Anita family photo

AMI Anita’s Story

How cluttered is your desk?
Find out how a busy mom and business owner disconnects and declutters with the help of mindfulness retreats

Picture your desk. Is it full of papers and clutter? It’s hard to know where to begin straightening up—there’s work, bills, the grocery list, events, activities, and more. Your daily life can look a lot like your desk, filled with distractions and responsibilities that vie for your energy and attention. For Anita Bullock-Morley, a mindfulness retreat is just what she needs to decompress and declutter.

“Imagine your desk is clear every time you sit down,” says Anita, who recently attended a mindfulness retreat with Atlanta Mindfulness Institute. “After a retreat, I feel like my desk has only one or two pieces of paper to file instead of weeks and weeks of pileup. As soon as I begin the breathing practice, I’m in that clear space.”

Meet Anita
Anita is a busy mom of two and a self-employed speech pathologist. She began practicing mindfulness for her own mental health. After realizing the benefits, she started applying it to her business as well.

“I work with a range of kids—from those with typical neural development to kids with low cognition,” she explains. “Mindfulness helps them be more in tune with themselves and obtain the tools they need to self regulate. Even kids with low cognition can take a breath and blow a pinwheel.”

In addition to her speech pathology work, Anita teaches mindfulness to small groups of preschool-aged children. “I love my work,” she says. “I get to help children and parents. Sometime children have behavioral issues and all they need is a little bit of mindfulness training.”

After years of maintaining her personal sitting practice, Anita enrolled in a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course offered by Atlanta Mindfulness Institute. In addition to classroom time, the course included a one-day retreat. “I fell in love with the retreat,” she remembers. “It was wonderful to have that long period of silence compared to my shorter daily practice. After that, I knew I wanted to do a three-day retreat.”

How to get away from it all
While initially it seemed impossible to get away for three days, Anita knew she could do it. “You just have to trust that your kids are okay and your spouse is taking care of everything,” she advises. To fully unplug, Anita took the bold step of turning off her cell phone and handing it over to the retreat instructors.

“I was shaking the first time I did it,” she remembers. “But it felt so good. It’s mind blowing how much you benefit from disconnecting completely.” (In case of emergency, Anita provided her family with the instructor’s contact info.) Retreat participants are also asked to leave books, magazines, journals, and coloring books at home. “You don’t have many options except to be present if you reduce all those external things.”

Part of the immersive retreat experience includes maintaining noble silence throughout your time there. For Anita, this was one of her favorite parts. “Sitting with yourself for 36 hours is pretty incredible,” she explains. “Practicing noble silence is honoring that quiet space.”

Anita also enjoyed the tranquil and comfortable Elohee retreat center: “The setting doesn’t hurt either! It’s a beautiful environment, and the food is seriously some of the best I’ve ever eaten.”

Benefits of a retreat
For Anita, the benefits of a retreat go beyond what she can achieve in her personal mindfulness practice. “You connect more deeply and open up space that’s impossible to do in a daily sitting practice,” she explains. “There’s something about the prolongation, keeping in the silence, and eliminating distractions that strengthens your foundation. Scientifically, it’s changing the neurons in your brain, and you need the longevity for that to happen.”

And the benefits don’t stop when you leave the retreat center. “Both Stephanie and Helen did such a good job of explaining how I could apply mindfulness to my daily life,” recalls Anita. After her recent lovingkindness retreat, Anita found herself reciting mantras on her way to the mailbox. “Mindfulness becomes imbedded. It permeates to a deeper level that makes your practice stronger. You’re able to be more mindful with everything in your life, not just when you’re sitting.”

For Anita these feelings of imbedded mindfulness are strongest immediately after a retreat experience (She’s attended several one-day retreats and two weekend retreats.) “But it does go away,” she admits. “You come back on a beautiful high and then life keeps spilling into your cup. The good thing is that your mindfulness foundation gets higher and higher, so it’s easier to get back to it. It’s easier to clear the papers off your desk.”

Ready to step away from your daily routine for a few days of mindfulness, meditation, and self-reflection? Atlanta Mindfulness Institute offers retreats throughout the year at the beautiful Elohee retreat center. Click here to find an upcoming retreat.

What to expect at a mindfulness retreat

Not sure what to expect from a mindfulness retreat? Anita Bullock-Morley shares her recent experience at Elohee retreat center with Atlanta Mindfulness Institute.

Day one: Arrive in the evening with time to enjoy the peaceful nature of Elohee. You can take a walk on the hiking trails, sit by the pond, or relax in your cozy room. At dinner, you meet and connect with fellow participants. After the meal, the group practices a 30-minute sitting meditation.

Day two: Your day begins at 6 a.m. with a gourmet breakfast enjoyed in noble silence. Throughout the day you perform a combination of sitting practice, walking mediation, and light yoga. During lunch and dinner breaks you have time to enjoy the Elohee grounds or relax in your room. In the evening, you hear a lecture presented by one of the instructors, and you can ask questions afterwards. There may also be time for a campfire.

Day three: After a delicious early breakfast, enjoy another day of intense contemplation while sitting or walking. Tap into the wisdom of your instructors during one-on-one time. Break for a gourmet vegetarian lunch. Finish your experience by sharing your thoughts aloud to the group.