Testing my Wings

Updated: Mar 29

By Mary Sorrells

I had arranged to go on a retreat because when I am home, I am not good at listening to myself. I tend to get involved with projects or people. Silent retreats feed me immensely. Taking time away usually pays off. Partway to the hermitage, a red-tailed hawk flew just in front of me as I drove. I took it as an affirmation.


The reason I chose to go was that a relationship I had opened my heart to a year ago had changed from being one of partners to being one of friends. I had felt distance growing between us. But this change was not my choice. My gut was suspended in an in-between place.


I have lost my ability to sing. I have attributed it to aging, but sometimes I wonder if my tender emotions have been part of it.

This is the state I was in when I joined this group in early February. Pondering our thoughts and actions, and how to be human has been food for my soul. My goal in going on retreat was to love myself the best I knew how. I hoped to completely accept my status as a friend and not a partner.

I think the company of the hawk raised my receptivity to the experience. I noted how the cottage met my every need with beauty. The dishes provided were pottery decorated with sun and moon. Votive holders were cut from stones.

The hermitage is named after Evelyn Underhill. She was born on December 6, 1875 and in the first half of the 1900’s wrote about mysticism. She said that mysticism is accessible to everyone.

During my retreat, while on a hike, I was gifted with a sturdy chunk of rock 4 inches by 3 inches that stands up on its own. The large stone represents the new me…my sturdy self, listening to myself first. The last morning, I had a significant visit with myself while looking in

the mirror. At first it felt awkward, but I kept at it anyway.

I came to realize that I had tried too hard in the relationship. I had given up parts of me for her sake.

By taking time away on my own, I came to recognize that my life is rich and interesting, and I feel that I will be okay however she and I evolve. I find myself tentatively singing, seeing if more notes will return.

My spirit is testing its wings.


The Avowal

by Denise Levertov

As swimmers dare to lie face to the sky and water bears them, as hawks rest upon air and air sustains them, so would I learn to attain freefall, and float into Creator Spirit’s deep embrace, knowing no effort earns that all-surrounding grace.


Participants' Reflections:

  • Thank you so much. What you wrote was beautiful and honest. There was a crystal clarity to it that I experienced as I listened. I appreciated that so much. My reflection took me to the ending part where you described who you are is sufficient to get through and you’ll be fine. I think, for me, that’s linked with the other piece you described going to this retreat in order to take care of yourself. That took me on my personal journey recognizing that I’m not doing that. I’m not really addressing that issue in the way it needs to be addressed, taking care of myself at this point in my life which includes, not only the practical stress of moving, but also the transition of my relationship with my husband. I’m taking over a lot of things he would have done and isn’t able to do. I’m finding myself often feeling this is too much. I want someone taking care of me. Someone outside of me. For the first time, I’m realizing I’m not taking care of myself at the level within me to take care of me. I’m looking outward. I need to put the brakes on and say I need to do this. That was a wonderful important reflection for me. Thank you.

  • That reading had an amazing effect on me. I felt like I was with you driving to that retreat. When you mentioned the hawk, I was a goner. It’s been so long since I’ve done a retreat, like at Rowe or someplace when we are through this. During the meditation, I went to building my own hermitage out of stone, a permanent meditation retreat. Thank you so much. I wish we were part of a research study where they measure our endorphin levels before and after the meditation.

  • I’m going to compliment teachers. It feels like those who teach and are good, they are also really good listeners. It occurs to me that being a good listener on a retreat, by yourself, you listened to the beauty of things that can speak to the soul. You went to the retreat looking for solace and were open and you listened. I was thinking—where is the soul? Part of it is right behind our eyes, close to our ears. Those come together, and I believe you will be able to sing again because your spirit does sing. It’s a matter of your spirit and your soul connecting with your singing again.

  • Thank you, that was a wonderful reflection. When one is in such pain, it is good to take a pause and do a retreat. I was in such pain from the breakup of a relationship and I went on a retreat in a beautiful setting in nature with a meditation chapel. It’s was an incredible place to be and it opened me up in my pain to do a lot of writing and reflecting. That pause at that retreat opened my life up to a new awareness, a new beginning and a new life.

  • That was beautiful. I loved how you noticed and gave reverence to the hawk. Thank you for being so honest and vulnerable. I’m glad your singing voice is starting to come back. And how beautiful that you found that rock. Your heart and spirit and beauty came right out. That idea of measuring endorphins—I think of comfort. Every single morning there is comfort here.

  • Thank you so much. What a beautiful reading. The meditation took me to doorways, where transitions occur. It was helpful and insightful to me about letting go. If I don’t let go and then go to the next doorway, then I’m still carrying what I didn’t let go behind me. This thing about retreats, I’ve been going to Rowe Camp and Conference Center for 30 years. What came to me is the land it sits on, the birds and the rocks. Being there is just as important, if not more important, than whatever workshop I am taking. Just the amount of healing that the earth held for me in that spot, it’s an amazing, beautiful place. I want to acknowledge that and thank Rowe and the land it sits on for the feeling that I’ve experienced there. Even thinking about it, I feel held.

  • I completely agree with you. Rowe has been part of my life since the 1980s. I’ve lived through transitions there and made such discoveries. It’s such a pleasure to be part of a sacred land that continues with the onset of personal growth surrounded by the power of the heart, and sharing it with people. People fly in from all over the world to attend workshops at Rowe. It’s likely and possible that I’ll be running another silent retreat there this year. Thinking about what we have here, and having the ability to create it at Rowe and other places, we deserve to create sacred space around us. We deserve to create our own sit spots, to experience our connection within. It will be accessible to everyone, both virtually and in person.

  • My father founded a silent retreat. The land was bought and announced at the church on the same day they announced I was born. I have deep roots to silent retreats.

  • Thank you. Talking about relationships made me think about my relationship with my creative self. That part of me is one of my strongest parts. If I’m not creating, I feel something is missing. I feel a lack when I’m not creating. My relationship with my creative being is complicated. Sometimes there is frustration or anger. Sometimes it wants to rest and I don’t want her to rest. We always have to be doing something. If I start coming to it like an equal partnership relationship, it might generate more joy and less frustration, trying to control the way we do in our people relationships. Thank you for that insight. We take words and messages where we need them to go. Thank you.

  • Thank you. Thank you for using this dedicated time on yourself while spending time within this community. Thank you for trusting yourself to be here. We share our commitment to go within. I think it’s a wonderful opportunity to reflect on our inner relationships. Our family is the sum of our total parts. Sometimes we don’t get a long; sometimes we are crabby; sometimes we just need to let ourselves be. And that’s kind of like what an outside family is. I hope you all have a gentle day.

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