Home Is Everywhere: Thoughts from an iBme Teen Retreatant

Teens report important changes in their lives as a result of participation in an iBme retreat. In this piece, Olivia (Ollie) Stults shares how a shift in personal perspective helped her re-create the best of her retreat experience when she got back home. Ollie participated in iBme’s Northern California Teen Retreat in the summer of 2018.

It took me awhile to find myself. I had been searching for years but in all the wrong places. In the summer of 2018, I hit the jackpot at an iBme meditation retreat/camp for teens a few miles north from where I live. The second I set foot in that place, it felt like home. I knew that these were my people because of the wholesome energy in the air, and the way they greeted me and the security I felt when I greeted them back.

The moment I walked through the doors of the dining hall, their genuine hearts touched mine and suddenly I was no longer a locked box of secrets, but an open book. These people helped me see the real me, they showed me a mirror while I showed them theirs, and we all realized that no one suffers alone after all. In that short week, I learned how utterly relatable my thoughts and worries were. It was as if, like magic, I watched them loosen their grip on my future.

A picture I took there of a group of us sitting in a song circle reminds me of the home feeling I experienced while I was surrounded by these genuine people. I had my ups and downs with them, a couple of breakdowns and bursts of distant behavior, so it wasn’t a place I would call heaven, but it felt right. It was the perfect balance between good and bad, I felt normal with them. Consistently through the smiles and through the tears, they showed me I didn’t have to survive alone.

When I got home, it was hard. I didn’t have my people with me and I wanted them back. One day, back in my dad’s car driving through the dark forest, I was painfully reminded of the contrast with my positive mental state just seven days before at the retreat and I realized that I was never genuinely happy with my life and who I was. I also knew, though, that I was wasting my time now wishing for something in the past.

I decided to email my mentor in order to bring back the experience of those conversations we’d all shared in small group. He told me to let the emotions flow. “Don’t fight them, but also don’t listen to them.”

It was then that I recognized what I needed — I needed a home. I needed a community of people who I could love and trust.

So I looked around me. What I found was astonishing. I hadn’t realized that there were people right here — in my house and in my school — who loved me for me. Nothing about these people changed in the week that I was gone. It was the way that I saw them that changed. After being exposed to such deep and genuine love from people who were near strangers, my filter for how I see the world had shifted.

Suddenly people who I thought were unapproachable I began to see as shy, and therefore possible friends. I didn’t see that before, not because I wasn’t looking, but because my focus was on the wrong things.

Before the retreat, I didn’t want to burden everyone with my secrets, but now I tell them everything — because like me, they want to know how to help the people they love. The people in my life give me reasons to get up every morning. They inspire me daily, they motivate me to be the best version of myself I can be, and they continually show me how much love I’m truly capable of.