A Mindfulness retreat in Second Life

Centre for Mindfulness, February 2021
Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment, through a gentle, nurturing lens.

– The Greater Good, University of California, Berkeley

Modern life means we tend to always be on the go, both physically an mentality.  If we’re on on our way from something, we tend to hurrying to something else; if were not thinking about tomorrow, we’re reviewing yesterday; we have very little time in which we allow ourself to simply be in the now.

With the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic still raging around the world, even with the bright promise of vaccines and a growing confidence that it can at last be brought to ground and controlled, life has been and remains even more chaotic and stressful, both as we carry concerns about the pandemic and concerns for ourselves, our families and our income whilst also become impatient for a future where we can resume more “normal” lives.

Centre for Mindfulness, February 2021

Hence why perhaps now more than ever  we need the means to escape daily pressures and find room to simply be – and Second Life with all of its potential for freedom of expression, creativity and so on, can be an ideal channel through which we can do this. But even so, we all tend to spend our time in-world doing things and staying occupied; we rarely take a moment to be Mindful of ourselves, to be aware of what our bodies are experiencing and what we are thinking and feeling in the moment we are experiencing them.

It’s easy to stop noticing the world around us. It’s also easy to lose touch with the way our bodies are feeling and to end up living ‘in our heads’ – caught up in our thoughts without stopping to notice how those thoughts are driving our emotions and behaviour.

– Professor Mark Williams, Oxford Mindfulness Centre

Centre for Mindfulness, February 2021

The Centre for Mindfulness is an environment created within Second Life to help anyone who wishes to regain their sense of balance and self. The work of Cythe (Cytheria Teardrop) with the assistance of Anna Timmerman, the Centre has recently completed a relocation to a sky platform over Cythe’s Full region (which has the the added Private region LI bonus), to provide the complete experience for those wishing to re-centre themselves.

An important part of mindfulness is reconnecting with our bodies and the sensations they experience. This means waking up to the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the present moment. That might be something as simple as the feel of a banister as we walk upstairs.

– Professor Mark Williams, Oxford Mindfulness Centre

Centre for Mindfulness: Meditation lesson; February 2021

Ringed by mountains that suggest it might be located within the highlands of Japan or the mountains of Nepal or Tibet, the setting offers the ideal environment for those who wish to de-stress, either on their own or through scheduled events (details of which can be found on the Centre’s website and on the information board at the the in-world landing point).

In terms of its design, the platform is divided into a number of areas,  all of which can be reached via the landing point’s teleport station  or on foot – but I very much recommend the latter, as it presents far more of the location’s natural beauty. Located within a Zen Garden watched over by a seated Buddha, the landing point offers circular walks to be enjoyed in their own right as a means to lose oneself in the act of walking.

Centre for Mindfulness, February 2021

This garden also offers paths to two of the centre’s facilities  – the Soul Meet, within its walled garden, and the Peaceful Minds pavilion sitting over a pool of calming water. Both of these play host to events at the Centre – at the time of my second visit, a class in meditation was taking place within the pavilion, underlining the fact that whilst in the virtual realm the Centre is very much about our condition in the physical.

Another important part of mindfulness is an awareness of our thoughts and feelings as they happen moment to moment. It’s about allowing ourselves to see the present moment clearly. When we do that, it can positively change the way we see ourselves and our lives.

– Professor Mark Williams, Oxford Mindfulness Centre

Beyond the gardens, a bridge reaches out to a peak offering the opportunity to perform simple yoga exercises alongside your avatar at the Happy Stretch gazebo – just follow the information boards on the gazebo’s walls. The bridge also provides a view down over a crater-like lake. Reach via path, stair and walkway and sitting on the the waters of the lake is the Tranquillity Bath, where your avatar can rest and you can  learn about the restorative power of the Osen.

Centre for Mindfulness, February 2021

Across the ridge of the gardens and to the east, is a second body of water. Reached via a walk along the ridge and between tress, it is home to the Dreaming Buddha, it is a place where swan boats can be ridden in a perpetual circle while you turn your thoughts inward and in peace.

Also close to the landing point is the Coin Store. To encourage participation in the Centre’s activities, visitors can earn CfM coins and exchange them for selected items. While I’m not sure the idea of involvement for reward is entirely in keeping with a genuine desire to reach a state of Mindfulness, I do understand the reason for including it; Second Life has more than enough to distract the mind and keep it occupied, that having a means to entice return visits can only help with on-going participation.

Centre for Mindfulness, February 2021

With space to explore, room for centre staff and what looked to be additional facilities waiting to come on-stream together with a full schedule of events open for anyone to join in, The Mindfulness Centre has a lot offer open minds. My thanks to Malburns for pointing me towards it by way of The World of Yana.

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