Post by Rev. Sharon Wylie, worship leader
Our 2017 SpiritRest Retreat has come to a close. My heart is so, so full.
We spent Friday morning together at a two-hour gathering to break our silence, do some processing about the week, and to prepare ourselves—to the extent that we can—for re-entry to the world from which we had retreated.
For me, Friday morning was a delightful time of discovery: what had people’s experience been? How were they feeling? I do not work with retreatants as a spiritual director during the week, so I do not get to hear what is happening for them until it is almost time to leave.
What a pleasure, then, to learn that retreatants had had a meaningful, powerful, transformative experience at the retreat. All of them would return, and all of them would recommend the experience to others.
On a survey we ask people to fill out at the end of the retreat, we ask them how they are feeling at the end of the retreat. Here are excerpts from some of their responses:
One of the things that touched me deeply is hearing how many people appreciated that the week unfolds in a Unitarian Universalist framework. Several of our retreatants had attended similar weeks of deep spiritual practice, but never before with a group that identifies primarily as UU. And that makes SpiritRest uniquely precious.
Offering deep spiritual engagement and practice for Unitarian Universalists is the mission of SpiritRest. It is gratifying to know we are hitting the mark, and that people are just as hungry for and appreciative of the experience as we had hoped.
(It is also good to know that non-UUs who attend the retreat also have an extremely positive experience, and we do know that!)
Many of us are already looking forward to next year’s retreat: August 12-17, 2018. Registration opens February 1. If you are looking for an experience that will support you in your own spiritual reflection, practice, and growth, you might consider coming.
Bright blessings, Sharon
Post by Jerilyn Harris, spiritual director
I’m sitting here on day four of SpiritRest Retreat listening to a fountain spilling over with water. Each drip over the stone edge tickles my eardrums and eases my soul. This easing and this tickling seems to be the ongoing stretch of the quiet days and deep listening.
Our time here at the retreat is coming to an end, and as I sit and reflect on the beauty of the journey, I am filled with gratitude for the community that has gathered here to commit to a time of reflection. For some of us, there has been solace in the quiet, and for others there has been delight in the exploration of nature and sacred space; for others still, there has been healing in the holding in the secludedness.
Together though, we have allowed space and time for the transformation work that love often entices us to. In some moments this has meant facing our shadow self or praying for our enemies. In some moments it meant breaking bread together or learning new “ecstatic” ways of seeing things. Always, though, it involved the setting of love.
In this moment, as I listen to the fountain overflowing with a water that speaks to me of quenching a world thirsty for love and connection, I wish more quiet, gentle, graceful space for all who have walked here. I wish peace for those who seek it and love for those who desire it.
May the reawakenings and the spacious clearings that took place this week in our hearts keep expanding and rippling out into the universe and love for all.
Post by Rev. Frank Placone-Willey, spiritual director
On this third day in our SpiritRest community of silence, the benefits and opportunities for new personal growth that come from slowing, settling down, and attuning spiritually to ourselves and one another are becoming more and more apparent.
Observable changes are happening:
Post by Rev. Dr. Arvid Straube, lead spiritual director
I’ve got peace like a river in my soul…..
This is a line from one of the songs we sang this evening at our Vespers service. We have completed the second full day of silence. SpiritRest participants were seen entranced by the landscape, by flowers and trees, by birds and squirrels, and even leaves and acorns. As the silence deepens in each individual, the mind settles and quiets. In spiritual direction sessions seekers reported a deepening and more frequent inner peace.
I’ve got tears like the raindrops in my soul...
Out of that peace some report that there is space to gently and compassionately hold worry, grief, and anger more lightly, and to have some space around them; to let them be and learn from them. During this afternoon’s prayer circle, those who chose to participate shared their lives and these experiences courageously and allowed the rest of us the privilege of praying aloud for therm. The power and insight of those prayers, coming as they did from the collective love of the group—and Beyond, was surprising and inspiring. Love was in the room in a very palpable way.
I’ve got love like an ocean in my soul...
Many other things happened, which we could choose to participate in or not. Participants were able to share their experiences and frustrations with meditation and learn a new style of Mindfulness practice. Or do Qi Gong together. Those who wished even fed each other in a communion service.
More opportunities and experiences await us tomorrow, as our silence continues to deepen.
Post by Rev. Lucy Bunch, spiritual director
Our first full day at SpiritRest is also our first full day of silence. Many of us are finding our way into the silence and spaciousness of the coming week. Just as in the first phase of walking the labyrinth, we are releasing those things from our regular lives that we need to set aside in order to create space for the possibilities of the week ahead. How often do we look at our phones? What about the news? Can we press pause on the worries and responsibilities of daily life and give ourselves this gift?
Though each of us is alone in silence, we are together in community.
I felt some release of stress and worry during the communion service tonight. The prayer of confession opened my heart. "I confess to Spirit of Life and to you my siblings and kindred that I have erred in word and thought and deed, and that I have not honored our interconnectedness.......and that I have not loved my neighbor as myself."
Just as releasing the worries and the demands of the world opens my spirit to deepening, acknowledging my brokenness, and being companioned in my brokenness, opens up the possibility of wholeness.
I look forward to the days ahead--the deepening silence--with my silent companions on this journey.