Travel to the November Heartfulness retreat in Racine Wisconsin had elements of the spiritual journey ... delay, delight, lack of control, surprise, and discombobulation! I arrived at the Amtrak station one hour early and the train was 3 hours late. As I enjoyed gliding in the comfortable car along the Mississippi River, someone was stealing terribly important items from my suitcase i.e. a small cosmetics bag and a journal (blank). I arrived after dinner, knew not one soul and had to take a seat at the front disturbing the program. Oh well.
The retreat environment was lovely and grand silence began after the first evening program. Our leaders, Mary Ann Best and Susan Komis did an excellent job of encouraging the silence and facilitating discussion (the only break in silence). The schedule was built around listening to a dialogue between Thomas Keating and Mary Sue Flowers. Mary Sue is a practiced, effective interviewer and the resulting program is a distillation of Thomas Keating’s teachings.
The format involved listening to the conversation in twenty-minute segments, spending 20 minutes or so in discussion, periods of centering prayer, lectio...and free time. The grand silence provided the container for the fruits of the retreat to ripen. Perceiving the information in such a setting gave the opportunity for the message to drop into the heart.
The aim of heartfulness, as opposed to the Buddhist mindfulness, is not gathering data or intellectual understanding, but slow absorption of what the contemplative dimension of the gospel can mean. The rhythm of the retreat provided the possibility to let this teaching reach us in a transformative way. Solomon asked for wisdom of the heart ... this is an experience in opening to the true self, of opening the heart. The discussions in small group were full of the wisdom of contemplatives.
The contemplative dimension of the Gospel is rich and offers the opportunity to open mind and heart to God. In the early years of centering prayer practice, we gather abundant information. This retreat distills that information and encourages opening the heart for transformation and moving into the fullness of life.
I highly recommend this retreat experience as a welcome step on the spiritual journey.
Minnesota Contemplative Outreach is planning a Heartfulness Retreat in early October of this year. Stay tuned for information.