Now more than ever, it seems, we are living in anxious times. Many of us are wondering how to balance staying informed and involved with...keeping our sanity!
Making time and space for retreat is an important part of caring for ourselves. It should not be so difficult to step away from the demands of daily life, but it is. Most of us need to remove ourselves, fully, from daily pressures in order to reconnect with the truest part of ourselves.
SpiritRest offers the simplicity, solitude, and yes, silence, that will help you restore and rebalance what is depleted in you.
Registration is open. Give yourself the gift of a beautiful and restorative five days on retreat in Santa Barbara.
Rev. Sharon Wylie
SpiritRest's Worship Leader
Post by Sharon Wylie
December is almost over, and the days are short. Where I live in Southern California, our “winter” doesn’t consist of snow and single digit temperatures, but the quality of sunlight is nevertheless different, many of our trees are dropping leaves, and the rains are here. The natural world is entering a time of rest, of dormancy.
I believe that we too are pulled to enter a time of rest and reflection in the winter months, as part of the natural cycle. This is a time to sit by a window with a cup of tea or cocoa, to watch the world outside from the warmth and comfort of the indoors. This is a time for quiet nights at home, reading, journaling, or just staring at the fire (or the cats). This is a time for sleeping late, staying in pajamas, and puttering around in slippers.
Instead, many of us are swept up in the hoopla of the December holidays. When our bodies and spirits naturally yearn for quiet and contemplation, we load ourselves with obligations: shopping for presents, multiple and repeated gatherings of friends and family, workplace parties and gift exchanges, and on and on. Events and activities that are perfectly enjoyable once in a while are heaped into December like cakes piled into a garbage can. Too much of a good thing becomes unappetizing.
It is not unusual for people to stress about the holidays and struggle to keep in touch with what feels important and meaningful during this time. This struggle comes, I believe, from this tension between the contemplation we yearn for and the activities we are pulled into.
My online dictionary defines dormancy as “a state of minimal metabolic activity with cessation of growth, either as a reaction to adverse conditions or as a part of an organism’s normal annual rhythm.” Most of us don’t have much understanding of ourselves as needing to go dormant as part of an annual rhythm. Sure, we need to sleep each day. We slow down a little on the weekend. We might even take a vacation once or twice a year.
But these restoratives don’t always qualify as “cessation of growth.” We travel on vacation, meeting new people, exploring different cultures. Our weekends are filled with to-do lists, things that need to get done before the next week rolls around. And a good night’s sleep can be elusive, and our racing thoughts wake us before the alarm goes off.
No, I think we need to recognize our own need for periodic dormancy and then honor that need. Possibilities:
In this onward and upward world, may each of us make time to turn, instead, inward and downward. In this season of celebration and connection, may each of us remember there is more than one way to celebrate, and the first connection we need to maintain is the one we have with our deepest selves. Amen.
Poem by Jerilyn Harris, shared on the closing day of the SpiritRest Silent Retreat.
In your silence,
I have heard the
of my past;
to protect at all costs.
In your silence I have heard
the desperate cry
from a place of light
that all may know love.
In your gentle silence,
I have heard a soothing sound
in the stillness of the trees
and the humming of the bees,
come, as you are,
you are perfect in your
In your gentle silence,
my burdens have mingled with yours,
like stones in a riverbed,
Through your loving silence,
tendrils of freedom have dripped,
into my tender soul
and carved a way through
the stones I carry,
thought the years of fixated answers,
into a field outside it all,
where I can hear
a voice of
Our first SpiritRest Silent Retreat starts tomorrow!
This travel article from a few years ago talks about the growing popularity of silent retreats. "Going quiet is said to soothe frazzled nerves and lower blood pressure, not to mention give you some time for reflection in a very noisy world. Little wonder the practice has become popular with everyone from yoga-mat toters to high-powered executives."
From "Don't Say a Word" by Stephen Treffinger.
Post by Lucy Bunch.
One of the tools for spiritual practice at SpritRest is the labyrinth. The labyrinth is a walking meditation, a path of prayer and an archetypal blueprint where psyche meets Spirit.
The labyrinth is an ancient pattern found in many cultures around the world. Labyrinth designs were found on pottery, tablets and tiles that date as far back as 5000 years. Many patterns are based on spirals and circles mirrored in nature.
Walking the labyrinth is simple: it has only one path that leads from the outer edge in a circuitous way to the center. There are no tricks to it and no dead ends. The person walking it uses the same path to return from the center and the entrance then becomes the exit. The path is in full view, which allows a person to be quiet and focus internally.
Unlike a maze where you lose your way, the labyrinth is a spiritual tool that can help you find your way. Walking the labyrinth quiets the mind, opens the heart, and grounds the body. Some find answers to questions long asked, some find healing, creativity, a sense of wholeness.
I have been walking the labyrinth since 1995 and have found it to be an amazing tool for self-reflection and discovery. The labyrinth appeals to me because it is an embodied form of prayer – the feel of my feet on the ground, the awareness of the path, the sights and sounds are all part of the spiritual experience.
I look forward to meeting all of you and helping you to discover the power of this ancient practice for yourself.
Rev. Lucy Bunch
For more information about the labyrinth go to veriditas.org.
Post by Frank Placone-Willey
Spiritual direction, generally speaking, refers to the professional practice of providing support and guidance to those who are seeking personal strength, healing, and/or transformation via a conscious exploration and application of those traditions and rituals with which they identify.
The work of spiritual direction explores and draws upon life experiences, values, practices, ultimate questions, and beliefs in order to ennoble, elevate, heal, liberate and expand human consciousness in its particular embodied and relational contexts. As Kenneth Leech, author of Soul Friend, suggests, it is rightly concerned with:
It is not about persuading someone to conform to a particular theological orientation or soteriological formula. It is not about saving people for some doctrinally established afterlife. It is not so much about the “director” giving advice; rather it is about a “soul friend” who—using spiritual resources at her or her disposal—wisely companions others in order to help them salvage and find a truer, and truly more fulfilling, direction for their lives upon this earth.
The work of spiritual direction is a journey through which the one journeying may actually have an immediate experience of the transcendent ground of being from which we have all emerged, and to which we may yet all return.
"The brain is the most complex and powerful organ, and like muscles, benefits from rest. UCLA research showed that regular times set aside to disengage, sit in silence, and mentally rest, improves the the 'folding' of the cortex and boosts our ability to process information."
From "10 Important Reasons to Start Making Time for Silence, Rest and Solitude" by Thai Nguyen
"The scientists discovered that when the mice were exposed to two hours of silence per day they developed new cells in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a region of the brain associated with memory, emotion and learning."
From "Science Says Silence is Much More Important to Our Brains Than We Think" by Rebecca Beris
"Solitude allows your body to catch up with your mind. In this crazy aggressive existence that most people live in, we’re always tilting forward — our minds are way out in front of our bodies, thinking, analyzing, and planning ahead. It’s only when you stop and get off the merry-go-round of daily life that your mind and body can once again get back into sync."
From "The Importance of Solitude for Happiness - For Dummies" by W. Doyle Gentry
"Used properly and constructively, retreat is both a useful, and necessary, means for supporting self-evolution. If undertaken with intention, and not as foil for wallowing or self-pity, it can be a powerful tool for bringing us to our own next level, becoming more fully present in both ourselves and our lives."
From "Psychological and Spiritual Benefit of Interior Retreat" by Michael Formica