A friend of mine is part of intensive yoga training this summer. She arrives at the studio at 5:30 every morning and practices—asanas and chanting—until 8:00 am when she leaves to start her workday. At Spirit Rock Meditation Center this summer I will be co-teaching, with my colleagues Larry Yang and Konda Mason, a three-day Labor Day Weekend retreat at which people will arrive at 9:30 in the morning, practice mindfulness intensively until 5:30 in the evening, and then leave to resume the rest of their lives until they return the next morning. They are not “getting away from their life” as much as they are “practicing in the middle of their lives.”
When I began practicing mindfulness nearly forty years ago, we only thought of mindfulness as being an away-from-home, cloistered practice. It required making arrangements to be gone, packing a suitcase, traveling, entering into silence and practicing exercises designed to calm the mind and focus the attention throughout the day. Activities were limited to sitting and walking meditation, eating meditation, and performing simple chores. All of the retreat time was contemplative. It was lovely. I loved it then and I love it now.
And, I am thrilled to be part of this new adventure of bringing elements of intensive practice right into the middle of one’s life. Here are some of the immediate benefits we hope will accrue:
1. People will be able to notice differences in how they are in their interactions with others as soon as the evening of the first day.
2. The calm that people cultivate in the day should modulate the impact of the outside world of messages and news.
3. People will be practicing going in and out of retreat mode and will likely be more able, after the retreat, to realize that what we think of as “practicing,” receiving each moment with poise and good will, is, in fact, not apart from daily life in the world.
4. No packing, no getting your pets looked after, tucking your children into bed, no leaving your partner. It should feel like regular life with a retreat tucked into the middle of it.
It will be different from a residential retreat, perhaps in the way that a week of camping in the Sierras for a week is different from a walk in the park around the corner every day of a week. Both are lovely things to do. Leaving a Sierra campground probably elicits sadness in leaving it behind. The park around the corner is, after all, always around the corner.
I hope you’ll join Larry and Konda and me for this inaugural event. We’ll be glad to share the beautiful new Community Hall with you.