Seven days of silence may sound like a dream to some and a challenge to others, but it’s a vital part of Convergence, a retreat led by senior Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) teachers at Omega Institute.
During the 2017 weeklong immersion, scholarship recipient Brandon Lewin joined more than 100 other participants to cultivate and deepen an ongoing practice, with silent sitting and walking meditation, mindful movement and yoga, and evening talks that explored the qualities and practices of mindfulness.
One exercise had participants focus on increasing clarity around what they found pleasant and unpleasant. "From that perspective," Brandon said, "the immersion was neither hard nor easy; it just was!”
Brandon came to the retreat with a strong daily practice, which he said was good preparation for the week. "But," he said, "I also carried some fresh emotionally charged events, which were not easy to release. Yet just as in regular practice, I found that challenges yield insight."
"One insight was remembering to not simply come back to the present over and over again, but to do so with tenderness," he said.
Studying With "Global Luminaries of Mindfulness"
The immersion was led by Saki F. Santorelli (left in photo below), Florence Meleo-Meyer, and Bob Stahl, and Lewin said he enjoyed hearing their take on how different wisdom traditions inform mindfulness-based approaches.
One of the biggest surprises for Brandon during the immersion was the intimacy he felt with the teachers, who practiced side-by-side with everyone throughout the week.
"Though they would never describe themselves as such, they are global luminaries of mindfulness. Through decades of loving and painstaking work at the UMass Medical School, they are major contributors to the widespread implementation of the MBSR program, and in turn the exponential growth of supporting scientific research and the flourishing of mindfulness itself," he said.