2014 Mindfulness Meditation Retreat

Before I knew it, the weekend I’d been anticipating for so long had finally arrived.  I was on a plane to Chicago for the 2014 Mindfulness Meditation Retreat, organized by Michele Gaspar, to see old friends and meet some new ones.

We were a group of 23, who had gathered via our connection through the Veterinary Information Network (VIN).  We came out from all across the USA and Canada.  Although this retreat was not a VIN-sponsored event, I’m grateful to VIN for supporting the development of mindfulness meditation through their on-line courses and virtual meeting space.

The backbone of the weekend was to develop our mindfulness meditation practice.  Several times each day, we sat together in silence, with a focus on the breath and an awareness of our thoughts.  Each session was about 30 minutes and people could choose to be seated in a chair, on a bench or to lie down on the floor.  The physical act of sitting was challenging for those with hip or back issues.  Many would agree the thoughts were always finding a way to pop up and distract us from our breath.  But by cultivating this awareness, we were developing a skill to help us weather the times when difficulties arose during our work in veterinary medicine.

Meeting like-minded veterinary colleagues and developing a network would be important for the benefits of the weekend to continue on in our separate lives back home.  We had some frank and heartfelt discussions about our professional lives.  There were opportunities to talk and feel heard by our peers, without being judged or shamed.

Each morning of the retreat, I had the opportunity to teach yoga to the group.  I forgot to reset my iPhone to Central Time so I lost a little sleep the night before the first yoga class.  Not to mention that I had a bit of anticipatory butterflies!  Even so, I wouldn’t have changed a thing as that was the experience for that moment.  Several people had little to no experience with yoga but all were ready to try something new.  As a whole, veterinarians are quite able-bodied but we’ll often power through any aches and pains.  Because I firmly believe that yoga is for everyone, I offered modifications and options throughout the practice.

We had the most beautiful fall weather for our walking meditation on the grounds of Techny Towers.  Paying attention to the physical act of walking, not rushing to get anywhere, noticing the surroundings.  It was nature on steroids!  I noticed the vivid colours, the shadows and sunlight, the feel of the breeze, the texture of the road, the rustle of the leaves.  Time seemed to stand still.

I recall the sitting meditations on Saturday.  There were two sessions where I could feel soft tears rolling down my cheeks.  I tried to just be with it but I couldn’t and had to wipe the tears away (mindfully of course!).  I tried to sit with the thought of where those tears were coming from.  Sadness?  Pain?  It took me several days of subconscious reflection before I realized…they were tears of relief.  I was with colleagues who understood the joy and pain of what it means to be a veterinarian.  I could let down my guard.  I could simply be.

 

Mindfulness and maple syrup

Call me a modern day pioneer woman.

For my birthday, I received a book called “Modern Pioneering“. The author, Georgia Pellegrini, is a cook, gardener, outdoor adventurer and do-it-yourself kind of gal.  As someone who just got her own Leatherman multi-tool (the Charge AL model, just in case you were wondering), I can identify with her.

In the spirit of self-sufficiency, I’m making my own maple syrup.  This is the third year that my husband and I have done it.  So Canadian, eh?

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VIN 2013 Mindfulness Retreat

I’d forgotten my iPhone in the front seat of the truck, which meant my husband had to turn around and drop it off to me at the train station.  As he passed me the phone, he said “You’re going to work on your mindfulness this weekend, right?”.  Yeah.

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Mindfulness Meditation with VIN

My worlds are colliding.

Family.  Friends.  Work.  Yoga.   I have a tendency to keep these parts of my life separate, in that they don’t seem to mingle much.  For some reason, I don’t tend to mix them all together into one big jumble.  I’m not opposed to it.  Maybe it’s happened because I’m a little introverted and prefer to keep certain things to myself.

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Something left over for me

I’m physically tired.

There’s been a lot going on.  I had appointments on Saturday AM, then was off to the clinic’s summer party in the afternoon.  I taught two yoga classes on Sunday and did yard work for the remainder of the day.  Back at the clinic the next morning then babysat my nephew for a few hours (changed his diaper twice!!).  Tuesday, I did some research on an interesting case involving hind leg lameness in a very sweet Doberman.

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