Sunday, September 13, 2009
I Found My Refuge in a Monastery
Serene. That's how I feel after returning from the most relaxing and satisfying weekend at a spiritual retreat held at a monastery. The Benedictine Sisters were doing a workshop retreat on "Centering Prayer."
I arrived on Friday evening, straight after work and met up with two other retreatants who had driven in from Topeka. We checked into our rooms had dinner together. Guess which room I got? #8 - which is my lucky number.
The room was so quaint - a small very comfortable twin bed. A dresser. A rocking chair. A small desk. A shared restroom. That was it. But it was wonderful - a quiet room with no TV. No computer.
At first, I worried that I'd be the only non-Catholic there, but most of the retreants were non-Catholic and from a variety of different backgrounds. The only thing we shared in common was a spiritual thirst and a longing for inner peace. The sisters made us feel right at home.
We were at the workshop all day Saturday and most of the day Sunday, but with breaks for exploring the beautiful tree-lined campus and many quiet places to meditate, pray, do journaling, to read, to walk, to talk with others and even a bit of time to knit. I found myself staying up late just so that I could spend a bit more uninterrupted quiet time alone. It was wonderful!
Sister Michaela, our retreat leader, was very inspiring. She talked about her own experiences with Centering Prayer and taught us intellectually at first, guiding us through the concepts conceptually. Then she had us practice the technique, which was a receptive kind of prayer focusing on a sacred word of our own choosing. We spent some time contemplating our word - and then trying it out during an initial practice session. We all discussed our experiences, then practiced several times the first day, broken by periods of talk, exploring the campus -- spending time alone and together. We also went to chapel and participated in their services. It was moving and amazing to observe.
As a group of 16 retreat members, we really bonded with one another for the short time we were there. Each person was unique, interesting and I enjoyed meeting each one. In fact, I have their email addresses and hope some of us can keep in touch.
We ended this afternoon with our final centering practice session, and then we left, returning to our "real lives." I hope to bring at least a small part of that peace back with me into daily life. But I know I need to keep meditating - because it's so much easier to be peaceful when you have low-stress situations such as a retreat. The real challenge is to BE that person I was there, and try to be that helpful, kind, serene person with my family, my coworkers, my friends in everyday life.
I hope to refresh myself again at a return visit in the future. Now that I've found such a special place, I will cherish it and return.