Submitted by Janet Lironi
Bethlehem Retreat Centre has been integral to my spiritual unfolding. I have been attending silent mediation retreats in the Theravadan Buddhist tradition at Bethlehem for more than 15 years. These are retreats are put on by British Columbia Insight Meditation Society under the guidance and teaching of Adrianne Ross and other very gifted teachers. For the past 7 years I have also had the honour of managing some of the retreats.
Bethlehem Retreat Centre is Sacred Space with such heart. The deep forest, ancient trees, clear waters, and the Chapel provide Home- a safe, container for deep abiding and coming into presence. Even though it is so close to the city, it allows a magical quality of feeling one is in deep nature. Here we can step out of the chaos, confusion, stress, and fear for the world, and feel that interconnection with all life- no longer separate but part of the beauty of love.
The first meditation retreat I attended, a women’s retreat with Arinna Weisman and Adrianne Ross, was profound. I was very ill, so I often meditated lying down in the Chapel or on my bed. Time was spent in the gentle care of the teachers’ and Bethlehem’s container, listening to and absorbing the loving wisdom. Being with my breath in my body on small walks among the trees and by the still lake waters, I began to companion myself. This taking time for myself, away from the constant caring for others allowed me time to come back to myself and deepen my connection with the earth. It was so nourishing- so began a journey of deep healing.
And the journey has continued with Bethlehem, often as a manager of retreats. It is always revitalizing, energizing and ennobling. It allowed me a lovely connection with Sister Mary Ann and all the amazing supportive staff. I feel privileged and honoured to be part of making it all happen and to help continue the love and presence.
My wish is that Bethlehem will prevail!!! I would like to think that we are not saving this amazing Centre just for us or humanity but for all life, for the trees and the waters, the earth itself. This is sacred nature and belongs to all.
Wendell Berry puts my feelings about BRC into such beautiful poem.
The Peace of the Wild Things:
When despair for the world grows in me
And I wake in the night at the least sound
In fear for what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
Who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.