July 9, 2010

Spiritwell Gets It.

Upscale Meditation Teachings without the Pretense.

via twitter.com/elephantjournal: Finally, meditation for rich people! http://bit.ly/98DqQ3

Years in the wellness industry (and it is an industry indeed) have numbed me to the impact of many an aspiring self-help program. You really can’t throw a stick in the Bay Area without hitting the latest spiritual fad. So it was with a grain of salt that I attended a SpiritWell mindfulness workshop in early June.

SpiritWell is a new retreat company that was founded by a recent graduate of Naropa University in Boulder. Libby Weathers studied the dharma with seasoned Buddhist vet and Professor of East-West Psychology Frank Berliner before relocating to the Bay Area last year. As her gift to her new hometown, she founded SpiritWell with the mission of “delivering the dharma to a discerning clientele.”

There is no shortage of meditation instruction in the vicinity of San Francisco. The urban confines contain dharma foundations the likes of the Zen Center, Shambhala, and the San Francisco Buddhist Center; Spirit Rock is a short trip north in Woodacre, a rural enclave of Marin. What most of these existing sangha locations have in common is an inclination toward the spartan. This makes sense, as most of them exist by virtue of donations and quite literally adhere to the tenets of dissing materialism.

As a newbie to the Bay Area, Libby Weathers recognized a need for another option: a place that would attract those curious about Buddhism but intimidated by the academic austerity of most existing dharma centers. A place a total beginner would feel comfortable showing up to. A place where those who can afford it can sample mindfulness meditation in a retreat-like environment.

After all, everyone deserves a chance at enlightenment, right?

Thus was born SpiritWell, a roving workshop and retreat business that hosts events across the Bay Area in the spirit of spreading the mission of the dharma. Ms. Weathers brings in prominent Buddhist scholars and teachers to lead mindfulness workshops in luxurious locations such as the Acqua Hotel in Mill Valley—site of the recent workshop with Naropa’s own Professor Berliner.

I approached this daylong with a slight sense of cynicism, and was pleasantly surprised to have an enriching, informative and—dare I say it—equanimous experience. Even with years of mindfulness-meditation-dabbling under my belt, I learned some new things from Professor Berliner, who is an affable host, and is obviously well steeped in the great tradition of Buddhism, yet charmingly adept at breaking it down to its most basic level for those of us with an MTV-trained attention span. Never did we sit for more than ten minutes, yet over multiple ten-minute sits, we began to tap into the ritual and depth of a meditation practice. It was a palatable glimpse into what mindfulness can do. And it was surprisingly lacking in pretense.

The SpiritWell workshop was rounded out quite nicely by a healthy but sumptuous catered lunch, an hour-long vinyasa yoga class to get our qi going, and several walking meditation sessions made more lovely by the view of Richardson Bay and the inviting Mill Valley summer sunshine.

My cynicism was assuaged. I would quite enthusiastically repeat this experience and recommend it highly to my wide circle of wellness “experts.”

Visit spiritwellgroup.com for upcoming events.

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