We arrived at the Flathead Lutheran Camp as the weekend retreat attendees were finishing their breakfast. The air was frigid but the sky clear, affording views of the mountains we haven’t been privy to lately. We checked in, bowing as is custom, then walked to the zendo to find a space and settle in. I’d brought as many props as I could find–blankets, yoga blocks, extra layers, and piled them up just so. Luke made a little nest for himself, too. Soon, the bell rang, signifying it was time to begin.
The day begins with guided and walking meditations, but first, a few songs. Not having slept the night before (aside: pregnancy insomnia is the worst symptom I’ve had, why doesn’t anyone talk about it?) by the end of the first meditation I found myself drifting from peace and calm to sleep. We are given the option between an outdoor walking meditation and an indoor option entitled deep relaxation, so of course there was no decision to be made. The deep relaxation session was beautiful, a chance to melt into the floor, to practice a beautiful body scan that had us thanking parts of our body for their service. All the while our sweet baby moved like crazy. I dozed in and out of sleep as the facilitator sang us lullabies. It was like napping at home, Luke situated beside me, but with an accompaniment.
The afternoon brought lunch, eating as mindfully as possible while trying to quench my insatiable hunger (nothing new). Then came the dharma talk by Barbara Newell–a former lawyer who became a Zen nun and lived and practiced at the temple at Plum Village in France (one of Thich Nhat Hahn’s communities) for fourteen years before returning to the US. She now works for Tara Brach. Barbara’s presence was palpable. Despite having a bout with food-borne illness, she shone. When she spoke, she did so with such intention and peace. The effect was something akin to her rubbing your back and reassuring you. She talked extensively about the effect we have on others, how it permeates their life forever.
After dharma sharing with small groups and a closing circle of our reflections of the day, we rolled up our respective blankets and piled up the pillows and made our way home.
A beautiful day, one that surely needs repeating, in proper form or not. That’s the thing with mindfulness, your breath…it’s always there waiting for you to bring yourself back and pay attention.