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Autonomy and Communion – 5 days of Silence with 27 Women

About 10 days after the first mixed group of men and women, 27 women from the women’s groups came together for our annual retreat.  After last year we all knew that a weekend was not enough so this year we decided to have a 5-day retreat.

Both ALP men’s and women’s groups are all about the evolution of consciousness and changing culture from the inside out and this retreat was a continuation of that.  So what was the next step for the women?  It can be summed up in one word – Autonomy.  And autonomy in this case means taking full responsibility for one’s own spiritual evolution, not waiting for anyone to push one and not waiting or wanting for any particular experience to propel one forward.

So the question was how to facilitate spiritual autonomy in a group retreat, how to focus on the evolution of the individual with the awareness that all individual evolution affects the whole? The answer was to create a retreat that would give support in a variety of different ways with enough structure and also enough unstructured time in the context of complete silence.

The required structure was for everyone to meditate together in the morning from 7am – 9am and in the evening from 7:30pm to 9:30pm.  There were no breaks in this 2-hour session and even though this was challenging for many it was what was needed to take everyone another level.  

Aside from that everyone had to decide for herself what she should do to take responsibility for her own evolution, how did each individual want to spend their time to make the most of these 5 days.  The options included mediation, contemplation, to write, to draw, to do yoga, and even to sleep. So many times women operate from ‘shoulds’, I should do this, I shouldn’t do that.  We have so many culturally created ideas that drive our actions.  What does it mean to be free beyond ‘shoulds’? What does it mean to take full responsibility for my evolution, not mechanically doing what my culturally conditioned mind tells me.

There were quotes posted to contemplate, contemplation questions to ponder, excerpts from my diary of a recent long retreat that I had done to read, nature walks with Laura, Yoga with Raquel, Movement meditation to participate in and Lion Cards to work with.  Recently I went to South Africa and spent time with the White Lions of Timbavati.  I have found the Lions to be my spiritual guides and I shared my experience of the Lions with the women in past groups.  Now many of them have a very strong spiritual connection to these amazing creatures so including their presence in the retreat was natural and unquestioned.

The women all arrived on Tuesday night. It was the first time that I had seen them since the mixed group.  It was very clear to all of us that the ground from which we were moving had already shifted since that group together. I thought that they would like time to socialize before the retreat but it was clear from the moment they arrived that they were ready to go and didn’t want to waste a single moment.  We were together for about 2 hours that night, I set the context for the retreat and everyone shared her intentions for the retreat. The intentions were incredibly moving and what was more striking for me was the depth that these intentions were arising from. We all felt it; we knew we were in something together, we knew something had shifted and we knew we were at the beginning of possibly another shift.  

Over the next 5 days no voices were heard.  The service team worked in silence.  The silence was penetrating and was both deafening and incredibly nurturing.  As I walked around during the day my heart would be filled with joy as I came across someone in the forest in deep meditation, someone walking slowly in deep ease of being or someone sleeping in a hammock completely guilt free.

The level of commitment was incredibly tangible.  I would go in the meditation room and there was never a time that there weren’t 4 or 5 or more people in deep meditation.  I have never experienced anything like this.  Complete focus, complete commitment, complete autonomy being expressed as this focus and commitment was manifesting in all forms of activities.  It was Autonomy in action and the manifestation of this autonomy was complete communion - between all of us and between us and everything that is. Autonomy and communion became one and the same.

On the last afternoon we meditated for 1 hour together and then we silently went to the bottom of the valley and sat in a big circle under the trees. I didn’t want to break the silence alone, I wanted us to do it together. First I passed a chant around to everyone and then a paper explaining that we would all break the silence together.  I held up my fingers to start us off – 1 – 2 – 3 and then we began to chant -

You must be ready to face and accept the consequences

Of taking a stand in Absolute Love

You must be firmly rooted in this

Be like a strong tree that can’t be moved

Be like a strong tree that can’t be moved

Be like a strong tree that can’t be moved

As we chanted together one could feel roots going deeper and deeper in the individuals.  The sound of our voices pierced the silence and filled the valley. When we finished we slowly started to share our experience of the retreat.

Everyone expressed so much gratitude. There were tears of joy, of awe, of Love as hearts were broken wide open and that Love was given expression.  What was also expressed was commitment to change but not from a ‘I hope I change’ kind of place but from a uncompromising and non-dramatic stand that this is what is needed and this is why I am here.

We started this retreat as spiritual warriors and we ended this retreat as spiritual warriors.  We started together and we ended it together.  And most importantly we found that when we stand autonomously we find communion with the All and the Everything.  We find courage and strength that does not come from the mind and we find and understand a deep Love that animates our actions.  

I am grateful and honored to be on this journey with this group of warriors, warriors for Love and Light and the willingness to face everything in order to honor this sacred life that we have all been given.

Cynthia Bampton

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About the project

The Awakened Life Project is situated in a beautiful and wild ecological reserve in the mountains Central Portugal. We offer volunteer programs, courses, events and retreats to support the liberation of the human spirit in a context of evolutionary emergence and communion with the ecological web of life.


Quinta da Mizarela
3305-031 Benfeita
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