Retreat Part 1

We began our exploration with a traditional compassion practice, offering the following phrases to ourselves and others:

May I be held in compassion.

May I be free from pain and suffering.

May I be at peace.

MOhiniI shared the story of Mohini from Tara Brach’s Radical Acceptance. Mohini was a white tiger from the Washington D.C. Zoo, who was moved from his small cage to a beautiful, expansive tiger run, only to carve out a small 12×12 foot section whose grass he wore bare. In this same way, we sometimes develop habits that don’t fit our current circumstances.

You can download the presentation slides here. We discussed the following mindfulness mission statement:Slides

Use mindfulness practice to connect us with our vulnerability,

help us to be open and have the courage to take risks, and 

live a wholehearted life. 

Author Brene Brown was an inspiration for this retreat. You might enjoy watching her TED talk.

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Retreat Part 2

Meditation teachers Joan Halifax and Frank Ostaseski offer the teaching of “Strong Back, Soft Front“. Read about it here or practice it yourself here. The idea is that we need a balance of both things: a strong back to be present for the opportunities and obstacles that arise and a soft front to offer flexibility, compassion and kindness.


We continued with a partner practice, where we asked “Please tell me a time when you felt vulnerable” several times during our meditation. Participants shared the connection with their partner and how even sharing these insights is vulnerability.Walking

We began our break after practicing a
walking exercise
where we moved back and forth between a space of comfort, stillness and peace and a space that is more difficult – our stress, our tension, our fears.

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Retreat Part 3

After the break, we transitioned into gentle movement and yoga led by expert teacher Noelle Hammerbacher. Email Noelle to receive information on Saturday Yoga offerings at Main Line Unitarian Church.Yoga

Next, we undertook the practice of Tonglen, an energy exchange meditation where we brought in the suffering and difficulty of another and offered our compassion and wishes for the relief of this suffering. Download a guided meditation of this practice here.

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Retreat Part 4

We closed the retreat with a final partner practice by offering the following questions inspired by my teacher Jonathan Foust:



What do you need?

If you had that, what would it feel like?


I once heard Franciscan Friar Richard Rohr declare “you can’t get there, you can only be there.” It feels like this describes wholeheartedness. Through connecting with our vulnerability, we may discover our authentic selves and lead a wholehearted life.

We closed with a poem by Danna Faulds entitled “What if I Knock?”

What if I knock
and nothing happens?
What if I knock
only to have to the
door slammed soundly
in my face? What if
I decide to wait until
I feel courageous and
worthy, and that day
never comes? What if
I knock and the
doors opens? What if
I’m invited inside,
welcomed, embraced,
no trace of judgment
anywhere? What will
I say? What if the
biblical promise is real
and every knock-
no matter how timid
or bold- opens a door
whether I know it or not?
What if the door has
been open the whole
time, while I dithered
and doubted at the
threshold, while I
waited and paced?
What if I lived from
the premise that I’m
already inside?

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