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Category Archives: Retreat

J at GC GC colors GC with trees

Wow!  The Grand Canyon is a great place to touch the Energy of the Universe!  So powerful in majestic beauty, and in geological, historical, social energy.  I was able to absorb the beauty of these colors, breathe the air, look as far as the eye can see on our Women’s Retreat in Sedona, Arizona.  Fourteen women gathered for a week absorbing the energy of the vortexes, meditating, practicing Qi Gong and yoga, resting and sharing deeply from our hearts about blocks we want to transform to receive energy into our bodies, minds and lives.  Then nine of us were able to travel to the Grand Canyon for our final day in Arizona.

Thank you, Ruth and other sisters on this journey.  Thank you, Mother Earth, for these magnificent mountains, rocks, and fire at your core.  Thank you, Father Sun for blessing us with life every day, whether we see you or not.  Thank you, amazing Universe, for holding us, connecting us in your Energy and Love.

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Last weekend, I “came home” in physical, emotional and spiritual ways at a retreat at Conception Abbey, two hours drive north of my home town.   I brought my brother who had never participated in a Buddhist retreat but was also drawn to this abbey where my father had studied for the priesthood and met my mother.  Without this powerful center and all the conditions there, we would not exist.  We were visiting our family roots, our spiritual roots, our land roots, even the roots of our childhood praying, eating and breathing habits.

The four days were rich with miracles that will prompt much writing, but let me begin with these:

* The convergence of my ancestors, walking the paths where my father and his four brothers studied for the priesthood, driving through the “town” nearby where my mother was born.

* The new information about our family from monks who knew my uncles, Fr. Edward and Fr. Michael, meeting Fr. Joachim, a 94 year old monk in the infirmary, who told us many stories of the ‘30s at the abbey.  At the end of our interview, we realized that we were cousins!

* Taking pictures of the graves, of Conception Junction and Clyde (now just a few houses amidst rolling hills, cornfields and wind generators) and of the beautiful basilica, one of the few in the country, dedicated in 1891.

* Finding archives with books written by and about our relatives.

But all this research and interviewing took place after two full days and nights of the retreat led by Joanne Friday, one of my favorite teachers in Thich Nhat Hanh’s tradition.  Led by her powerful talks on mindfulness and finding our true home in our breath, my brother and I participated fully in the silence at meals, overnight and most of the day except for conferences with Joanne and our small group sharing.  He was very respectful of the silence, the routine of mindful movements, sitting meditation, deep listening and mindful walks outdoors and indoors.  We enjoyed meeting the Heartland community members (with whom I hope he will find a new home).

We were able to share a room and get along, feel comfortable, even though we had never done anything like this together before.  We hadn’t seen one another in five years, had probably never slept in the same room.  Our lives have taken very different paths, but this wonderful retreat gave us an opportunity to be at home with one another.  We smiled in silence at some of the food that reminded us of our childhood roots in the Midwest – mashed potatoes, over-cooked green beans, fresh-baked cinnamon rolls.

The messages of the retreat were powerful for both of us.  Joanne said that “from the moment of birth, we get pulled away from our basic goodness,” that “all people have within themselves the capacity to be enlightened.”   She transmitted what she has learned and embodied from her teacher and experienced in her own recovery from a brain injury – “Be still and heal.”  Throughout the weekend, I felt the presence of my mother, father, uncles and teachers, both Catholic and Buddhist.  The powerful Midwestern wind energy drew my brother and me closer, healing family suffering, embracing us as children, allowing us space in our aging years to enjoy one another now.  The retreat leader told me that the love between us was palpable.

We had ARRIVED, we were HOME, in the HERE and in the NOW.

Child at BCM pond

Need some happiness right now? Here are a few ways I learned to get in touch with happiness at Thich Nhat Hanh’s retreat last week at Blue Cliff Monastery in NY:

STOP….whatever you are doing, including reading this blog, and
BREATHE three times.
Close your eyes and FEEL the breath coming into your body, going out. Ahh!
FEEL that you are ALIVE.
SMILE.
LISTEN to whatever you hear…is there the sound of a cricket? Water flowing?
If not, perhaps go OUTDOORS (with eyes open).
LOOK around you – at the sky, the clouds, the sun, moon, stars.
Keep BREATHING, being aware of the miracle of being alive, in this beautiful world.
Find a CHILD to teach you (like this little girl enjoying the lotus pond or your own inner child).
Keep SMILING.

All the conditions for happiness are available right here, right now, no matter what suffering is also present.
Notice the bells of mindfulness in your day.

Enjoy life, especially your own.