Earlier this month I had the pleasure of going away on a retreat led by Macrina Wiederkehr, OSB held at the Franciscan Spiritual Center in Aston, PA. I made this little booklet combining some of the prompts from the weekend and my photography.
I was so impressed with the hospitality at the Franciscan Spiritual Center. The director, Sister Christa greeted us with warmth and a charming sense of humor. I felt welcome as did everyone in our group. It didn't matter if you were Catholic or not, every one was treated as a special guest.
What does it mean to be hospitable? My mother always told me class isn't a matter how much money you have, it is how you treat people. I'm service oriented by nature and these words along with the question, "How can I be helpful?" guide me in any given situation. I find it comes easily for me to be hospitable to others. What about being hospitable toward myself? Now that is more of a challenge.
At one point in the retreat weekend, Macrina invited us to consider how we might show hospitality toward our undesired feelings and the challenges in our lives. While it is my tendency to seek the lessons in the gritty parts of living, I'm not always graceful and hospitable about it. Hmmmmm. Could I make the struggles less difficult by being more warm, welcoming, and hospitable?
Macrina shared one of my favorite poems:
THE GUEST HOUSE
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
-- Jelaluddin Rumi,
translation by Coleman Barks
The Garden of Your Life
The theme for the retreat weekend was based on the book, "The Secret Garden" by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Oh what a theme! It is ripe with such metaphors for our lives. In the first sesson we began by contemplating what is growing in our gardens. What are your greatest hopes? Joys? Sorrows? Disappointments? For what are you most grateful?
I appreciated the amount of free time we had to explore the expansive grounds at the retreat center. It was a welcome sight to see all of the Spring flowers, shrubs, and trees. I quietly explored the nooks and crannies with my camera.
The Secret Garden
Do you have a secret garden - a special place to go when you want to consider, "Who you are" and "Where you are?"
For me I have a comfy chair tucked in the corner of my bedroom where I enjoy reading, journal writing, and sitting quietly. My husband and I long for a home with a bit of earth to grow things in. I so resonated with Mary in the book when she asked Lord Craven, “Might I,” quavered Mary, “might I have a bit of earth?” “To plant seeds in–to make things grow–to see them come alive.”
I also have my "secret garden" time. On Sundays after my husband has left for work, I have the day to myself. Last week I painted for the first time in ages and this morning I created some new collages. My morning walks into work also serve as my "secret garden" time. I love having quiet time for reflection.
The Keys to the Garden
In the story, a robin shows Mary how to get into the secret garden. Macrina asks us, "What are some of the "robins" in your life: teachers, mentors, precious memories or painful experiences that have led you to your secret garden?
Macrina's writings have certainly been one key. There are so many writers, artists, musicians, and film directors who have inspired me. A few that come to mind include: Mark Nepo, SARK, Wayne Dyer, and Nick Bantock.
Inside the Garden
"What is this faithful process of spirit and seed that touches empty ground and makes it rich again? It's greater workings I cannot claim to understand...But this I know: Something is waiting for us to make ground for it - something that lingers near us, something that loves, something that waits for the right ground to be made so it can make its full presence known.
I am certain that as we stand in the care of this faithful force that what seemed dead is dead no longer, what seemed lost, lost no longer, that which some have claimed impossible is made clearly possible and what ground is fallow is only resting - resting and waiting for the Blessed Seed to arrive on the wind with all God speed. AND IT WILL!"
~ Clarissa Pinkola Estes, The Faithful Gardner
Inside the garden is where transformation occurs. Marcrina spoke of ground that is fallow, that is resting. There is a time when the ground needs to rest before something new can bloom and at other times we need to know how to work the ground to prepare it.
I'm realizing that I need to honor the fallow grounds in my garden. To rest along with it. To quiet my busy mind and not feel so much pressure to plan. There is a time to just BE, be still.
Tending the Garden
How are you going to keep the magic alive in your life?
During the retreat we had breakfast and lunch in silence on the first day. It was the first time that I shared a meal in silence with so many people (over 50). Gentle music played in the background. I found it was nourishing and my attention was focused not on the others but on my food, my posture, my breathing, and my thoughts. I enjoyed this moment of mindfulness. Later when silence was broken I found our group's energy was relaxed and mellow - there was less need for idle chatter.
If I were to schedule this retreat again, I would add a couple of days onto the trip to allow for more quiet reflection. I long for more time to sit in the gardens to reflect on the many prompts, quotes, ideas, and insights.
Now that I'm home, I'm working in daily walks, mini creative sessions, and writing in my journal. When I can, I pull out my camera. It is a favorite practice that allows me to really look at my surroundings and to be fully present. I'm interested in working in more moments for meditation, quiet contemplation, and silence. I recently started a basic wheel throwing class and I'm having fun playing with clay. Play, yes more play is needed to tend my garden.
How about you? What are you doing to tend your garden?
A footpath throughout the gardens leads one through the Stations of the Cross.
There were many little buildings, grottos, waterfalls, nooks and crannies to enjoy.
This was one of my favorite statues - there is such tenderness and love expressed in it.
This was our group from New Hampshire with the retreat center director, Sister Christa and the retreat leader Sr. Macrina. It was a wonderful group of ladies - I kept marveling at how there were no divas and there was no drama. Although we are all very different, we traveled so well together. What a gift!
I so enjoyed meeting and listening to Macrina. Now when I read her words, I can hear her voice and laugh. I truly appreciated her humble and gentle spirit. She is the kind of person I can see myself enjoying long chats with and even longer moments sitting in silence together. Thank you Macrina for sharing your secret garden with us.
One parting thought as I wrap up this booklet and blog post, "What some people see as a weed others see as a wish."
Go! Go into your secret garden and plant some wishes!
Kathryn Costa, Collage Diva and Creative Dabbler