Exhale: A Mini Mindfulness Retreat & Reunion 6.7.15

On Sunday 6.15.15 I had the pleasure of attending another one of Cassie’s fabulous retreats, Exhale: A Mini Mindfulness Retreat & Reunion. This retreat took place at the beautiful Mercy Center in Burlingame. Exhale was my second retreat at the Mercy Center and I just love being there. It is simply the perfect place for practicing mindfulness and meditation. Not only is the Mercy Center beautiful and peaceful, you also feel a real sense of spirituality while being there.

During the mini retreat we started with a light lunch made by Cassie. She is such a wonderful cook and her food is always so vibrant in color, tasty and made with so much love! One thing that Cassie always practices at each retreat is the idea of activity and rest, activity and rest. So when we get into our practice that’s exactly what we do. We start with an “activity” and then do something to “rest”. We started the retreat with the body scan. To be honest, the body scan is not one of my most favorite meditation practices haha. For some reason, I just can’t really get into it and sometimes I just have a hard time focusing. However, I’m going to keep trying! If anyone wants to sample a body scan, try it here.

After the body scan we did some mindful stretching and then got the opportunity to watch The Connection. The Connection: Mind your Body is a documentary about understanding the link between your mind, boy and health. The film features scientists, researchers, writers and doctors, as well as remarkable true stories of people adding mind body medicine to their healing toolkit to recover from a variety of issues. Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn was featured in the film; he is known for developing the 8 week Stress Reduction Program (MBSR). Cassie is trained in MBSR Certification with the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the UMASS Medical Center. The film also featured Dr. David Spiegel who has done a lot of work at Stanford University. Small world…his daughter Julia and I went to middle and high school together! Pretty cool to see her Dad feature in this documentary!

It was amazing to view such a powerful documentary. Time and time again it not only shows, but really proves that there is a strong connection between the mind, body and health. Meditation and other relaxation techniques play a vital role in stress reduction and in leading a more health and balance life. I strongly recommend everyone to view The Connection if possible. It might be the best thing that happens to you!

After viewing the movie we headed to another “activity” which was a walking meditation on the outdoor labyrinth. This is probably one of my favorite things to do at the Mercy Center. On the way to the labyrinth you walk through/pass by so many beautiful trees, flowers and little seating areas. There are also a variety of statues or figurines throughout the gardens. Below is one of my favorites. I’m really drawn towards anything Japanese related. This pagoda and Japanese maple along the path to the labyrinth just embodies peace and clarity to me.

Here is the beautiful outdoor labyrinth at the Mercy Center. Fr. Thomas Hand, SJ (founder of the East-West Meditation program at Mercy Center), built the Mercy labyrinth in 1997 as a place for walking meditation. I learned that all the work was done by hand by a small group of volunteers under Fr. Hand’s direction. It is stunning and so peaceful to me. I love that all around the labyrinth are fragrant roses and other lovely trees and bushes. One of the things I love most about doing the walking meditation on the labyrinth with a group is that throughout our journey on the path there are times we are all close together and then at other times we are separate and alone on the path. There is a sense that we are “doing this together” while also having a solo journey. Another thing I enjoy is that once the group makes it to the center, we all pause for a few minutes and just take in what a wonderful experience we all just shared. Then, people slowly start the path back out. It’s truly wonderful what happens on the labyrinth and I find it hard to completely articulate the experience…

I suggest anyone interested in walking a labyrinth to do so! The one at the Mercy Center is always open to the public! 

I feel so grateful to have had another opportunity to re-connect with former MBSR classmates and connect with new people! Meditation and mindfulness has become a huge part of my life and I have to thank Cassie for that introduction! I have experienced first hand the profound benefits mediation and continue to work hard to keep up my practice! It’s always a pleasure and joy to spend an afternoon with Cassie. I really value her insight and find her to be such an inspiration! If you’re reading this Cassie, THANK YOU again for such a wonderful and very relaxing afternoon! I am always amazed at how these retreats come at exactly the right time and when I need it the most!

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