And we also heard how the retreat fed and nourished those who came. Some of the comments were:
It is a joy and a privilege to help create an experience that has proven so powerful in providing a supportive framework in which people can do meaningful spiritual work and exploration.
We will return to Mary & Joseph Retreat Center next year July 26-31 for our fifth SpiritRest Silent Retreat. We hope to see you at SpiritRest 2020!
Working with the Tree of Life
Post by Rev. Stefanie Etzbach-Dale, Spiritual Director
The theme for this year’s retreat is “the journey” - and as we journey through the week together, I’m appreciating the many ways we're being encouraged to engage with that theme.
The labyrinth has been lifted up during our evening worship services as a powerful symbol for how we journey through life. Since there’s actually a beautiful one on site, we’ve been able to engage with it as a tool, experiencing our own individual and group walking meditations in the labyrinth.
Another powerful symbol and tool, found in many spiritual traditions, is the Tree of Life.
Over the course of three days, employing meditation, collage, personal sharing, and prayer, participants in the group I led were able come closer to their understanding of God and Ultimate Reality by “traveling up the tree."
Starting at the roots, representing family and culture, retreatants were asked to visually express and then share what they learned about God or Ultimate Reality as children. The resultant images portrayed God as outside of time, as creator of great beauty, but also as controlling, removed, unknowable, grouchy and craving adoration.
Moving into the trunk, representing the development of individual identity and feelings, folks were asked what they fear to be true about God. There were images of hellfire, of loneliness, brokenness, and desolation, of needing to face the truth about ourselves. We ended that session by offering prayers to one another.
Moving into the branches, representing a trans-personal perspective, participants were asked what they now believe to be most true about God and Ultimate Reality, and what truth they wish to journey into. Those images centered around beauty and joy, around nature and earth’s resilience, human arrogance and interconnectivity, and the freedom and joy that can found when we surrender arrogance and realize it’s never too late to grow and change.
What a journey!
Participants in this group expressed deep appreciation for both the questions and the process, which was described as “accessible even to those who don’t normally do creative stuff.” And I was deeply moved by the the sweet intimacy that developed among us so quickly, as we silently worked on our images, were surprised by the results, and then presented them to one another.
“Spiritual intimacy is what many people hope for when they seek out a religious home,” I thought. “Sometimes you just have to journey away from home in order to find the connections and clarity you’re looking for. The challenge then is to bring those gifts back home with you!”
May your journeys unfold in beauty, with awe, gratitude, renewed faith, and joyful purpose.
Stop and Smell the Roses
Post by Rev. Dr. Arvid Straube, Lead Spiritual Director
Walking meditation happens every day right before breakfast. We pay attention to our breathing and to the feeling of our feet pressing the earth. Massaging the earth, as Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh says. We do this together. When the bell rings, we all pause and take three mindful breaths. After that, if our mind has wandered, we begin again.
We notice things that make us happy. The air is perfect. The breezes are soft. We walk in a beautifully landscaped garden. There is a hummingbird! Flowers of many colors and shapes delight our eyes. We walk by the rose garden and smell the divine fragrance.
We walk past some of our fellow retreatants. Some are writing in their journals. Others are drawing and painting. Others are simply sitting, maybe with a beverage. We see a smile on their faces.
A feeling of gratitude wells up. Outside of this retreat, how often in our lives do we have time to literally smell the roses? To simply sit and enjoy being, without having to go somewhere or do something? To meditate and pray? To join with others in song and worship? To go where the spirit leads?
Our First Full Day On Retreat
Post by Rev. Lucy Bunch, Director of Embodied Practice
I had forgotten the spaciousness.
This is my fourth year as one of the leaders of SpiritRest and it continues to be a blessing. When I am getting ready each year, my body starts relaxing every time I think of being here. But each time I arrive it’s different. And this year it was hard.
We have completed our first full day here and I feel like I am finally settling in. When we first arrived on Sunday I was anxious - about the schedule, about the room set up, about the food, about my room. I kept forgetting what time I was supposed be leading something, and checking the calendar obsessively. Moving, churning, flailing, struggling to settle in.
Sunday evening at SpiritRest
Post by Rev. Sharon Wylie, Worship Leader
It’s Sunday evening at SpiritRest, our first evening together. We’ve had dinner, gathered for orientation to the week ahead, and concluded the scheduled parts of the evening with a short worship service (“vespers”). At the close of vespers, we enter into silence.
This year more than ever, I am ready for retreat. In previous years, I have limited my news reading to designated times during the day, but this year, I feel fully ready to take a break from the news. This also means staying off of social media—where so much news gets shared—so this is a big leap for me personally. Looking at social media is a big way that I relax and have fun, but it is also where I read the most upsetting and sensationalist news stories. Right now I feel clear: the news I need to know will still be available to me on Friday, when the retreat is over.
Even though our retreat is just a few minutes away from the hustle and bustle of city shops and restaurants, I’m enjoying thinking of myself as tucked away in the mountains, far away from the exhausting ugliness of the world.
Come to think of it, here at SpiritRest, I AM far away from the exhausting ugliness of the world. It’s a place and time to savor.