By JULIA BERBERAN
“Be here now. Be here now.” I kept saying this over and over in my head the first couple days of the retreat, trying to encourage my heart and mind to be here in my body, in this present moment.
I had found FCM at the end of February when I was searching online for an escape from the world. I’d never heard of FCM (I live in Vermont) but I was going to visit family in Florida at the end of March and was glad to find a silent retreat I could go to first.
I didn't know what to expect. I’d started meditating more regularly in December (doing short guided meditations), and most of my relevant knowledge came from reading Pema Chödrön’s When Things Fall Apart multiple times over. I mainly signed up for this retreat because I didn’t want to talk to anyone for a week. I had no idea that the experience would be profoundly transformative.
As soon as I walked into FCM I was warmly welcomed by the kind folks inside. I felt the peacefulness of the people and the grounds. During the week I was moved by the sweetness of all of us greeting one another with a bow; the generosity of other retreatants helping me with my work meditation tasks; the beauty of the late afternoon sunshine bathing the Meditation Hall in golden light; and the vibration of the bells pouring into the cracks in my heart. I felt like I belonged here.
On the final day of the retreat Fred asked us to close our eyes and envision what we were going to take forward from our retreat experience. I saw myself in a cozy room inside my chest. It had orange floors, a comfy chair, a warm blanket, a little table with a salt lamp, and my favorite mug of tea. My heart was there too, as tall as myself.
I remembered that on the first day of the retreat my intention had been to welcome myself home. I had told myself to “be here now” to try to make that happen. But I realized during the closing circle that I hadn’t ever had a home inside myself to welcome myself into. Now I do. This retreat helped me create a home for my heart, and gave me the tools to maintain it.
When I remember to go slow; to feel the ground beneath my feet; to pay attention to my breath; to savor my food; to hear irritating sounds as “the voice of the Buddha;” to look deep into the core of my emotions and reactions and to be kind and gentle with myself— I’m tending to my home inside this body. I made a little Thich Nhat Hanh-style art for the walls of my heart’s home, it says “this is only the beginning but I am here.”
And I am here now. I have a lifetime of learning to do, and maybe I’ll always be at the beginning, but I’m so grateful to be here. Thank you.
Julia Berberan, a new FCM member who lives in Burlington, VT, aspires to spend more time in Florida.