This past weekend, we had our first ever Montana Open Way Sanghas leadership and OI retreat (OI = order of interbeing, in the Plum Village Buddhist tradition). We also tried out a new retreat facility in Great Falls, Montana: the large and lovely Urseline Center, built in 1912.
Catholic in practice, the Urseline Center welcomes a variety of groups and programs into its space. We were very well taken care of. And what a treat to be surrounded by such history and craftsmanship. It was a treat to stay there and incredibly well-taken care of.
Here are a couple of things I penned in my journal early Saturday morning:
The quality of silence inside this elder building, is a sound I dearly savor and admire. Still, at 4:50am, a songbird’s morning trill penetrates the thick walls of brick and stone and reached with grace my countenance. Every bit of this place has been touched by someone’s faith or expression of God. And we, who dwell here for just a short sliver of time, are the ultimate and shining example.
If you listen carefully,
with full attention and full presence
and full breath,
the harmonious choir of religious views
can be heard, resounding
in the hearts of the people.
I walked slow, steady, and singing
around the pews of a 1912 Chapel.
In the third row,
I folded down the padded kneeling bench,
kneeled and joined my palms.
I connected with the church of my youth
I prayed to an energy
I neither understand or personally resonate
yet still find great and lovely movement in,
through those seeking guidance
on how to live well, with great kindness.
It was here, on my knees,
that I heard the ancient sound:
the harmonizing choir of all religious views,
lending their voices together
Penned on Saturday at 6:00pm, while sitting in a window well after dinner:
Feeling the breeze
carry a fragrance through the open window,
hydrating my skin with finesse,
for reasons unknown, I think:
“Ah, yes. This is what it means to me
to be an ordained member in this great lineage.”
Like my recent insight on what it means
to declare myself a poet,
an OI member isn’t confined
to a set of actions taken,
it’s a way of moving through
and engaging with the world
through one’s faculties and senses.
Like the breeze,
it cannot be pointed to,
or captured in a still image
or on paper in words,
it’s a movement of energy
that informs the heart
of our experience.