In silent retreat we give ourselves a gift, a separate, sacred space, where we can encounter and contemplate what is really going on with us, with one another, and with the earth. Silence is where we can feel our joy more deeply, take stock more accurately, and—this can be the more difficult part—become more fully aware of our woundedness and despair.
But why open to all that? Because the silence we share holds us. It opens us to be touched and to be taught really important things about life, death and rebirth. Under its spell, we can find a loving way through the difficulties and challenges we face. As we settle into silence, calmness comes. Liberation from the press of daily “shoulds” and “oughts” occurs. Balance is regained. Healing happens. We are kissed by the spirit of life and a sense of our wholeness is restored.
At our final vespers, retreatants gave testimony to such experiences. And among the final words spoken in our final worship were the words, “I’m ready.” Tomorrow we gather one last time, to bring our circle of silent community to a close. Ready or not, we will exit this alternate reality with renewed strength, more love, deeper insight and clearer intentions, better prepared to meet the challenges of life and the uncertainties of the future waiting for us.
A retreat in silence, under the gentle, wise guidance of experienced spiritual directors, and in the company of dedicated companions of the soul. I heartily recommend it. Perhaps we’ll see you next year at SpiritRest.
needed and if I could give something to her through love and compassion that would soothe her. (When I stop and invite in feelings of fear or panic, I find that there is often something there that wants to be born; something that has been ignored, perhaps for too long.)
This is what silence does. It gives me the space to hear from parts of me I have been ignoring by being busy with life. I have found that I often build a wall around my deepest desires and maintain them with the shoulds and ought to’s that I often rely upon to get through the day.
When I am silent, my desires are amplified, and this helps me remember that all of me needs love and attention.
Recognizing and accepting my desires is not to be confused with giving myself anything I think I want or need. No, the deep listening that happens when my fears arise is an interactive play that I get to write as I open to the deepest longings of my being.
These longings take time and perseverance to find. They are the connection to Divine longings that I carry within me always. They are important and necessary for love to flourish in the world. That is why they need so much time, so much reflection, so much tenderness.
I am ready to meet these longings, here in the quiet places that live beneath the fear and panic. I am grateful for the time and space to meet all of me, and move inward with deep compassion for myself and all that is.
See you on the other side...
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.
“The most valuable thing we can do for the psyche, occasionally, is to let it rest, wander, live in the changing light of room, not try to be or do anything whatever.”
Registration for the 2017 SpiritRest Silent Retreat is underway. We are delighted to have a combination of returning retreatants and first time retreatants.
In this, our second year, we are seeing more curiosity and openness to the idea of silent retreat. Last year's Facebook ad garnered incredulous comments: Can people really be quiet for five days?!?! Who would even want to try?
This year's ad (so far) is eliciting comments from people excited to attend, yearning to attend, and encouraging people to attend. Just this morning someone posted a testimonial to the benefits of silence and urged "If you can do it...go for it."
If you can do it, go for it. The SpiritRest Silent Retreat is July 16-21 in Santa Barbara, CA. Early registration closes tomorrow, and prices increase $25 through June 15, when late registration will open for two weeks.
With all that is going on in the world and in our lives, don't forget that caring for yourself is a priority too. Read more about our daily schedule...
Rev. Sharon Wylie
SpiritRest's Worship Leader
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.