The Retreat

I recently went on my first meditation retreat – it was intense! Very emotionally difficult, but so healing. I decided to write a poem to document what I went through there, so I could remember what I had learnt there. Hope you enjoy! x

The Retreat

First Night

There are so many stars in the sky!
I am a long way from home.
My mind, just as busy.


Day 1

Leaving old habits behind
Nowhere to hide
From feelings that haunt.

Alone at last,
I let my stress overwhelm me
I feel it entirely
For some moments it is everything
And then, just an echo
Ever dimmer
Til gone.


Day 2

Feeling angry, different
And alone in a silent crowd
Of compassionate strangers.
My compass, broken.
I wonder if I’m in the right place.

First feel of heart’s centre –
A blinding fear
I sympathise with myself, perhaps for the first time.
It is agony.

Second feel of heart’s centre
So badly neglected that it holds
A hoard of pain.
Tears flow, slow, silent.
Long-lost brothers
of the lashing rain outside.

I promise myself it will never happen again.

But these glimpses are safe, contained.

Night falls.
I hover outside my room
But the darkness calls me.
I walk into it
Without knowing where I am going
Or what will happen next.


Day 3

At least I know blood flow is real
I can feel it
Like these endless tears
Sparked by stories of hope and redemption
Awakening my grieving heart.

I opened myself up tonight, just a crack
To let someone see inside
Only a little of my inner self.
And although he was kind,
And my details, few –
It was agonising, worse than my own heart-tending,
Like putting your numb, frozen feet
Into steaming hot water –
It’s what is needed,
But oh, how it burns!

Turns out I am not the first
To watch my life burn to the ground
And start again.


Day four

I realise
My differences
Are just a story
I tell myself to stay safe from others
To justify my fear.

The rules I grew up with
And needed to survive
No longer apply.
I must learn a new way of being
To thrive.

A simple body ache
Allows me to see
I am free now.
My mind just tricks me.

Leave a bird in a cage all its life
Then open the door.
The bird won’t move –
It won’t even see that the door is open.

But I see it’s wide open now.

A new way
To keep me safe;
Know my mind heart and body every day.
But I need to be free to make this choice
To realise that it is a choice.

It’s hard.
But I keep trying.

Struck by the beauty of the morning mist, clearing
I realise
I have changed.

This time
Tears of relief,


The last day

I leave with new hope.
My mind, clearer.
My heart, thawing.

By Andrea Twist, January 2014


This poem saved my life

At my lowest, when all I could think about was killing myself 24/7, I would drown out the thoughts by repeating this poem over and over in my mind, like a prayer. It is the only poem I know by heart. It was the only thing that made sense to me at the time. It saved my life.