Find Your Freedom: why you need Mindfulness Retreat

Mindfulness is the capacity we all share to be aware of what is going on in and around us in the present moment in order cultivate understanding and compassion and transform suffering in our lives. Arrival: Please practice mindfulness as you arrive. The beautiful drive to the retreat center can help you become quiet and peaceful in preparation for the retreat. You may like to enjoy the drive in silence. You can help establish the collective energy by checking in and finding your sleeping quarters with mindfulness of each breath and step. Once you get used to moving slowly and quietly, you may find that practicing mindfulness is a great joy. Remember to smile! Clothing: Please wear comfortable, loose fitting clothing. Layers are often helpful as the room temperature may not be under our control. Bell of Mindfulness: Throughout the retreat, a bell of mindfulness will be invited to sound. When you hear the bell, please stop whatever you are doing and enjoy the pleasure of breathing in and out three times mindfully. You may like to say this gatha (poem) silently: Listen, Listen [breathing in] This Wonderful Sound brings me back to my true self [breathing out]. The sound of the bell may be regarded as the voice of the Buddha or other sacred power such as the Cosmos, Jesus, Mother Earth — calling us back to our true selves. The sound of the bell is an invitation to stop our thinking and talking and to go back to ourselves, our breath and our smile. Other sounds can also bring us back to our true nature, such as the sound of the wind, a bird or even a baby crying. The outdoor bell signals that the next event is about to begin, e.g., meditation, a Dharma talk or a meal. After stopping to listen and breathe in and out three times, walk slowly to the appointed place. Silence of our body, speech and mind is the foundation of the retreat. This is especially important in common areas, e.g., the meditation hall, bedrooms, bathrooms or the dining hall. If you need to speak, please do so away from others in order to best support the energy of the retreat. Conduct your bodily actions such as brushing your teeth or setting up your cushion, with gentleness, care and compassion. When thoughts take you away from the present moment, simply return to your breath. Practicing in this way allows us to contact others on a level that can bring peace, joy, understanding and compassion. Silence also pertains to electronic devices and social media. We highly suggest you consider taking a technology holiday. If you cannot, please limit your use as much as possible and do so away from others. Noble silence, “the silence that heals”, is the period from evening meditation until after lunch the next day. Noble silence allows the practice of mindful breathing to become deep and most effective. At the end of the last activity of each day, please walk slowly and silently back to your room, prepare for bed mindfully and enjoy a good night’s sleep. Remain silent from this time until after lunch the next day. Simply follow your breathing and shine the light of awareness on every act and every step. Sitting Meditation: There are many kinds of meditation practice. We will practice mindfulness of breathing at this retreat. Following our breath as it flows in and out unites our body and mind. All too often, we lose our mind in thoughts about the past, or worries about the future. When this happens, our mind is in one place and our body in another. Our breath is an anchor that can return us to the present moment. It is the only moment to truly live. The past is gone and the future has not come. Mindfulness of breathing allows us to enjoy life in the here and now. Whether you sit in a chair, on a cushion, or on a bench, try to find a comfortable posture. You are invited to keep your back straight, with normal spinal curves. This allows the air to enter and leave your lungs freely. Rest your hands gently on your lap or your thighs. Find a neutral position for your head with the chin not tucked in or sticking up. Inhale through your nostrils and notice where your trunk expands. Exhale and watch it relax. Your breathing should be gentle and inaudible. You don’t have to try to breathe. Let your body breathe you. As you inhale, you may like to say to yourself “in”. As your exhale, you may like to silently say “out”. We will sit for 20 — 30 minute periods. If you become uncomfortable, please feel free to mindfully adjust your posture. Sitting meditation can bring joy and happiness! If you need to adjust your posture, you may like to recite this gatha: “Breathing in, I will move my legs. Breathing out, I am moving them now. Breathing in, I have done it. Breathing out, I enjoy my breathing.” Indoor Walking Meditation: After sitting meditation, we may practice slow walking meditation in order to exercise our legs and to practice mindfulness of movement. We walk together in a clockwise direction, taking one step with each breath. As you breathe in, take your first step with your left foot, and silently say “in”. As you breathe out, step with your right foot and silent say “out”. Remain aware of the connection between your breath and your steps. Also be aware of the space between you and the next person. Please adjust the length of your steps if this space becomes larger or shorter. Walking with a wider stance can help if balance is an issue. Outdoor Group Walking Meditation: Walking meditation is a way to to take mindfulness practice into our daily life. We walk together at a retreat, we walk a little slower than usual, although faster than in the meditation hall. Please let the leader set the pace and do not walk ahead of the leader. Try to coordinate your steps with your breathing. Notice how many steps it takes for each in-breath and out-breath. Sometimes your breath is three steps long, and sometimes it is four. Sometimes the in-breath and the out-breath are different lengths. Do whatever your lungs tell you. As we walk, we offer our feelings of peace and serenity to the Earth and each other. The purpose of this meditation is just to walk, without destination, being fully present, aware of our breathing and our walking. From time to time, the leader may invite the sound of a bell. When you hear it, stop and enjoy your breathing. Occasionally, you may want to stop to enjoy a leaf, flower or cloud. As you look, continue to follow your breathing so as not to get caught up in thinking. Walking in meditation with no need to arrive anywhere is a great joy!