Random DJB Thoughts
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Listening and the Labyrinth: A Day of Silent Retreat at Dayspring

Lake of the Saints, Photo from Dayspring Retreat Center

Lake of the Saints, Photo from Dayspring Retreat Center

Candice was the final family member to introduce her activity to us in this year’s “plan your own vacation.”  We had spent a wonderful weekend in Pittsburgh to check another ballpark off my bucket list and took in Fallingwater on the way home.  Andrew has now taken us to three of his four ethnic restaurants as he worked to expand our culinary horizons.  (Tonight’s visit to Mike Isabella’s new Greek restaurant Kapnos tops the list in my book…and was the best Greek food I’ve had in quite some time.) We arrived home yesterday from three days at the beach – courtesy of Claire – and threw in an outdoor viewing of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off for good measure.

So the bar was high as Candice took control.

For twelve years, Candice has been a regular participant in Quiet Days and Ember Day silent retreats at Dayspring, a beautiful rural oasis in Montgomery County.  The Retreat Center was begun as a place for Sabbath rest and reflection by the ground-breaking Church of the Saviour, established in Washington, D.C. by Gordon Cosby in the 1940s as an alternative vision of the church.  She always returns home refreshed and revived, and suggested as one of her two vacation activities that the three of us join her for the August Quiet Day.

This morning, Candice, Claire, Andrew and I were among approximately 15 participants in a half-day silent retreat. Candice had bought each of us a new journal and, in addition to lunch, had provided readings on silent retreats, walking the labyrinth, Ember Days, Henri Nouwen, and other topics.  After a short introduction and meditation of poetry and song, the silent retreat began.

Each of us structured our day as we wanted.  Candice only asked that we join her down at the creek during the morning – one of her favorite spots on earth.

After a number of discussions over vacation, I had decided to focus on listening – and to put everything through that prism.  I felt it was an area where I was ripe for growth.

The picture perfect summer weather encouraged us to leave the lodge and travel through meadow, forest, and trails.  At one point I ended up at the Labyrinth.  I’ve read about the spiritual experience of walking the labyrinth, but until this afternoon had never tried it myself.  As the paper Candice provided us noted,

There is no right or wrong way to walk a labyrinth as it is an activity that becomes a metaphor for your unique spiritual journey.  Some people walk with the intention to address an issue in their lives, some walk for healing, others to pray and meditate.  Still others walk simply to open themselves to the presence of the Holy.

I walked with the intention of thinking about listening.  And what I found surprised me.  Having never thought much about the path of a labyrinth, I suppose I expected a more-or-less circular route that bore in towards the center.   But what I discovered was that early in the walk I was near the center, but then looked up a few steps later to find myself out on the edge.  That seemingly random relationship to the center was a key part of the process.  Since there is only one way to walk a labyrinth physically, it dawned on me that my conception of walking along a circular path and getting closer and closer to the center – or the truth, the Holy, or whatever you want to call it – was all wrong.  In thinking about this through the context of listening, I realized that we have to intentionally and continually listen – because our relationship to the center varies so widely along the journey.  It was one more thing to add to my journal of the day as I listened to what my feet and eyes were showing me.

I can’t speak for Andrew and Claire, but I found Candice’s first of two contributions to our family time together to be very meaningful and very rewarding.  Thank you, my love.

More to come…


This entry was posted in: Random DJB Thoughts


I am David J. Brown (hence the DJB) and I originally created this personal blog more than ten years ago as a way to capture photos and memories from a family vacation. After the trip was over I simply continued writing. Over the years the blog has changed to have a more definite focus aligned with my interest in places that matter, reading well, roots music, and more. My professional background is as a national nonprofit leader with a four-decade record of growing and strengthening organizations at local, state, and national levels. This work has been driven by my passion for connecting people in thriving, sustainable, and vibrant communities.

1 Comment

  1. Pingback: Sometimes the Only Way is the Long One | More to Come...

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