Do you ever just need to escape? Refill a very empty reservoir? Nurture yourself, for a change?
Most of the year I am content to take mini escapes – to carve an hour out for myself. But three years ago I discovered that I needed something more. I needed to really disconnect so that I could reconnect. I needed to do something totally different. Something that challenged me and yet, refueled me. And I found it.
The Abbey of the Genesee in upstate New York offers me more tranquility and inner peace than any other place I have ever been. Yes, at first the thought of visiting a Monastery of Trappist monks and immersing myself in a silent retreat was slightly terrifying. At the same time, I was intrigued and felt a ‘pull.’
Words cannot express how deeply grateful I am that I allowed myself to be pulled. My yearly one week experience of silence, reading, writing and walking interspersed with the tranquil rhythm of the monastery has filled me in ways that are indescribable. I love how my visit to the Abbey slows everything down – time, movement, eating, my thoughts. Rather than race from one task to the next I get a chance to tune into my stomach, my mind, my body, and respond to the quiet nudge from within. Space opens, my heart opens, my mind opens and I feel peaceful. In this place I can finally release my monkey mind and quiet myself.
People have asked me what I do when I am at the Abbey. Personally, I like to read spiritual books, journal, work on my writing, pray, walk on the trails, and just follow the nudges of my spirit. No plans, just being.
Although there is no obligation to do so, I have found that my favourite part of my visits is participating in the Liturgy of the Hours. Rooted in both Jewish and Christian traditions, this ‘prayer of the people’ is sung by the monks at regular intervals during the day and night. The steady and calm rhythm of their voices and the peace filled devotion these men exude is honestly the best medicine for a tired and worn out spirit.
I crave silence. It is becoming so much more apparent to me every year that passes. I am irritated by idle chatter, interruptions to a creative flow, or to focus on a task. Even at home I notice that I am irritated by a poverty of silence. TV’ music, neighbours children and sirens steal my peace. The endless tasks that stare at me day in and day out keep me captive too. Even my mind is loud at home. Thoughts, worries, plans, errands clutter my mind and by bed time I have trouble shutting it off. I feel as if my spirit just begs to be set free.
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