2016 is shaping up to be a wild one, with a contentious election process and conflict all around us. From April 14-16, get away from it all and centered in your right mind at Garrison Institute’s annual silent retreat for (and by) LGBTQ people: “Waking Up Free, Whole, and Fabulous: Healing Within and In the World.”
“Attending a retreat revitalizes my aspiration for mindfulness practice, inspires me to continue deepening my practice, and reconnects me to myself and others,” says La Sarmiento, teacher at Insight Meditation Community of Washington and Inward Bound Mindfulness Education, and transgender themselves. “I come home feeling more grounded, open, compassionate, loving, and accepting of others.”
Participating in a mindfulness retreat even affects others in your life through “retreat osmosis,” says Madeline Klyne, co-founder of South Shore Insight in Hanover, MA.
“When I come home from a retreat, my wife says she can absorb some of the retreat energy I bring home! We are more open, more present, more spacious, more awake, and more connected.”
“A silent retreat offers a rare opportunity to take a break from our often crazy, busy world,” says Sarmiento.
Dharma teacher Gavin Harrison explains, “On a silent retreat, there is an opportunity to turn towards the infinite loveliness of our true nature, and this understanding is the gift that accompanies us back to the everydayness of our lives.
“What we are, most truly and deeply, is a ground of unutterable wakefulness, love, compassion, and wisdom. All the mystics tell us this.”
“Every year, I am reminded of the power of LGBTIQ people practicing together,” Klyne continues. “Many of us don’t even recognize the stress and tension we feel in a world where LGBTIQ people are still marginalized, and this retreat gives us a chance to literally breathe outside of our fears and anxieties.”
Mindfulness is important for LGBTQ people to practice, Sarmiento says, because “when we are NOT mindful, present, or comfortable in our skin, we have a tendency to: withdraw, act out, become impatient, be irritable, engage in unskillful behavior, be judgmental or overly critical, and unkind.”
“I was infected with HIV before the virus was identified,” Harrison recalls. “Without the ground of mindfulness at the time, and without a consolidation of inner affection and love, I gave myself to a sexual situation even though the voices within me were loud and filled with caution. I turned away from the knowing of my heart. It was an unconscious moment with permanent repercussions.
“I consider mindfulness, the spiritual journey, and awakening to my true nature to be the best medicine available on the planet!”
All the retreat leaders agree that mindfulness and meditation have enormous potential to make LGBTIQ people happier and healthier. Harrison concludes:
“The LGBTIQ community is thirsty for more love, honesty, integrity, and authenticity. We can make this happen moment-to-moment by the choices we make – by how you live your precious human life. When our preciousness is valued deeply we become a more trustworthy and impactful force for good in our beautiful world. We become the solution we pray for.”
Remember the Arab Spring? Fueled by social media, the people of several Arab nations started taking to the streets five years ago to demand a different way of life, a change in the relationship they have with their governments. Now granted, the Egypt, Libya and Syria of today may not look exactly like what we might have expected as a result of the protests – but if we look at our own history in America we can see that, as Martin Luther King Jr. said, its arc is long but does indeed bend towards justice.
So we need the Arab Springs, and the long hot summers of discontent — but they’re just the beginning.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” (Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.)
The name Emanuel means “God is with us”. And as if one needed any more evidence that God is with the grieving survivors of Dylann Roof’s rampage at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, the tear-stained forgiveness exhibited by the families of the victims at Roof’s bond hearing is just that, to a factor of seventy times seven.
Last weekend I started my year long immersion training with The Interdependence Project in New York City. Entering those doors and climbing the 200 stairs to the loving space of my Sangha I was nervous with the teeming possiblities. What would this training mean to me? How would it change me? What would I learn? Am I smart enough to complete this? Will the others understand me? Will I be a good teacher? Will I be a good student?
As we took our seats, Ethan Nichtern started by giving us some meditation instruction. At the end, he asked us to get in touch with what we feel in our bodies and to start getting comfortable with being on the spot, showing up and staying in the present, no matter how fearful we may be. At that moment, all the questions in my mind vanished. I made a commitment to be available to what the world was teaching me at that moment.
Being completely open to what was arising didn’t mean I wasn’t scared anymore. I don’t think I stopped sweating for the rest of the weekend. We went through a study session and taking turns teaching mindfulness meditation and giving feedback. I was nervous for all of it except when I was actually leading meditation. I stayed with those feelings, I felt them. And what do ya know, I didn’t die. I’m still here to relate this story to you. I always assume whatever hard task is in front of me will kill me but some how I prevail. I should start remembering that from the beginning.
As the weekend progressed, I kept feeling more inspired and grateful for the opportunity to learn from 15 different teachers during the course of this year. People from all walks of life with such vastly different experiences. Each unique in their own way, yet we have so much in common. It’s nice to share a space with so many indivuduals who are interested in learning more about themselves and their own minds.
I’m no longer nervous about being put on the spot. I know it’s exactly what I need to do to learn more about myself, become accepting, and grow. I’m inspired to continue on this journey and learn how to better relate the teachings so that others may benefit.