I want to be like Bob. Peaceful. I'm heading to Magnolia Grove Monastery to practice.

Taken on March 10, 2013 in Beerwah, Queensland, Australia with an Apple iPhone 4.

I want to be like Bob. He looks peaceful and I'm not. But I'm going to work at it.

I'm heading off on a (mostly silent) retreat with Thich Nhat Hanh at Magnolia Grove Monastery. Being with him is a gift. 

The occasion is an opportunity to practice meditation and mindfulness in a brief span of convivencia (living together in the sense of working closely with people you share a common purpose). 

With others, I will sit, relax, and walk slowly as if "kissing the earth" with my feet (that might be near impossible, I like to walk fast, even run).

I will find a willow tree and lotus pond and rest and stay present (a challenge because in fact I am rarely ever present except for a few minutes at a time).

I will practice savoring every bite, which means when I eat, I'll chew every mouthful thirty times while pausing to smile at the person sitting across from me. (The chewing part will be hard. I eat fast. The company will help with accountability.)

I will practice listening deeply to the sounds of life and the sound of my heart. (I'm both looking forward to and feeling apprehensive about what I'll hear.)

I will practice building a community of love and understanding with about 900 others from various backgrounds and with different experiences. 

It will be tough. Group retreats are. It already is.

I woke at 3AM last night with a few obsessive thoughts. This is on my mind: what to wear. (I don't like telling you this. The thoughts have more to do with appearance.) Are my accommodations air conditioned? (Why no. I'll be in a dorm. Think tent with flaps, and I've never camped. When I told my daughter that, she said, "Mom the only bad thing about that is you've never camped till now.") And then this one: what about those public bathrooms and showers? (I have modesty issues.) 

If this is coming up now, I wonder what thoughts I'll be letting go of while there. 

Urge will certainly show up. An urge to escape. 

Thich's Buddhist pal Pema Chödrön talks about common ways to escape. She says there are 3 favorites.

Numero uno: Numbing. Addiction runs rampant in our world. My habitual  way to numb is either busyness, or (my eyes are in a squinch writing this) to focus on you rather than mind my own business.

Two. Getting even or getting angry. It looks like judgement, criticism, blame. Behaviors like that. I know too much about these ways to take and place my pain onto someone else. 

The third is craving. It shows up as consumption. Grabbing onto anything. For me it's burying my face in some cheese popcorn. Oh my fluorescent orange Buddha!

I'm expecting ruthless honesty about what will arise. Right now with all of you as witnesses, I plan to acknowledge and look at whatever comes up as if there's nothing to hide. 

I'm nervous. I feel like I need someone to kiss in my hand. Like in the book The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn. When raccoon heads off to school, mom kissed his hand to carry as comfort. 

My plan is to open more to this: glad to be alive to all of life. To comfort and discomfort, to happy and sad, content and discontent. 

What topics might surface? I know a few already. Experience tells me there'll be a few surprises, too.

I'll let you know how it goes.