There were two big buck on the road just as I was nearing my house. Always love to see the critters. I have gone out of my way to make my ranch a critter-friendly place.
It will take awhile to absorb all that I learned at the retreat, to process and make it useable for myself. It was very important to me on many levels…and to my work and for my book.
Dan Siegel is the Director of the Mindsight Institute, co-Director of the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center and a practicing psychiatrist. I don’t think I’ve ever encountered anyone—especially one so young (he’s only 52)–with such vast and diverse training who has amassed such knowledge, learned to communicate it so accessibly and with such playfulness and generosity. It was a privilege listening to him. His sessions helped us understand how the brain works and how our experiences, our relationships affect the mind and even the neural structures of the brain. Critical connections in the brain and the possibility of integrating the right and left hemispheres in the brain can be enhanced or damaged by interpersonal relationships or trauma early in life. They can also be rebuilt and integrated at virtually any point along the life span including (and most interestingly) with mindfulness meditation of the kind we did for 3 hours every day. This was a profound lunge into the neuroscience behind mindful meditation.
This morning, Dan, myself, Greg with the Metta Foundation and two other men sat on a porch and talked about mindfulness. As we sat there I became aware of an overwhelming sense of joy and deja vu, a sense that I had felt like this before but I couldn’t place it. A little while later as I was doing some physical therapy for my ankle I remembered: In the late 50s I drove to Big Sur in search of Henry Miller (he was away) but I ended up at the Big Sur Hot Springs Lodge which a few years later grew into the Esalen Institute. Dick Price was running the place as he did the Esalen Institute and we became very close. I had never met a man like him, devoted to the burgeoning human potential and mindfulness movement. He tried to teach me to meditate, introduced me to Alan Watts, read to me about Zen Buddhism. A man with his gentleness and consciousness was totally new to me and made a deep impression. I left Big Sur and went to France to make a movie and ended up living there but I never forgot Dick and what it felt like to be around him. Today, on that porch with those four men I rediscovered the feeling. And as the day progressed I realized that almost all the men at the retreat (and there were many men) had some of this same quality of presence, loving kindness, gentleness, respect…all searching to be of service on behalf of the wellbeing of others. A number of them were recent retirees, in their early fifties, who had decided to enter the chaplaincy. Many were therapists. To experience this in a group of women is something I have been lucky to know many times over, including at a women’s retreat last year at the Zen Center. But the male version was unexpected and reassuring.
Later in the day a woman from Holland named Irene Bakker, took me through a short version of her healing work. She does what is called “Big Mind” work. It was wonderful. To hard to explain and it’s too late at night but it will be very useful to me on the film I will do with Eve Ensler next June.
There was so much else but my mind is numb right now.
See you next time.Tags: Alan Watts, Big Sur, brain, Dick Price, Esalen Institute, France, Henry Miller, Irene Bakker, UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center, Zen Buddhism