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"Eastering Ourselves" by Jane Dawson

Annual Sangha Shantivanam Santa Cruz Spring Retreat

Despite a rainy morning, followed by coastal fog, seventeen Sangha members gathered at the Josephine House at the Villa Maria del Mar in Santa Cruz for our Spring Retreat. The location is just a few hundred feet from a low cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Despite being surrounded by beauty that set the mood for the beautiful day that unfolded, this is the first year Fr. Cyprian was not present to inspire us with his latest reflections on contemplative mysticism through dialogue and song. Our Sangha community, now in its twentieth year, decided to move forward, carrying the prayers and teachings we have collected to create our first community-led retreat.

 

            Hence, we decided to try a new format, with selected members each offering one segment of the program. This active community sharing was universally acknowledged as a source of inspiration and heartfelt expressions. Hence, we began the program with Mary Sue Babb’s wonderful welcome with gentle movement.

 

Penelope Burton followed by a guided meditation, leading us into a communal Silence in preparation for a traditional multi-faith-based Liturgy led by Mary Sue.

 

            Ziggy guided us into a profound reflection of, “Death into Life”, a seminal paper on the Resurrection by Fr. Bede Griffiths. The session began with members taking turns reading sections of the three-page paper. This was followed by members offering their insightful commentaries, sparking a rich and thought-provoking discussion.

 

Jane Dawson asked us to consider two questions, “What does contemplative spirituality look like in the way you live?”; How does studying non-Christian contemplative spiritual practices enhance your connection to the Holy Spirit?” Members offered thoughtful descriptions that led us into another rich conversation.

 

            After lunch, Mary Mulligan, a Qi Gong, and Tai Chi teacher led us in a relaxing yet invigorating Tai Chi session. Jane then posed another question for discussion: “What is God calling you to pay more attention to in your life right now?" A meditation, closing prayer, and Easter blessing followed the Discussion. 

 

The highlight of the day was anointing each other with oil on our hands and foreheads. We then turned to the person on our left and shared this consecration. Needless to say, we all left feeling blissful and nourished.


(Photo by Sylvia Deck/Editor Elbina Rafizadeh)

 

 



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