I’m in the shuttle bus to Albuquerque after teaching a meditation retreat at Vallecitos Mountain Ranch in the mountains of northern New Mexico. After a bumpy 11 miles of dirt road we reach paved road, leaving the beautiful Carson National Forest wilderness behind. Half of the retreatants are on this bus.
Everyone is talking, sharing, laughing, leaning over seatbacks towards one another. What a contrast to the silence of retreat, only accentuated by birdsongs echoing across the granite walls of the valley, the low sigh of wind in the pine woods, the soft song of the river in the distance. The stillness of solitude in nature has vanished.
Though experiences are as different as we are, we all share a common memory of retreat adventures at Vallecitos—sitting and walking meditation, walking through Elk Meadow or along the Continental Divide Trail, lying on the forest floor watching huge clouds float across the cobalt blue sky. We all practiced together as the wild lupine began to bloom, daisies peeked above the grass, two mama does tended their fawns, and little chipmunks scurried around. Learning to be present with our various joys and sorrows, retreat is a time to walk peacefully through the interior topography of our lives.
From a disparate group of individuals arriving to deepen our practice of mindfulness and compassion, we now feel like family. Everyone is happier than when they arrived. A loving community has formed from the common memories we share.