Mary NurrieStearns, MSW, LCSW, RYT
In September 2016, PESI held its first ever 4-day Yoga and Meditation Retreat for Mental Health Professionals. The retreat was held at the Sedona Mago Retreat Center in Sedona, Arizona. Mary NurrieStearns, MSW, LCSW, RYT, lead the 67 registrants through a balanced schedule of meditation, clinical teachings, group discussion, gentle yoga movement, transformational practices, mindful eating, walking meditation, noble silence and deep rest. The following is Mary's reflection of her experiences with the retreat...
Wow, just wow. I’m not a person known for superlatives, but the Sedona yoga and meditation retreat qualifies because the healing impact is lingering. I close my eyes and there is wonderful stillness inside. And I am not the only one whose awareness of tranquility was amplified. During the closing circle many people shared that they felt peaceful. I bow in gratitude for the atmosphere of silence we created when together in community. I know it was challenging now and then, especially for extroverts and those yearning for conversation. Still, most of the time, we generated the kind of silence that pervades the dawning of a new day.
The retreat fed my soul. No exaggeration. Being surrounded by majestic red rock peaks was like being in a natural cathedral. The food was even more delicious when we ate mindfully without distracting our attention with idle chatter. I ate and knew I was eating. We walked mindfully, just to walk, after singing a mindfulness song about being on a journey to nowhere as a reminder that with each step we come home to the present moment. One man said that it was the first time he could recall walking as an experience of being rather than walking to get to some future destination. While in seated meditation we sensed breath, noticed thoughts and enjoyed intimate moments of no thoughts. And during gentle yoga we breathed and moved and soothed our bodies.
Honestly, writing about the retreat is like describing the awe of watching the sun rise over the red rock mountains in the distance. Words are incomplete. It was a journey into the serenity of our inner lives rather than a vacation that took us outside of ourselves. I marveled as person after person shared profound, personal insights in response to the art therapy. I felt the-oh-so-familiar habit nature to plan and get ahead of myself and practiced letting go into “trust.” My husband Rick felt the old habit tendency to ruminate on what went wrong and he practiced a gentle hand wave and whisper of “not now.” Our reward was relief, joy and present moment being!
Again and again, Rick and I walked on the newer neuro pathways in our brains of paying attention on purpose to that which nourishes. So did everyone else! We tried on mindfulness interventions for taking care of our emotions, relating to our thoughts, cultivating happiness moment by moment and practicing self-compassion. Collectively we felt the effort involved in evolving our brains. We agreed that, just like the people we see in our clinical settings, we do not want to stay the same.
And now, a promotion. PESI has scheduled two more yoga and meditation retreats in 2017:
April 19-23, 2017, Sedona Mago Retreat Center in Arizona: 5-Day Yoga and Meditation Retreat for Mental Health Professionals. Early bird registration is open and available through Feb. 1, 2017.
Sept 28-October 1, Garrison Institute in New York: 4-Day Yoga and Meditation Retreat for Mental Health Professionals. Watch www.pesi.com for registration information.
Frankly, I am delighted. We mental health professionals have big hearts and bright minds and we want the best for our patients. The best therapeutic outcomes are directly related to the quality of the therapeutic relationship. When we truly know ourselves we become a healing presence for others. No other learning environment equals a retreat for opening hearts, evolving minds, becoming more present and making friends with ourselves. Hope to see you in retreat.