Why go on retreat?

by Beth Mulligan

Beth Mulligan is a co-founder of Mindful-Way Stress beth mulligan headshopReduction Programs, which offers MBSR and other mindfulness based interventions and retreats through out Southern California, nationally and internationally. Beth has a background in primary care medicine as a Board Certified Physician Assistant and has practiced medicine for over 25 years. She is a long time student of Roshi Charles Tenshin Fletcher at Yokoji Zen Center where she has lived in residence, is a Vipassana Dharma teacher at Insight Community of the Desert, and a certified yoga instructor.

Why go on Retreat?
Great question! As a certified MBSR teacher and teacher trainer – for the UMass Center for Mindfulness and a mentor for the UCSD Mindfulness-Based Professional Training Institute (MBTI), I get asked this question more and more. If you look at the prerequisites for teaching MBSR or other MBI’s all over the world, the recommendation for personal retreat practice is consistent. To answer the question, I may start by quoting the originator of MBSR; Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn (from his article “Some Reflections on the Origins of MBSR, Skillful Means, and the Trouble with Maps.”
“ I personally consider the sitting of relatively long…teacher led, silent retreats to be an absolute necessity in the developing of one’s own meditation practice, understanding and effectiveness as a teacher… it is a laboratory requirement.” Jon Kabat-Zinn

Regarding information on Mindfulness Meditation retreats, I might also refer them to the UMass CFM website and Spirit Rock Meditation Center.

But really I have to answer this question for myself, just as the heart of Mindfulness Based Interventions are an invitation to access one’s own wisdom, I need to turn within to answer it. In order to ask people to face the difficulties of their lives, chronic pain, sick family members, financial stressors, “The Full Catastrophe”, I need to know and have the confidence that I can do this myself. With the help of a good teachers in a supportive environment. I have found this capacity on the many retreats that I have attended. Mindfulness and the teaching of mindfulness are “inside out” learning and teaching. So while we hold the written curriculum with great integrity, and educate ourselves about the research, and understand the foundations of experiential learning, ultimately we have to know the interior landscape of our own hearts, minds and bodies. This is where the real curriculum lies. If we are asking people to go inside to find their own wisdom, to face pain and loss with openness, curiosity and kindness (a very tall order) then it is important that we do this ourselves. Not just to be good teachers- of what has been described as “Intensive training in meditative practices”, but to really know and live our lives fully. For thousands of years people have found the silent container of retreat, held by strong teachers – who have sat on their own cushions for many hours, to be an effective way to see into the changing nature of things and to build resilience to face whatever comes in our lives with some degree of equanimity. In the age of technology and heightened busyness and distraction, it feels more important than ever, to find this silence and stillness where we can study the real curriculum that lies within.

If this has inspired you, I hope you’ll join us in January 2015 at a 5 night silent retreat designed with you in mind. We’ll meet at the beautiful historic Joshua Tree Retreat Center January 13-18th. Please go to www.mindful-way.com/retreats for more information.

Beth Mulligan, PA-C is a certified MBSR teacher and teacher trainer through UMass Center for Mindfulness. She has been teaching MBSR for over a decade to diverse populations; from the critically ill, to non-profit organizations, the underserved, educators, and corporate leaders. She currently teaches at the Susan Samueli Center for Integrative Medicine at UCI and Insight LA. Beth teaches the 10 week and 9 day practicum for teachers in training nationally and internationally through the UMass CFM. She is also trained in and teaches Mindful Eating and Mindful Self Compassion

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One response to “Why go on retreat?

  1. Beautiful article! I recently attended my first vipassana meditation retreat with a group called the New Hope Sangha based in Durham, NC. It was a silent retreat and increased my awareness of self and society. I was inspired to write a blog on my own website afterwards (I lead free weekly guided meditations for students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill). This retreat made me realize what a difference there was between how the west and east view and practice mindfulness. You can check out that blog here: http://mindbodyspiritualawareness.com/2014/11/differences-between-eastern-and-western-mindfulness/

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