Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Travel News: Lake Simcoe, Ontario - Silent Retreat, July 9 - July 18, 2019

On the evening of July 9, 2019, I arrived at the Loretto Maryholme Retreat Centre overlooking Lake Simcoe   The sun glistened on the waters of the Lake as seven of us sat in a circle listening to our orientation of what was to come the next seven days of the Silent Retreat.  Each one of us registered for a private retreat. Our time was our own. We could read, write, journal, do puzzles, colour from a variety of colouring books available, and explore the grounds. Meal times were set and were served in buffet style.

From Day 2 onwards there was to be silence as we were to engage in listening by being aware of our surroundings and focus on what each wanted to achieve during this Silent Retreat. We were given a handout with options to choose one area that we felt spoke to us and that area would be our exploration during our private retreat. Some of us signed up for daily evening sessions with a Spiritual Director, I was one of them. Since this was my first Silent Retreat I needed guidance to take me through these seven days of silence.

July 10, 2019: It was a bright sun shining day.  Being an early riser I was up and about in the dining area for breakfast. It felt strange seeing a few early risers tackling breakfast without saying a word, just smiling at each other in acknowledgement of each other’s presence.  We could eat our meals in any space we wanted—indoors or outdoors.  Since the weather was beautifully warm I would have my meals outside on the patio table that gave me a full view of the Lake.  It was a reflective time taking in the breadth and beauty of nature.

Labyrinth Walk
By 9 a.m. I was walking towards the Labyrinth.  It is made of stones organized in a circular manner with one entrance to the pathway. As I followed the pathway, the environment was graced with birds singing non-stop and quite loudly.  I reflected during this walk taking in the music from the birds that led me to the Centre. I picked up a piece of bark and laid it in the Centre as I engaged in deep thought of the obstacles I passed and wondered if I would go back a different way.  No, it turned out that I was going back the same pathway.  It was a wonderful 40-minute experience.

Sisters in Spirit Mound

As I left the Labyrinth, I stopped to read the plaque about the Sisters in Spirit.  In this area there is a mound of stones that comes to a peak in remembrance of the missing and murdered indigenous women.  It was a reflective time to feel sad in honour of these women.

In the afternoon I availed myself of browsing through the Library, picked up a book of poetry and read through some thoughtful poetic verses on silence and contemplation. I read through the brochures that described the various walks within the grounds; the Cosmic Walk, the Genesis Walk, the Sensory Gardens, the Meadow Walk, the Stations of Light, and Cathedral Grove. By the end of the seven days I visited and walked through each of these areas. It was a remarkable experience.

Peace Pole
After dinner, I had my first meeting with the Spiritual Director. I wanted to know where each of these walks started and ended. We went outdoors where she showed me each walk and took me to the Lake for the views.

During the next six days I chose to do whatever felt good for that day.  I elected to work on the North Direction, taken from the Four Directions of the Medicine Wheel. This is a phase in life where one is seeking inner growth, grounding and inner strength—to go beyond the act of daily living and reinforce the spirituality within.

The Cosmic Walk is superbly laid out in a sort of linear shape around the grounds. There are 19 markers, each one depicts evolution beginning 13.7 billion years ago. This walk presented the opportunity to reflect at each marker on how our earth and human ancestors evolved over time.

2nd Marker along the Cosmic Walk
End of Cosmic Walk leading to the Lake
The last three markers lead to the dock where I would relax and ponder about the different stages of the evolution of the earth.

The warm breeze enveloped me as I gazed onto the waters of Lake Simcoe.

A Sample of the beautiful short trails on the property

Since I was drawn to the Labyrinth, I strolled it every morning. Other times I would do the Cosmic Walk interspersed with reading, writing and taking in the views of the Lake or simply being immersed into the beauty of the gardens by engaging in the Seven Movements of the Genesis Walk. It was awe-inspiring.

The Medicine Wheel

It was a time of peaceful contemplation. Each day I felt more grounded as I became attuned to the beautiful gardens and natural surroundings of this property. On one of my walks and much to my surprise, my favourite birds, the mourning doves appeared and walked with me for a bit and then flew away. The evening sessions with my Spiritual Director were excellent; they added to my growth and strength that paved the way to the light shining forth in my new solo lifestyle.

The Earth Puzzle

On July 18th, we re-entered the world of talk as we shared our experiences and bade farewell to a time well spent.

The Earth Puzzle, on the right, as done by some of our group. Probably, a couple more days would have completed the Puzzle.

Source: Jan Phillips, Artist

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