Mindfulness in the Mountains Program Runs a Second Year

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Buddhist Refuge and Mountain Spirit Institute Collaborate again on Mindfulness Program
By R. Richards, Mountain Spirit Founder

Lama Willa Miller Collaborates with Mountain Spirit on Mindfulness in Mtns Program

Lama Willa Miller Collaborates with Mountain Spirit on Mindfulness in Mtns Program

Mindfulness in the Mountains, a 3-day adventure and meditation program, will be co-sponsored again for a second year in a row by Mountain Spirit Institute and the Natural Dharma Fellowship’s Wonderwell Refuge of Springfield NH, with a four day program of rock climbing, kayaking and hiking starting on Thursday, September 12th and lasting through the weekend.

Says Mountain Spirit Institute founder, Randall Richards, “A pair of instructors will lead each activity, one focusing on outdoor skills, the other on teaching various meditation techniques. Both instructors however,  will offer their knowledge and background in both meditation and outdoor skills.  There will be quite a bit crossover between the co-leaders. Each instructor team shares exercises in both meditation and outdoor skills.

Kayaks on last year's program

Kayaks on last year’s program

They expect participants, to come for hiking, rock climbing and kayaking from different parts of the eastern U.S. as well as farther afield. The program will be held in the Dartmouth/Lake Sunapee region.

Richards says of last year’s program, “I’ve been guiding and leading mountain programs for over 28 years, and this was, by far, one of the most fulfilling and meaningful experiences I’ve had.” He added, “To hike, climb or kayak, and focus, as a group, on the quiet of the place through which we traveled, was meaningful for both instructors and participants.”

Lama Willa Miller on rock

Lama Willa Miller on rock

Wonderwell Refuge’s spiritual leader, Lama Willa Miller and Richards,  came up with the program when they realized their similar mission statements to help connect people to the outdoors and themselves. Miller states that “Buddhism actually has a strong wilderness tradition,”  adding,  “Monks, spiritual teachers and meditation practitioners have always gone to the mountaintops and into nature to get a sense of the sacred.” Lama Miller gave a video interview at http://bit.ly/mtdharma where one can learn more about the philosophy of the program.

Last year, participants signed up in advance for an activity but were also allowed to switch to a different sport on the second day of the weekend program, which allowed them a different focus. Rock climbing, for example, tended to bring up fear and trust. Hikers focused on meditation in motion and awareness of surroundings, while the kayakers focused on the metaphor of sky and water in meditative contemplation.

Hiking on Granite in Quietude

Hiking on Granite in Quietude

Once back at the refuge’s large meditation room in Springfield, the participants from each group came together and sat on big orange meditation cushions arranged in a circle on the large wooden floor. The old fireplace blazed, warming the room. They started with a short guided meditation, then both participants and instructors talked about their experiences of what happened for them during the day – the high and low points, and what heartfelt experiences if any, that they may have had.
Lama Miller rock climbed both days. She said of her experience, “In Buddhism, we have a meditation practice designed to help with facing one’s fear. Being forty feet up on the rock put’s it right in your face.  It’s quite visceral.

Said participant, Ilene Venizelos of Enfield, NH, “I feel this experience has helped me reconnect more with  myself, to the other participants, and to especially to nature.” Responded Richards, “Well, that’s good to hear!” adding, “What you’ve just said were some of our stated goals and outcomes for the program.”

You can learn more about this year’s  program and Wonderwell at www.wonderwellrefuge.org and Mountain Spirit Institute at www.mtnspirit.org . Both are non-profit organizations.

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