The Healing Power of Stillness

It has been some time– one month or so– since the Convergence Retreat at Omega.  But it lingers still.

Some 100 of us gathered from many countries, and many locations throughout the US.  The leaders rotated the ‘teacher of the day’ position and ‘Dharma talk’ in the evening.  Saki Santorelli, The longtime Director of UMass Medical School’s Center For Mindfulness, Florence Meleo-Meyer, one of his co-authors of the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Curriculum, and Bob Stahl, a man you could not help but love who began his mindfulness career with a multiple year stint as a Buddhist monk.

Saki and I discuss jazz.

Each continually reminding us to simply do everything, do nothing, with reverent mindfulness.  Remind us that life offers us no ‘breaks’ and neither may we look forward to any during the retreat.  Simply seamless sitting, standing, walking, eating with full awareness.  Each so very committed, compassionate, present, wise, and knowledgeable.  Each sitting with us.  Shoulder to shoulder practicing.  Embracing the stillness like this, with myself, with the community, surely increases my capacity to be present in my MBSR classrooms where the line between teacher and participant is murky.  More like a mobius strip.

I am looking forward in the next week or so to planning a modified MBSR program to roll out to clients with Robin Boudette.  Robin has graciously agreed to take me under wing and discuss the program content and approach.

I will close with some quotes from an unlikely retreat in its own right.  A parking lot.  From the movie, ‘The Parking Lot Movie’, a documentary about a parking lot adjacent to the University of Virginia, managed by an open hearted guy I believe named Chris.  This lot attracted a certain ilk of employee.

It certainly had an element of the sacred. We were like the priests of the Mayan temple. If 600 times a day you are taking a ticket from somebody, you have 600 opportunities to take a ticket from somebody with your full awareness. And to really be present in that action.
John Lindaman, Parking lot attendant

Despite the perspective of a parking lot attendant job as being sort of the ultimate slack-job, I mean there’s this whole kind of lifestyle, philosophical component to the parking lot. If you’re looking to cultivate things like detachment and understand a Buddhist notion like impermanence, a parking lot’s a perfect opportunity.
Matt Datesman, Parking Lot Attendant