The Buddhist meditation retreat was a refreshing, calming getaway from the bustle of the Georgetown bubble. Our small group of about a dozen students made for an intimate setting along with the cool, rainy weather. A fog rolled in as we neared the new retreat center in Bluemont, VA and I felt like I was being transported to one of those mountaintop monasteries in the Wudang mountains where they teach meditation and martial arts. I couldn’t help furthering this comparison as our weekend’s activities included these very activities and much more!
We began with a vegetarian lunch followed by a round of icebreakers and meditation. Ample free time was allowed until dinner, to which me and a few other students chose to hike through the surrounding woods. The retreat center is in a beautiful natural area along the Appalachian Trail and left us both figuratively and literally breathless. We practiced mindful eating for the hot dinner that awaited and had an insightful reflection on the experience. I enjoyed the unstructured time given to share stories and connect spiritually with the other students. It was a very open and supportive environment that included room for everyone and their respective beliefs.
The rest of our time included a medley of yoga, tai chi, more mindful eating and meditation, and artful lessons on impermanence. Fellow students contributed their knowledge: morning yoga passed down from a girl’s guru in India, tai chi from a student who’s been practicing since he was a child, chakra meditations from another student’s expansive iTunes meditation playlist, the list goes on. I particularly grew from our reflections on impermanence via the wordless movie Samsara and a team art project. Samsara is about the continuing cycle of rebirth and featured moving footage of people and animals from all walks of life. The theme of impermanence was highlighted through the creation of an elaborate sand mandala in the film’s beginning and its destruction at the very end. We created our own complex sand mandalas, with my group centering ours on the “om” symbol. The destruction process was a thoughtful release and a fitting final activity to our retreat. Albeit very short, this retreat cultivated more zen in me and connected me to an amazing group of students also seeking a more meditative lifestyle.
Amber Young, COL ‘16