I was a little nervous about driving 10 hours to an unfamiliar place where we wouldn’t know a soul with my two kids but now I’m so glad we did it! The three of us, me and my 8 year old daughter, and 14 year old son, were there for 4 nights.
My 8-year old daughter really liked it because the children’s program mainly consisted of playing fun games with a group of about 10 young kids, mostly younger than her. There were usually 2-3 monks or nuns or watching over the kids at any one time and they seemed endlessly patient and fun. She quickly came to feel very comfortable with them which meant that I could feel better about leaving her and going to adult sessions.
My 14-year old had a tougher situation: he had to join the Teen Group which was a group of around 20 mostly Vietnamese-American kids who, despite coming from all over the country seemed to have been coming to this retreat for years and knew each other. However, they seemed like a great group of kids and I think their presence at the retreat helped him feel like there was something in it for him. As a teen he absorbed a lot more of the teachings and the Teen Program itself had more content. It was wonderful for me to see him experience for himself the teachings I love so much.
Both of my kids ate better at the retreat than they do at home. There was a lot of choice and it was all delicious. My normally very picky and reactive 8-year old was forced to sit in front of her food and eat in silence and calm and the result was that she ate more and was more open to trying new things. This was an eye-opener for me.
Our time there was a period of gradually opening up and relaxing. The daily Deep Relaxation sessions were enjoyed by all three of us and helped all of us unwind. My kids might not want to admit it but I think we all felt changed by the end- a sense that our basic goodness had been uncovered just a bit more and we were all less reactive. While I’ve felt transformed by a retreat many times in the past, it meant so much to me that my kids were there, that it was a shared experience.
I had low expectations for getting much out of the retreat myself with the kids there so I was surprised that by the end I had a number of transformative experiences: The Five Mindfulness Trainings really came alive for me, and I discovered a newfound joy in just being present throughout the day that had previously eluded me. I am so grateful to the teachings and the monks and nuns of Magnolia Grove, particularly Sister True Practice who led my Dharma Sharing Group, Brother Mindfulness who took care of the younger kids, and Sister Tri who led the Teens. We hope to go back again one day.
-Melissa Chung Gibson