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

Ordinary Times and Favorite Things

friday table

This is what my table looked like on Friday night and it made me so happy. It was the end of another long work week and time for me to do what I want to do, not be pulled this way and that by the incessant demands of others. Sometimes I just want to be left alone in my solitude and listen to the silence that brings peace and a closeness to what is real. I gathered together some ordinary and favorite things that had meaning for me…

the new issue of Bella Grace that came in the mail today… I am awed and humbled that I will be published in the next issue of this inspirational magazine… the supermarket flowers that I bought for myself last weekend… the Pelikan opaque watercolor paints, masking fluid and calligraphy pen nibs that I ordered after hearing artist Lisa Bell talk about her work at my art association meeting…

the bottle of Z. Alexander Brown Uncaged Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 I had been saving for someone special but I decided that now is special… the surprise quilt I am making for someone who is going to be delighted when she sees it… the store bought guacamole because I was too tired to make my own fresh batch…the waning light of day filtering gently through the window.

I am floating through my weekend without a plan although I will admit to making lists of choices. I had another pajama day today which is getting to be a regular thing for me. More on that in the summer issue of Bella Grace. I made beef stew in the crock pot all day (2 cups of the wine went in there and the stew came out heavenly) while I did ordinary things like 3 loads of laundry, pay bills, change the sheets on my vintage maple 4 poster bed, worked on the surprise quilt, and finished the PDF directions for the quilting class I am teaching in a few weeks at the quilt retreat.