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Conscious Stream of Experience

Today, everyone, we have our first post from someone other than Jeff. Today, Dr. Caleb Reese shares part of his experience of a silent mindfulness retreat. This particular group is focused on helping professionals, so lots of therapists and other mental health professionals. Almost 5 days of silence, meditating, walking, eating and drinking, simply trying to be mindful and really pay attention as much as possible.

Folks of all backgrounds and ages. Some are DBT certified (a national certification for therapists), others are taking the intensive training online, others helped get DBT off the ground with Marsha (Linehan.) Quite the eclectic group. So much knowledge and love yet also they are just people with their own s*#@ & egos.

Jisha is there and you feel compassion by her presence, hear love in her voice, and sense safety in her gaze. Rōshi’s voice, a lower tone, vibrates around the room as we all, in unison, connect as one as they lead us in sutra chants.

You approached people you judged. the unwarranted judgments emerging out of the wall. Just like Don Quixote and the aliens. The knights and the crosses. Sitting with the guilt and shame, what do you do? You face it and you face them. You approach them and try to connect. You reach out as a means of facing the emotions without trying to give yourself permission.

Act opposite of the shame and guilt. Be you. Recognize by not going through the pain of seeing yourself, you cannot truly become whole. Challenge the narrative your mind creates. Turn your mind. Be mindful of the thoughts. Check the facts of what is actually happening.

Feel the urge to run and flee. The emotion appears. You face it one breath at a time, and then one breath at a time, and then one breath at a time. Release. Try again. Open. Adjust your posture to cope with the pain.

Walk mindfully to avoid another splinter. Do you purposefully walk on one board, or do you alternate? Do other people walk as weirdly as me? My toes crack. I feel ashamed though I cannot control my bones. My body is not my own. I have to accept or alter my walking to accommodate others. You change your stride while counting to 10 once more. Coyotes howl. The wind picks up again. A shiver of cold brings you to the present.

Your mind reminds you, “try not to step on her feet.” Just count to 10. No. Feel the spongy board. Feel the rocks and the leaf painted over so now it is hard, but you still try to break it every time you walk past. Cement. Dull gray painted boards. Old and creaky. Warm during the day. Chilled in the morning. Cool at night. Don’t twist your ankle. Wow, they walk so much better than I do.


Catch the thought. Recognize the pain in your shoulders. Rearrange your hands behind your back. “Others are more flexible than I am…judging again.” Walk. Hear the wind. Smell it. See the pattern in the rock garden. Smile at Buddha. Duck your head even though you are not tall enough to hit the tree, judging, and push the door open for yourself and others behind you.

Should you be doing that...? Am I breaking a rule…? If so, then why are you worried about others breaking the rules…? Who do you think you are? And then walk, and breathe, and count, and look at the feet in front of you. Try not to fall. Spread your toes, should I step heel to toe or toe to heel? The inner battle of every kinhin (walking meditation.) There is no right or wrong in Zen. You showed up and did it. - CSR

*photos used for the mindfulness retreat series of posts were taken by Dr. Caleb Reese and Jeff Brenneman at the retreat center.

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