Instead of ending the summer with a bang, as one typically likes to do, we decided to leave our retreaters with an insightful quest. A quest to define and master the theme of our last week: mindfulness.
Mindfulness is a tough topic to tackle for all ages. On our first day, we decided to work together to uncover what mindfulness really means. Through drawings, diagrams, paintings, and collages, the girls pieced together all the words and images they believed to be an explanation to the enigma that is mindfulness, and we made our intentions for the rest of the week.
The first day’s activities sent us all back to the first week when we traveled to Absolute Magic Studios as we once again learned the importance of music. This time we had activities led by our own talented member, Zanne Hanna. We looked at the different emotions that could be conveyed through a musical note or chord, and all of us (no matter how musically inclined we were) were able to translate our emotions into music. On some of our turns, we noticed how the person’s facial expressions influenced our thoughts on what emotion they were trying to convey. This gave us helpful insight of how what we wish to show is not always what is perceived. With each moment each of us were individually and collectively figuring out how to be mindful. Keeping those thoughts in mind, we spend the last moments of the afternoon winding down at the beach.
The next day we went paddle-boarding with Blueline and spent a nice day enjoying the clear blue water and the sun. Afterwards we decided to settle down and focus inwards, practicing some deep breathing and figuring out how our posture can affect our mood. It was a new experience for most of us; taking a break from all the screens in our life and truly living in the moment was relaxing and lifted the weights off of all our shoulders. We discovered that being in the present and awareness were two facets of mindfulness with those exercises.
Wednesday was spent at our favorite home away from the office: Jonathan Dickinson State Park. After a peaceful bike ride around the park, we sat down and returned to our theme. We took another look inside ourselves and tried to strip away our masks to show our true selves to each other. Using every medium we could, we each crafted our masks, and our face without them. It was refreshing to be able to take off that mask -- to, once again, live in the present moment as our true selves.
Later that day we visited our wild side with the help of a snake. We put ourselves in the heads and bodies of snakes and lived like they did for a few minutes: seeing at their eye level, moving without hands or legs, and tapping into our senses. In the spirit of the snake, we especially visited our sense of smell with a special scent activity. We each had to smell a spice or an essential oil that was collected and use our awareness to solve the mystery. We learned that our senses could be extremely powerful, when stimulated properly. We also uncovered memories and emotions by smelling these substances, learning that all our senses and thoughts were connected.
We focused on the senses the next day as well, tapping into our awareness of our surroundings using our sight. We put our eyes to the test, making a game out of spotting the number of things around the office, such as “things that start with the letter B” or “things that are red”. It was “I-Spy” to the extreme. We also tapped into our sense of touch, covering our eyes as we put our hands into mysterious paper bags, trying to solve what strange item was placed in them. Our sense of touch turned out to be much more accurate and important than we had realized!
The last day of the week (which also happened to be the last day of summer) was certainly a treat. After doing our morning intentions, we decided to add in another morning activity: gratitudes. We spent time thanking each other for anything and everything that came to mind, and we discovered that even the little “thank you’s” have the power to reshape our day.
With our hearts light and bright, we set off to play some mini-golf... with an extra twist. There were clues for each hole, designed to lead the retreaters to a secret object or word. It was certainly a challenge, but by the time we finished our eighteen holes and made it back to the office, everyone was on the same page: the answer was the present. The present moment, to be precise.
The whole week was leading up to that moment; all the activities and discussions about mindfulness had allowed us to put the topic in a box and to define it -- in our own special way. Being aware and being in the present moment was what mindfulness was all about, we discovered. And all of us had ended our summer feeling fresh and ready to jump into whatever challenges and tasks we needed to face. We just needed to be a little mindful.
~Faiza, 16 WMW Member and Captain