This picture is of Parcevall Hall near Skipton, owned and looked after by The Anglican Church. I was a guest of the NHS who invited me along to one of their staff retreats. The South West Yorkshire Partnership Foundation Trust (SWYPFT for short – or still quite long really) provide their staff with the opportunity of taking retreats throughout the year and I was invited to participate.
My aim was to see how a secular organisation undertakes such an event. Well, I wasn’t expecting it but most of the sessions were focussed on Mindfulness and in particular Mindful Compassion. Mindful compassion is about meditating with ourself or someone else in mind and with compassion. When I did this before with another group some of them cried when they thought about themselves with kindness and non judgemental compassion. Although that didn’t happen at Parcevall Hall they were thought-provoking moments.
However, what did surprise me was (and this might sound familiar to you) before our meals we were read a piece of poetry or Sufi wisdom. Before each session we lit a candle, read a piece of poetry and rang a bell. Each night we had a retiring meditation in the chapel with silence and candles. Sound familiar? The structure of the retreat would have been familiar to our Christian liturgy. Mindful compassion was a prayer without mentioning God; the poem before a meal was like saying Grace etc.
The whole retreat was sensitively and well conducted, accessible to people of faith or no faith. There were 10 participants in all and of the group of 5 that I was in, we all had had a Christian/Church background. Maybe this says a lot about the type of people who go on retreats; maybe it says they were all caring people. It most certainly told me that they were all dedicated to the health and well-being of those they come into contact with. I couldn’t say whether most of them were practising Christians because I don’t think they were. But I do believe that God is in the world and working in these good people to touch and heal suffering people.
But that wasn’t the best bit of the retreat and I will say more about that next time…