#2 My Spiritual Backyard

Mount Carmel Spiritual Centre, Niagara Falls

Mount Carmel Spiritual Centre, Niagara Falls

When I was creating my list of 50 Feats, I chose not to make a “bucket list,” but rather to select novel activities that would impact my physical, mental, and spiritual wellbeing. On the spiritual side, I wondered about attending some kind of retreat.  While I am not religious, I wanted to nurture my spiritual self, but I wasn’t sure what that might look like.  A quick internet search brought me to the Mount Carmel Spiritual Centre (http://www.carmelniagara.com/).

Located on Stanley Avenue in Niagara Falls, I have driven passed the Centre dozens of times over the years without knowing much about it other than to occasionally note how beautiful the buildings and grounds were. I thought it was a church, but never considered that it might be open to the public.  The Monastery of Mount Carmel was constructed in 1894 as a hospice and spiritual retreat. Over the years it has served as a seminary and convent, and returned to its original purpose in 1979; today it hosts a variety of seminars and retreats on 10 beautiful acres of gardens, vineyards, and woods.

Serendipity was at play as I reviewed a list of the courses: Awakening to Happiness, Love, and Wisdom, a day-long workshop was being offered July 25. The description indicated that participants would learn the steps required to use our level of awareness to promote wholeness and wellbeing – just up my alley. I called to reserve my spot and awaited the date.

The conference started at 9:30, but my companion anxiety has always ensured I am early to everything so I had a good hour before the workshop. The upside of my “just in case” arrival was having plenty of time to wander the grounds under a sunny, clear-blue sky, admiring the vivid green of the grape vines, and the majesty of the towering old brick structures.  Other morning meanderers exchanged quiet hellos and shared a soft awe for our surroundings.  I walked through the chapel and felt enveloped in its cool serenity. A quick peek into the offices gave me a glimpse of ancient book-laden shelves that harkened back to the roots of the monastery. Had my day ended here, I would have felt well served in the promotion of my wholeness and wellbeing.

The workshop consisted of 8 participants (all women) and the presenter. Half had been to Dr. Fazzari’s workshops previously; the others, like me, were new to the experience. The time passed quickly as he shared information about recent neuroscientific research about the brain’s ability to replace negative neural pathways with positive experiences and connections. The afternoon focused on love defined as a behaviour not a feeling – love as a verb rather than a noun. Finally, we considered the concept of success from a holistic, spiritual perspective: being happy with who you are, where you are, with what you have, and with whom you decide to share it.

After the workshop I reflected on the presentation of cutting-edge research in this century-old environment. The research was new, but the ideas aren’t:  joy, faith, hope, and love.

So how was my second fabulous feat? A little slower paced than the first, but exhilarating in its own way. My desire for meaning and purpose connected me with a group of strangers on their own spiritual journeys, and our hearts knew each other. How special and simple to learn that, if you only look, you can find these connections in your own spiritual backyard.

Next up: time to put a little of myself into the experiment, literally with my first blood donation.

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