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

Knitting as Meditation

Doll sweater finished

Knitting is a form of meditation and it is especially appealing in the middle of winter in the northeastern United States. At this point in time, most of us have grown tired of the cold and the stark landscape, although there is beauty in bare trees and snow. The sun hangs low in the sky and the shadows are long. Still, we long to see buds on the trees getting ready to burst forth into green leaves and warm weather. The birds have been singing more lately as they know that spring is coming soon.

Knit Picks yarn

This is about making something from nothing, only a few balls of light-weight fingering yarn and a set of 3mm circular knitting needles. I am by no means an expert knitter and these were very small knitting needles. I used to knit during and after college until my children were very small, but I moved on to other things and let that fall by the wayside a long while ago. I decided to try knitting again last year after seeing the wide variety of yarns available now. I was also very inspired by my daughter-in-law Aurora’s love of knitting and yarn.

There is a rhythm to knitting, like the rise and fall of your breath in yoga or meditation. In the beginning when you sit down to knit, you have to find that rhythm as you go stitch by stitch. Or maybe that rhythm finds you. Your thought stream gradually shifts from worries about this thing or that to a calm peacefulness. By knitting you are doing something that others who have come before you have done, and you feel connected to women of the past and their communal history.

Doll sweater first sleeve

The doll sweater was built in steps and I had a pattern to follow, Rosie’s Circular Yoke Sweater, a free pattern available on ravelry, a community for yarn enthusiasts. You start with a little sleeve and it grows. Like any project, it is easiest if broken down into steps. That makes it more approachable and less daunting. This is true for most projects.

Doll sweater two sleeves

It took a while, as knitting on small needles goes slowly, but eventually I had two sleeves done. The stitch holders are for setting the two sleeves aside until it is time to join them with the body of the sweater on the circular needles.

Doll sweater joined

Joining the sleeves to the body was a little tricky. I did not quite understand how to do it, so I read the directions over and over again and tried to visualize how it would all come together in my mind. I laid the pieces out next to each other and studied them. Finally something clicked and I was able to join the pieces together. Sometimes life is like that. You might not understand something but if you give yourself time, you will see.

Doll sweater yoke