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A Long Breath in the Season of Busyness

Today’s blog is by Areeta Bridgemohan

One sunny Saturday early in December, 12 church members and I gathered to spend a quiet morning together in the company of Howard Thurman and Lerita Coleman Brown. It was a friendly group, some of whom were unknown to each other prior to this day. We began by introducing ourselves and shared our hopes for the morning. I mentioned my interest in experimenting with the Shalem online retreats and gratitude for a group to do this with. This online retreat piqued my interest because it explored Howard Thurman’s meeting with Gandhi in India. I’ve also been interested in Thurman’s notion of being a “spiritual activist” as food for thought on the calling of the church.

My hope for myself was to experience a “long breath” in the midst of what has become a season of busyness, accompanied by the beauty of Thurman’s spirituality and relationship with God. In preparation for the rest of the morning, we read “How Good to Center Down.” Participants were encouraged to wander about the church building and grounds and downtown Fredericksburg in the quiet pauses between segments.

The morning was wonderful. We shared warm and rich silence together. I loved the audio reflections. There is something intimate about only hearing someone’s voice in contrast to watching a video of a speaker. My imagination feels more engaged and the distance between the retreat leader and myself is shortened. We ended our time together by listening to Mahalia Jackson singing “Precious Lord Take My Hand” and Bernice Johnson Reagon singing “We are Climbing Jacob’s Ladder.” It was moving. The silence tilled the soil of my heart to grow my ability to receive the soulfulness of the music.

To close, after some silence, I read, “There is in every person an inward sea…” to the group.

By the end of our time together, I felt replenished and nourished by the experience of engaging my body, my mind, my heart and my soul. It felt like I had caught a glimpse of my inward sea. The experience of doing the online retreat together was a wonderful way of building community. I am grateful to Shalem for finding new ways of providing contemplative opportunities, practices which remind us to center down and be with God, the source of all being.

If you are interested in using a Shalem online program with your group of 10 or more people, please contact info@shalem.org.

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