Wednesday, May 24, 2006

be still

Our whole staff from St. James's spent Monday and Tuesday on retreat at the Cathedral College of Preachers, an ecclesiastical continuing education center attached to the National Cathedral in D.C. The sole purpose of this retreat was to force the thirteen of us into a place where we could not work or do anything other than relax and participate in some guided meditations and contemplative prayer. We were led by Tilden Edwards, the founder and 27-year director of the Shalem Institute dedicated to the support of contemplative living. The guy is pretty amazing - his guided meditations were so effective, and following one of them after lunch, we were asked to move about the grounds of the cathedral (or sit still) on our own and just "be" in silence for an hour and a half. I realize it may sound a little cheesy or New Agey or something. But imagine if you could take your brain out of your head and scrub it clean of residue and clutter before putting it back in your skull. The whole experience felt kind of like that. Clarity. A clean slate. An ease of being. An openness to things just as they are without trying to make them into something else. A reliance on intuition and experience rather than analytical naming. (I sound like a total hippie.)

It was a renewing, centering experience. And yes, there was more to the retreat than the meditations. There was lots of food. And some wine. And more than a little bourbon and cigar smoking. Mostly it was an enjoyable two days with a group of people I consider to be my good friends. Having now returned to "real life," I only hope that I can hang on to the sense of balance and openness that I managed to find - or that found me - once I was unplugged for a while.

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