This past week, I joined fellow UUCAers for a spiritual practices retreat at Ignatius House. The retreat center is located on the Chattahoochee River, north of the city. The 20-acre campus is heavily wooded, and its facilities are sited on a steep hill above the river. With mostly leafless trees, we had a clear view of the slow-moving water.

The center sits a few hundred yards off of Riverside Dr., a beautifully curvy and well-traveled road. The leafless trees that afforded clear views of the Chattahoochee also enabled un-buffered road noise. As our group practiced mindful walking around buildings and on dirt paths, I felt annoyed by car sounds when my body turned toward the road, and I noted a salutary difference when my body turned back toward the noiseless river. 

Hours before this mindful walk, I had been driving one of those noisy cars winding its way up the road to reach Ignatius House. I was complicit in interrupting the stillness of the forest and the quiet of the river. I don’t know if the trees and water minded really. Rather, it was my ego clinging to a selfish desire for quietude in my sacred space.

The ears were simply doing their appointed work, so it was up to me to direct my attention. Focus on the annoying road noise and hop on the well-traveled thought path of how human activity interferes and disrupts? Acknowledge my senses and let the observation dissipate without analysis? Recognize the truth of “this and that” that upends the mistaken notion that things can ever really be one way or the other?

My slow, intentional steps guided me to turn toward the quiet – the quiet of the river, the gentle pace of my breathing, and the peacefulness that abides when my practice invites it. Amid the highly-amplified stirrings of this holiday season, may you create opportunities to turn toward the quiet and generate nourishing peace within.

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JOURNEY WITH US: The Climate Action Team is for you. Yes, you. Because you want to act on your love for the planet and because you need caring companions as you navigate these changing times. Learn all about the group here, and check out our lending library and Carbon Offset Fund. Contact Nicole Haines to connect to the CAT and join us for our next Zoom meeting on Dec. 18 at 7:30 PM using this meeting link.