My goodness I am fortunate to be here! I can think of no better way to transition from sabbatical back to teaching than to spend five days in contemplation, inquiry, and conversation with the bright, energetic, and passionate people here.
I remember the trepidation I had felt when I attended for the first time last year—how scared I was about this new, strange contemplative pedagogy thing I’ve invited into my life, how insecure I was about my own abilities and voice, how ignorant I was about what this whole session was all about. I remember all of that now, but I can’t really feel what that was like anymore because I left last year’s session feeling so very right at home, so embodied and integrated. This feels like a homecoming. Getting a warm welcoming hug from the Executive Director of the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society helped, too.
After a brief reception and dinner Daniel Barbezat opened our collective evening humbly and warmly. He peppered introductions and welcomes with compelling comments on what makes something extra-curricular (do some things have meaning and impact and other things not?), on the relationship between discernment and faith (it feels good to believe in something), and on creating boundaries with heart (a very nice way of saying we need to stick to our schedule over the next several days: Be on time for meals and talks!).
Next, Mirabai Bush welcomed us and clarified how the summer session is different from the conference also run by this organization. The conference is modeled on traditional academic conferences and features about fifty presentations. There, she explained, one is more of a receiver whereas this summer session is an occasion for more mutual and interactive inquiry.
One of the dangers, she stated, of taking contemplative practices out of their “container” (the cultural contexts in which they are embedded) is that the community– fellowship, church, satsang, sangha, etc.– gets lost. At this summer session, we convene with people who are on the path with us, which is important for deepening our practice but also, she reminded us, for protecting the integrity of the practice.
Mirabai then divided us into four small groups so that we could introduce ourselves more intimately and talk briefly about why we are here. Hearing this charge, of course, my mind leapt to create several versions of a witty and yet sincere introduction for myself (ugh). Thankfully, in order to deepen these responses, Mirabai first led us in a brief meditation. We centered ourselves, got present, and then she invited us to call to mind someone we admire, a teacher or mentor, someone we respect. What, she asked us, would you tell that person about why you are here today? What came to mind was quite different than my original concoction. Thank goodness. Or, thank community.
So it begins. Okay, I’ll post again as the summer session continues. G’nite!