Blog of Annick Nevejan about „Interpersonal Mindfulness and Compassion Deepening Retreat”

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February 2017  Blog Annick Nevejan

„Interpersonal Mindfulness and Compassion Deepening Retreat” Jackowo, Poland, 19 – 25 June 2017

Embodied mutual inquiry

Aim of the Retreat

The aim of this retreat is to develop and deepen our individual mindfulness practice by enhancing our inner resources of compassion and liberating insight.

The interpersonal mindfulness practices specifically develop the capacity of embodied presence in relationship, deep listening and empathic resonance with one another. Participants learn to apply the skills of meditative inquiry as a group together, which gives a deeper understanding of the workings of the mind and how to free our selves from limiting individual and social habit patterns. If you are a mindfulness teacher or have aspirations as such this retreat is invaluable.

Compassion and Insight

Meditation means familiarizing ourselves with our mind, seeing how it works and what causes more or less suffering in order to create more wellbeing for oneself and others. To start and pursue such an adventure of training the heart/mind we need a realistic starting point. This means accepting we are all imperfect as human beings. Basically we are a neurotic dysfunctional mess. Yet this shared aspect of humanity is the fertile ground for genuine compassion to arise. The positive outcome of our training is to become a happy compassionate mess. By cultivating this kind of acceptance and self-compassion we actually discover that we have everything inside of us to nurture and heal ourselves. This inner sense of wellbeing creates at the same time more space inside to be truly available for others.

Insight is necessary if we truly want to develop our mindfulness practice, in the sense of finding more freedom from limiting habit patterns, both individually and socially. By learning the skill of meditative inquiry we start to see, in our own direct experience, how we build up our conditioned habits. This will help us to interrupt the chain of reactivity at an earlier stage and to find a more wise and compassionate response to our inner and outer world.

Embodied mutual inquiry

The interpersonal mindfulness practice we use in the retreat can be seen as a kind of embodied mutual inquiry where oneself and the group is the prime laboratory or our object of contemplation. The four foundations of mindfulness (body sensations, feelings, mental events and phenomena) help us to meet what arises in our experience with awareness. They give us insight into how to develop our true potential by first of all learning to relate to these foundations in a more basic and simple way like, ‘What kind of body sensations am I experiencing right now while sitting here together in a circle?’ Once we perceive this in silence in our own experience participants are then invited to express this in words using speech to inform the group what is happening inside of oneself. Interestingly the group discovers that what is happening inside of oneself is also a voice for the group; other members notice a similar experience inside. We start to see that we resonate with one another and are not separate from our context. This is what Thich Nhat Hanh calls ‘Inter-being’; experiencing the interconnectedness of beings.

The structure of the contemplative group inquiry helps participants to not solidify what they experience (i.e. not going into narratives and explanations), but rather to have a direct felt sense of how reality is more fluid and open by staying grounded in body sensations and feeling-tone. One discovers that what we call ‘I’ or the self is more a kind of relational processes rather than a separate entity. This experience liberates us from limiting thoughts about ourselves, which often feels like being imprisoned and constricted inside, and helps us to see the illusory split we make with others. The contemplative group inquiry enables us to restore the connection on three levels; with our selves, others and our deepest source inside.

The main other thing we learn with the contemplative group inquiry is to deeply listen to one another. Usually we only hear what we want to hear or make something else of it. In order to practice genuine listening participants are asked in the mutual inquiry to reflect first what someone has shared before adding their own experience. This requires truly joining the other in his or her experience by giving back the heart of what he or she shared, not only in words but also in empathic resonance. In order to empathically resonate we need to have an embodied presence to feel what the other might be feeling. It is like getting the tone or the music of what has been shared. This kind of listening is an act of kindness and compassion. It asks from us to be without any agenda other than being really attuned with curiosity to what the other is sharing as a gift to you and the group as a whole. By reflecting someone else first before you build with your own experience the group learns not to drop anybody’s input, something groups easily do in daily life. It matters to be heard. This kind of generosity and compassion helps us to move beyond our self-centredness and to be more attuned to our context in the here and now.

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