Mindfulness Retreat Weekend

I have been seeking out new experiences this year so I decided to attend a mindfulness retreat weekend two weeks ago at Mercy by the Sea in Madison, Connecticut. I have been there a few times before (see Contemplation and Renewal blog post) and it is a very peaceful place. I don’t know much about mindfulness or meditation, but I have been reading a little bit about the health benefits and thought I would try it. I chose a weekend retreat instead of a one day retreat because I wanted it to be an immersive experience. And it was.

When I walked into the room, I was struck by the peacefulness and calm that emanated from the carefully arranged circle in the room. There were 18 participants and we were led by Dr. Jerry Silbert and Roberta Silbert, a husband and wife team who specialize in integrative medicine. Members of our group came from Connecticut, New York City, Albany, Providence, and Massachusetts, and we formed community over the weekend. It was very special.

mindfulness circle

In the beginning I was somewhat apprehensive about the whole thing and didn’t know if I would be able to focus, sit still, or be silent. We spent a lot of the retreat in silence while following guided meditations presented by Jerry and Roberta. We took our meals in silence and that was very strange. We learned a lot of different meditation techniques that were surprisingly easy to do. Some of the meditation exercises were held indoors and some happened outdoors… it was such a beautiful day. There was sharing time at various stopping points where we went around the circle and talked about what we were experiencing.

mindfulness clouds

It got deep, and people were able to share what was coming up for them in meditation, and how it related to their lives. Some spoke more eloquently than others, but everyone shared significant things and it was truly moving. I had trouble getting the words out at times and chose to focus my sharing on my health issues, leaving a lot of other things unspoken, as that is what felt safe to me.

mindfulness shoreline

There was not very much free time in what was a very full weekend schedule, starting before breakfast and ending in the evening a few hours after dinner. I felt that closing in on me at times as I need a fair amount of alone time to feel centered in myself. Several of us broke away for a walk out to the road after dinner and we broke the silence and talked quite a bit, hushing ourselves as we returned to the door of the retreat house. It was very freeing.

mindfulness cairns

On Sunday morning, I woke up early and went down to the dining hall to get a cup of coffee. I noticed the red edge of the sun just cresting the horizon as I made my way through the rooms downstairs. So I raced upstairs to my room, grabbed my camera, and ran outside, like a little girl who has found a treasure on the beach. I watched the sunrise in awe and felt the presence of God.

mindfulness sunrise

The quality of the early morning light was ethereal and cast soft light and shadows over everything. I watched the light filter through the trees and felt that my life was taking another turn. I don’t know what lies ahead but I felt change and renewal on the horizon. Renew is my one word for 2018 (see Renew – One Word for 2018 blog post).

mindfulness light through trees

Art Journaling – Medicine Wheel

Art journal wheel

This piece was loosely inspired by the Medicine Wheel which is used by Native American tribes for health and healing. The four quadrants of the circle represent the Four Directions: East, South, West, and North.

Different tribes have different interpretations for the Medicine Wheel. Each direction typically has a distinctive color and each direction can represent a number of different concepts, for example stages of life, seasons of the year, aspects of life, or elements of nature.

On Friday night, while drifting off between awake and asleep, I had a vision of what I wanted to create the next day. I reached for the pad and pen on my nightstand, drew a circle with a horizontal and a vertical line, and wrote the words four seasons. When I looked at the piece of paper the next day, I realized that this was a Medicine Wheel.

I went through my day thinking about this in the back of my mind. I work intuitively and don’t have any plan when I sit down to make art. Then I thought about what a friend said to me the other day when we were talking about upcoming weekend plans… “No plan is the best plan – just go with the flow. Something good always comes up.”

When I was ready, I decided to work at the dining room table instead of in my art studio downstairs. I gathered up my new Canson CP 140lb art journal, my portable art tote, my Derwent intense blocks, and later on my bin of stamp pads. I don’t know how to explain how this piece happened, because it just did.

It’s a very simple piece and it reflects how I feel right now. It also reflects who I am as an artist. I was quite happy with this when it was finished. It marks a lot of new beginnings for me, both in my art and in my life.