I used to work at a retreat centre that is soon to celebrate its 25th anniversary. As part of that anniversary they are collating stories from all the previous team members. I have just finished writing my contribution and a theme struck me that I wanted to share on the Live and Flourish blog: Spiritual Home.
This is a phrase that you often hear from people who come on retreat. For them the retreat centre has become their spiritual home. It is a wonderful thing to witness someone saying. They are usually quite emotional and certainly full of gratitude. It is a feeling that some people have from the minute they step into the grounds. For others it is a feeling that grows over several visits as they gather experiences and build connections with people and the landscape. There is a sense of profoundness which I think this phrase 'spiritual home' communicates. The spiritual home is the place where we connect in profound ways with what is most important to us. It is the place where we have profound contact with other people - where we feel safe enough to allow our self to be seen. It is a place that holds or embodies a sense of the profound mystery of life so that we can approach it and try to come into relationship with it. It is a place that nourishes our most profound longings, for connection, for understanding, for acceptance and for peace.
I think this is something we all need, whether or not we call it our spiritual home or not is irrelevant. We need a place that can be all those things. A place we can return to for clarity, solace and strength. It is especially good if this is a place where others share in a similar experience - such that the shared experience amplifies our own personal responses and takes them deeper.
In a world that has been steadily flattened into scientific blandness, where anything remotely soulful struggles for legitimacy, we can struggle to find such places. If we are lucky to find such a place we might still struggle to allow those feelings to flourish as the inner cynic seeks to sabotage and dismiss them.
My experience while working at this retreat centre showed me that this is a need many people are happy to share and express - even though often it wasn't something they were particularly looking for. But once that need was recognised, once the spiritual home has been found, and we realise it has been found, the doubts are usually banished. We have found something so precious and meaningful that the shallow scientific perspective shrinks to its proper (and important) place in a much more profound vision of life. This shift is a retrieval of something that our culture more generally has lost. As such we are going against the grain and we might need to seek out the support of others who understand and appreciate this richer perspective on life.
I know all this might sound strange to you. However, if you do sense a longing for such a place I would recommend you relax around that longing and not go desperately seeking it out. Perhaps it isn't too fanciful to think that our spiritual home finds us rather than us finding it. I would trust that if you are opening up in general, opening to life, then you will discover a spiritual home sooner or later. The place will find you, you just have to be receptive enough to hear when it is calling.
My spiritual home is this retreat centre where I used to work. I go back regularly for retreats and sometimes to work leading retreats. Perhaps it's because I'm getting older, but these days I'm very aware of all my previous visits, the history I have with the place. It is such a rich experience. I'm reminded of all the aspiration of my naive 25 year old self who first moved there. I'm reminded of the trials, struggles, mistakes and successes of my path to flourishing. I'm reminded of all the connections I've made with fellow travellers on the same path. I'm reminded of the great sea of humanity that is struggling towards wholeness. I'm reminded of the preciousness of this human life, and its brevity. Of course your spiritual home doesn't have to be a retreat centre. It could be a special place in nature that holds these things for you. It doesn't have to even be a place - it could be a group of friends or a regular event.
This blog is something of a ramble -spontaneous reflections that just bubbled up as I wrote my contribution for these 25th anniversary celebrations. I don't think there is a great point or message. Perhaps if anything it is just to share the concept of the 'spiritual home' and how important I think it is, especially in this modern world where these subtle poetic concepts can be so hastily dismissed. It is possible for us all to find such a place where the mysteries of the human heart can be witnessed and taken seriously. When we do then our path to flourishing is made so much easier.