The recent retreat with Jon Kabat-Zinn and Saki Santorelli attracted 150 participants to a mountain-top near San Jose, CA. Most of them came from the US, many from Canada, others from as far away as Argentina, Norway, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, England, and Taiwan. What connected us was a deep caring for your own and others’ awakening. As researchers, teachers, physicians, nurse practitioners, psychologists, and spiritual caregivers we’d come to practice mindfulness from morning to night, and to learn about MBSR.
Inevitably someone would come up asking, “and what do you do?” as a way to make contact. I was often caught off guard, not wishing to be boxed in. Besides, ever since I turned ‘volunteer,’ there’s simply no quick response, even if I wanted to give it. As the week went by we spent more and more time in silence. When we did speak and connect with others, our approaches became gentler with each occasion. Less of what do you do and more of what brings you here?
The Cistercian monk Thomas Merton (1915-1968) writes: