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Mindful : December 2016
For the novice, the adjustment can be wrench- ing. The buoyant reunions of returning retreat- ants set off anxieties in newcomers about cliques and exclusion. Homesickness sneaks up on the uninitiated. In the span of three days, one teen, Ciara, has overcome an acute case of homesick- ness and found, instead, a keen appreciation for silence: “I come from a loud place. I never learned to discover the quiet side of me. I need this time.” Another teen, Richardson, recalls the shock of his first retreat: “Everything felt strange. There were a lot of white people, and just a few people of color. ‘ Whoa, where am I? What’s going to happen to me?’ I thought, ‘I’ve got my phone. I’ll be all right.’ Then, whoa, I had to give them my phone? Oh, my god. ‘I’ve just got to get through this.’” But in that first iBme retreat and two subsequent ones, Richardson recognized a space where, he says, he could “face the feelings, emotions, and questions that were all bundled up inside.” The demanding schedule, the mindfulness practices and precepts, and the extended peri- ods of silence create a container that encourages reflection, curiosity, attention to the present moment, and above all an ethos of kindness: “Everyone feels loved and comfortable,” says Torii, a veteran of the iBme retreats. “That’s not how things work in the real world. There, people will talk about you for something as simple as your hair color or because you are wearing a shirt they don’t like. You have to be put together all the time or people will give you that crazy look: ‘What’s wrong with her?’ Here, you can burst into tears at any moment and people are fine. ‘ Yeah, that’s cool.’ I can totally be myself without having fronts.” Time and time again, the teens talk about the iBme retreat as a place—the only place—where they can stop worrying about being “on top” or “cool,” where they can remove their masks and begin to figure out who they are. “The beauti- ful thing is that there is no room for lies,” says Keanan. “If you’re trying to lie and pass yourself as someone you’re not, we’ll figure it out quickly and you’ll stop, because it’s not helping you. Because of self-confidence issues, I’ve strug- gled with lying and trying to build myself up in people’s eyes. But baring your soul and having people completely accept you and applaud you for it feels good.” Above, teens join staff in a Primal Practice workshop that incorporates movement, sound, and play. Old Chatham, NY, summer 2015. Clockwise, starting at 9 o’clock, Richardson L, Gabe J, Jazmin L, Danielle M (staff), Gabriel B (staff), Stephen J, Whit W, Caitie D, and Sunny C. PHOTOGRAPHSCOURTESYOFIBME 66 mindful December 2016