• Jeff Brenneman

Mindful Monday (except this week Tuesday)

We are excited to announce Mindful Mondays, beginning this week. These posts will be focused on Mindfulness. To begin with, we will start with a series of posts from two of our staff whom attended a 5-day, silent mindfulness retreat. Hope you enjoy!


I’m on retreat. It seems a little crazy because I have chosen to go to a retreat center in Tucson, AZ and be silent and practice Zen mindfulness for days, 5 days in silence to be precise. It all at once seems to be the exact right thing to do and to be terrifyingly wrong.

There’s a deep place inside me that says that this is exactly what I need. Then there’s this other thing that keeps showing up in my head and my body that keeps saying things like, “what the hell are you doing, you cannot be silent for 5 days,” and, “you know you will have anxiety attacks, don’t you,” and, “maybe you should just tell the people here you’ve made a grave mistake and that you really must leave right now.” For a bit more transparency, I have dealt with anxiety for most of my life, handling it in effective and ineffective ways throughout the years.


And yet, I’m making the choice to walk into the discomfort. I’m making the choice to face the anxiety of not knowing how I will possibly tolerate all of that nothing. I’m making the choice to be forced to experience this moment as much as possible over the next 5 days.


Actually, it is really choices, because there have been a number of ‘choice’ times over the last several days and there will be times of choice throughout the next 5 days. I will have to choose to bring my thoughts back to walking or breathing or whatever it is that I am doing in that moment. I will have to choose to let go of anxious thoughts, or thoughts about what might be happening back home, or thoughts about what others might think about me being gone doing this silent retreat thing.


See, my head makes up lots of stories in my not so great moments. Will people think it’s weird that I’m doing this? Will they judge me? Will they think it’s cool? Will they think that I’ve risen to some higher mindful place than I was before? And on and on, unless I notice what my brain is doing and decide that I’m going to go ahead and bring my thoughts back to right now. Back to each keystroke that I am typing. Back to the feeling of my breath coming into my nostrils, traveling down my throat, causing my abdomen to expand, inflating my lungs. And then returning out the same way it came in. Noticing all of those sensations.


And then my whole system (brain and body) can begin to calm down because I’m here in Arizona to just be. To find connection with myself and others and the universe and this moment, and this one, and this one, and this one.


And it’s all just exactly as it is supposed to be and I need to give myself over to the experience of it. I need to notice when my mind drifts and tries to add meaning or tries to worry about the future or wonder what others are thinking. And then, ever so gently, simply notice (not get mad at myself) that my mind drifted and then come back to just what I am doing right at this moment. Because there really isn’t anything that needs to be done other than just being right now.


I think that’s all I have for now. To be continued...


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