises!
II. Cultivate Mindful Awareness
Through your heightened sense of awareness, something interesting will catch your
attention. Allow yourself to be drawn into it so that you notice more and more about
it. Like a prospector panning for gold, look carefully for the sparkle of insight
hidden in the sand of your mundane observations.
Pay particular attention to when you have “negative” feelings; such as, dislike,
boredom, frustration, or even a flash of anger or despair. Such moments offer special
opportunities for personal growth. Through honest introspection, negative feelings
can be the source of transformative experiences. Like the saying goes, “A diamond
is a lump of coal that made good under pressure.” My personal favorite is, “BM is
III. Write It Down. Keep a Journal.
Have the mental set that you will discover (at least) one hidden gem within a given
activity, or during a particular day, or for the whole retreat itself. Crystallize
your experience by describing it with one word or phrase, or write a haiku poem about
your experience. Doing this will solidify your experience and provide a “hook” upon
which additional relevant associations and insights can be hung. The result will
be a meaningful personal teaching or perhaps even your own philosophy of life.
A. Hidden Stones
A retreat participant was planting flowers around what used to be an old farm house.
As she worked in the soil, she dug up a fist-sized stone, then another, and another--
all in a row! She realized that these stones had once formed a border for a garden
around the house. She felt a warm closeness and continuity with whoever had originally
placed these stones. As she related her experience to me, I suggested “Hidden Stones”
as a kind of label, handle, personal code phrase, or “capping phrase” which would
always remind her of that particular experience. I further suggested that she could
use the phrase “Hidden Stones” as a spiritual tool or teaching by applying it as
a means of finding hidden gems of insight while doing her own mental digging (introspections).