Connecting with my Parents During a Retreat

Many of us might know the feeling. After a Wake Up retreat finishes, you’re taking your first steps into society again, often misleadingly referred as “real life.” When the beautiful experiences and discoveries of this retreat guide you, life seems to reveal itself in a new way. Inevitably, the moment will arrive where your new inner world will meet the old—a moment beautifully illustrated by a question from your parents. “So, how was it?”

Your heart is still full of the experiences of a new world; child-like enthusiasm is running through your veins, and life itself is impregnated with an airy intensity of sorts. You’re trying to put it into words, but suddenly the frailty of language becomes clear when telling stories from your heart.

How could you tell about a deafening silence? How could you tell about a safety, whispering and soothing so softly that it’s heard by every cell in your body? How could you tell about the deep primeval emotions that you dared to face? Or what about days of long friendships that found their way deeper into your being than some friendships that lasted for years? How could you tell about the unity of it all, about laughing out loud just because life tickles on the inside?

The question “So, how was it?” suddenly seemed inadequate to the point of a blunt banality, and my primary reaction was one of annoyance. Luckily, I’m able to see the pure intention behind the question as well as the fact that my resistance stems solely from my own pain based on the inability to share the intensity of the retreat in words. Nevertheless, I tried my hardest to talk about the experience, and I have to admit, I failed miserably.

Weeks later, I remembered that Wim and Ida told me about a retreat they would be facilitating for Wake Up friends and their parents. It’s an incredible opportunity to finally allow the experiences to speak for themselves rather than speaking about them. In an e-mail to my father and mother, I wrote:

“I would really like to show this part of my life to you and to be able to share the silence […] so that we can get to know each other even better in that way.” Immediately my mother answers, “I would love to join you. I think it is special to see where you find peace, with whom and in what ways. I’m glad you want to take us along in this experience.”

I am sharing this with you because it sums up the weekend. It was a get-together of open-hearted people, where Wake Up friends who wished to share an intimate part of their lives with their parents, and parents who wanted to get to know their children better and who have the courage to succumb to the experience. It was a new experience for everyone because it was slightly (or really) outside of their comfort zones. Yet, that was exactly the place where the connection was the strongest in that unfamiliar silent area where we could find common ground and get closer.

The unshakable hospitality, love and guidance provided by Wim and Ida as well as the quiet healing environment of the Maanhoeve proved fertile soil for these open encounters between parent and child. Supported by the silence and Wim’s instructions, we sat together as a family and shared with each other about what we valued in the other person, how we experienced our parents’ upbringing, and even what we found difficult in the relationship with our parents.

Yet again, words failed to express how I felt when I heard my mother bluntly telling me what she loves about me and she is proud of me. These kind of inspired stories can sometimes be shared in music and always in silence. If I had to use words, I would talk about an experience that wrapped itself around me like a warm soft blanket, touching my core and deeply affirming my sense of presence: “I am.”

Others must have had similar experiences because everyone seemed to transform as the days went by. Parents came to be with their children, but they were shown parts of themselves too. Wake Up friends who felt seen by their parents and, in turn, were able to see that the reality of such a retreat could heal deeply, incorporating many generations. We laughed, we sang, we cried; we shared deeply, we played, we lived life, we embraced suffering, and we loved.

On our way back in the car, my mother asked: “Bou, shall we plant a tree together in the garden to remind us of this weekend?” That tree has yet to be planted, but the seeds of this retreat have already sprouted with roots stronger than those of the biggest oak.

Thank you all for this amazing experience.

Warm wishes,
Bouke

Bouke practices with Wake Up Nijmegen in the Netherlands.

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