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.
Bringing MBSR to Work
Since the retreat, Lewin has been growing his mindfulness company Ease and Lightness Mindfulness, which teaches mindfulness to individuals, and he’s working to expand to both corporate and health-care settings. He is taking action to become qualified as an MBSR teacher, a step on the way to certification, and he teaches a Mediation for Beginners class at a local yoga studio in New Jersey.
"We are so accustomed to 'the voice in the head,' as Eckhart Tolle calls it, and not just used to it but 100-percent identified with it to the point where we take it as gospel,” Lewin said. “When we realize in our practice that it is far from that, a freedom opens. It is heartening to me when I see that realization in the eyes of people. I am inspired by this moment. From time to time, when I am able to let be, I see with fresh eyes and feel the sacredness. To paraphrase Thich Nhat Hanh, the true miracle is not to walk on water, but just to walk at all."
© 2018 Omega Institute for Holistic Studies