Denver Bar Association
September 2009
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Learning to Manage the Mind — A First-timer’s Meditation Retreat Review

On a couple of occasions, I’ve been asked if I’d ever tried meditation. "What, do I look like I need to calm down?" I asked.

"No, it’s just a way to manage your mind," said one acquaintance. That caught my attention.

However, no Buddhist monks (or Boulderites) were exactly knocking on my door for an introductory session.

So, I looked online. Did I want a month of silence? Or did I want to sit in a cave-like structure and be served vegan meals every day for a week? Did I prefer chanting? Then again, all the add-ons at the spa-type retreats, such as mud masks and massages and hot-oil purification rituals, started to make my budget look very minimalist.

Finally, I found a couple more welcoming and practical places to choose from, right here in Colorado. The settings were pristine in the mountains, where I already knew I felt most at home.

I signed up for the next weekend retreat course that fit my schedule. I figured it would take a longer commitment than an hour or two to decide whether it was worthwhile, but I was advised, much to my relief, that a month would be too much sitting the first time.

The weekend started with a Friday night lecture, punctuated by a bit of ritual. We learned how to best position ourselves. Make sure to put your "sit bones" on the cushion. Legs crossed. Sit straight up. Focus on the breath.

We were told that if sitting on the floor was too much, we could do it in a chair too, feet flat on the floor, sitting straight up. I liked this. Very open-minded meditation guidelines. We also did some walking meditation, which made me feel very much like I was in a monastery in Tibet — especially when a rabbit hopped right out of the forest up to the windows and watched us for several moments!

We sat meditating for six hours Saturday. And five hours Sunday. They say a lifelong meditating monk can slow his heart rate to a very quieted pace.

On breaks, the homemade food was served buffet style in a meager but warm dining hall. We all pitched in on the dishes.

Afterward, on my return to the bright lights of the city, several people who didn’t know I’d gone said I seemed different. More calm, they said.

Thus began my second phase, turning toward meditation to learn to better manage my mind.

— Christine McManus,

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