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.

Entrance to the Zendo

Entrance to the Zendo

Entrance to the Zendo

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.

Beate Stolte, the co-Abbott, Roshi Joan. Me ready to work, Natalie Goldberg and Dan Siegel

Beate Stolte, the co-Abbott, Roshi Joan. Me ready to work, Natalie Goldberg and Dan Siegel

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.

After breakfast waiting for our work assignments

After breakfast waiting for our work assignments

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Listening to Roshi Joan, Dan Siegel and Natalie Goldberg during a session.

Listening to Roshi Joan, Dan Siegel and Natalie Goldberg during a session.

Dan teaching about the brain

Dan teaching about the brain

Inside the Zendo during a session.

Inside the Zendo during a session.

View across the parking lot to the Upaya Zen Center

View across the parking lot to the Upaya Zen Center

The Upaya kitchen. That’s Sandra McDonald on the right. She’s the lead cook and when there isn’t a retreat she cooks for me and my guests. She’s a saint!

The Upaya kitchen. That’s Sandra McDonald on the right. She’s the lead cook and when there isn’t a retreat she cooks for me and my guests. She’s a saint!

See you next time.

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