Monday Smiles – 4/14/2014

mission SBAnother Men’s Retreat is in the books.  Once again, I set off looking forward to the weekend but vaguely wondering in my skeptical heart-of-hearts if this is the year it’s just same-old-same-old.  The year I don’t write the dates for the next retreat in my calendar.  That feeling hangs around, whispering in my left ear, through a noisy dinner at which I feel a bit outside of every conversation … and through the first meeting at which I admit, out loud, that it takes about a meeting and a half for the retreat effect to kick in.  The place helps.  The mission is beautiful and the grounds abound with flowers of every color.

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A friend that I haven’t seen since the last retreat turns up from Montana.  Something heard and dismissed at the first meeting suddenly takes on meaning in a discussion with an old friend.  I join in a Serenity Walk that gets lost in a dark and hilly park, a misadventure for an old guy with his wrist in a brace from a previous fall.  But.  It’s a shared misadventure we laugh about.  In the second meeting, I mention something my recently departed friend, Stan, said at the last retreat and my eyes fill with tears.  That’s a good thing.   My heart is open.

This is what I know is true for me.  I can change … real change, not just appearances … only when my heart is open.   People talk about how adversity often brings about change.   I’ve noticed that, too.  Some say we need pain and adversity to grow.  What we need is an open heart.  In the long trip from child to teenager to adult to curmudgeon, we find that when we open our hearts, we sometimes get hurt.  We learn not to open them or to open them very selectively.  Pain and adversity are like can-openers for the heart … only the hardest of hearts is immune.  That’s why it sometimes seems like I need pain to grow.  But joy can open my heart as surely as sorrow if I let it.  Laughing about our impetuous band of men, led by our great white hunter armed with hiking poles and headlamp, getting lost in a neighborhood park opens me as much as grieving my friend.   For this old guy, that takes a meeting and a half at the Santa Barbara Mission Retreat Center.  And for a while when I return to my usual routine I don’t need a can-opener to keep it open.  At least for a while … and the dates for the fall retreat are already on my calendar should I need to pry it open again in six months.  Thanks, guys.

It’s Monday.  I’m smiling.

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