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.
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.
People who had arrived tired and frayed on Sunday left feeling rested and restored. Retreatants described themselves at the close of the retreat as:
And as in our other years, all retreatants would recommend this retreat to others! What a lovely affirmation that despite the changes from previous years, the retreat experience we have been developing is as nourishing as ever.
We hope to return to Mary & Joseph Retreat Center next August. I will send an email and update the website as soon as we know the dates. We hope to see you at SpiritRest 2019!
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.
Post by Rev. Dr. Arvid Straube, lead spiritual director
Tuesday: going deeper
We are finishing our second full day of silence today. Our faces are more
relaxed and in spiritual direction participants report a settling in and deepening
peace. For some, there is clarity emerging about issues in their life. Or there is a
sense of safety and support for diving into the confusion.
It’s wonderful that the old and bitter theological arguments, such as atheists vs.
theists, haven’t shown up here. Participants are finding deepening and
broadening of their own practices, using the vocabulary of the holy must
relevant to them, but they are also willing to try practices from different traditions
with other vocabulary. Almost all of us have submitted prayer requests to retreat
leader Rev. Sharon Wylie and have consented to have prayers said for us. We are
engaging our own souls in a supportive community of others.
The sights and sounds around us enhance the inner exploration. The roses are
vibrantly colorful and sweetly fragrant. The lights of Los Angeles seem magical
at night from our high vantage point. It’s a metaphor for what we are doing here.
From on high, we have set ourselves apart for a while, but we look down on the
busy world of joys and sorrows to which we will soon return and pray for our
loved ones, our country and our world. And that we will return better prepared
for what the world calls from us.
Post by Rev. Lucy Bunch, spiritual director
Monday: quieting the mind
It is the afternoon of the first day of our retreat and a beautiful sunny day. We are scattered around the rooms and grounds - some of us reading , or doing jigsaw puzzles, creating art, journaling, walking, resting, sleeping. Or just being. I find it takes me at least a day before I can quiet my mind and restless spirit. One of the gifts of this time of silence and peace is just being. Just being here, just being relaxed, just being present. I was very tired when I got here, worn by the past year of doing, of striving. Just being is a refreshment for my soul. I drink in this refreshment and I am replenished.
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
As many of you know, La Casa de Maria Retreat Center, where we have spent so much wonderful time at our 2016 and 2017 silent retreats, suffered devastating damage in the mudslides in January. For those of us who have spent time there, it has been heartbreaking to know that such a sacred place has sustained so much loss. You can read about their progress, and make a donation to their recovery, at their website.
We are in the process of confirming the details to hold our 2018 SpiritRest Silent Retreat at Mary & Joseph Retreat Center in Rancho Palos Verdes, California. The retreat will be held August 12-16, 2018 (four days).
We plan to open for registration on March 15.
Although we are disappointed to shorten our retreat to four days instead of five, we are grateful to have found another beautiful retreat center to host us. We have been very attached to La Casa de Maria, but we know that the heart of SpiritRest is in the serenity of our spiritual practices, not in the physical location where we gather.
Silence. Simplicity. Solitude. SpiritRest.
Save the dates!
Rev. Sharon Wylie
SpiritRest's Worship Leader
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.