Six retreat places where one can clear the mind, open the heart and revitalize the spirit within the confines of the body
THE ONSLAUGHT of unbridled information from constant TV and Internet exposure has caused minds to run wild, often creating a spiritual vacuum that, come Holy Week, seeks to be filled.
Fortunately for the weary working class – Christian or not – the Holy Week calendar and Filipino tradition have decreed this break as a non-working holiday, enough time for family bonding or a planned vacation. Whether we spend it on the beach, in the cool mountains, or in retreat gardens, the Holy Week break provides us an occasion to pause in spiritual retreat.
Spiritual retreats are an integral part not only of the Christian faith, but also of Buddhist and Sufi Islamic groups. The religious, the secular, as well as the irreverent can get as much rejuvenation from a frenzied vacation as the bliss one gets from coming out of a spiritual encounter – but minus the guilt. In this instance, the retreat becomes simply a sacred act to clear the mind, open the heart and revitalize the spirit within the confines of the body.
While the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) recently launched Visita Iglesia Online (www.visitaiglesia.net) for the Net-savvy churchgoer, the bishops still stress that “the liturgy is a community act,” and enjoin the faithful to physically attend liturgical celebrations in their respective parishes.
While keeping traditional practices, the clergy also encourages the faithful to explore alternative ways of celebrating Holy Week, like performing acts of charity and social service, or immersing oneself in guided silence retreats.
The Center for Ignatian Spirituality (CIS Phil) holds individually-guided retreats based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola. This retreat is for men and women who “long for a deep encounter with God.” A major highlight of this retreat is the rich liturgy of the Paschal Triduum presided over by the Jesuit fathers of Sacred Heart Novitiate and San Jose Seminary.
The Ignatian silence retreat starts at dusk of Holy Wednesday, and ends mid-day of Easter Sunday. Retreatants go through prayer and reflection three to four times a day, and are offered individual consultation, meals, participation in the liturgical celebration – and much needed rest.
The retreat venues are the Sacred Heart Retreat House in Novaliches and San Jose Seminary at the Ateneo de Manila University Campus. Visit www.cisphil.org or call the Center in Loyola Heights at (02) 426-3240 to 51 for details.
Caleruega-Philippines in Nasugbu, Batangas is a recommended venue for spiritual retreats for its contemplative gardens and paths with inspiring vistas of the distant and verdant hills of Batulao. Built by the Dominicans in honor of their patron known as the Happy Friar, Caleruega welcomes “people of goodwill longing to be in touch with themselves, with others and with God through prayer and quiet moments.”
Rising tall and majestic at the highest point of Caleruega is the Transfiguration Chapel overlooking the expansive area of conference and dining halls, family cottages and units, and separate dormitories for men and women with a combined 170-bed capacity.
For inquiries call or send an SMS to 0921-2709890 or call (043) 706-0348. You may also visit www.caleruega-philippines.com
For those who want to extend their retreat beyond the religious observance of Holy Week, there are transformational retreats that offer meditation and workshops.
While the Church may frown upon the non-liturgical nature of these spiritual retreats, the Catholic may find comfort in St. Teresa of Ávila (1515-1582) who viewed the practice of meditation on the life and teachings of the Christ as a step in achieving “union with God.”
The appeal of meditation stems from an earnest belief that transformation can only come from the inside out. It is an inner journey. The purpose of a spiritual retreat is to pull back from the world and connect with oneself on a deeper, spiritual level. Many find in meditation a great way to give oneself mini retreats in daily doses.
There are local chapters of global and UN-affiliated organizations that teach proven meditation techniques and conduct transformational workshops, among them:
The Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University has retreat centers all over the country that offer meditation courses and spiritual workshops.
Its teachings are founded on the premise that there is innate goodness in all human beings, regardless of race, color, and creed. A branch in Tagaytay, the Center for Spiritual Learning, is dedicated to sustaining a learning environment that nurtures this natural godliness. The simple lodging facilities amid a cool mountain setting complement the introspective workshops and silence retreats managed by teachers of Raja Yoga meditation. Devoted meditation practitioners interact by preparing freshly cooked vegetarian meals.
Check out their website at www.bkswu.org/ philippines
The Art of Living Foundation, another UN-affiliated NGO engaged in stress-management and service initiatives, offers several courses that aim “to bring (practitioners) to the joy and happiness that lie at our very core, with the knowledge that we can play with every situation in front of us, free from thoughts of the past and the future.” It was founded by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.
A Holy Week Meditation Course will be conducted by a senior visiting teacher from India. It is spread over three sessions from April 21-23, Thursday to Saturday from 4 to 6 p.m. Open to all, it is described as “an effortless path to genuine relaxation and peace that can totally transform the quality of your life.”
Inquire at (+63) 917 848 4898 or 216 6139 or visit www.artofliving.org.ph
Spiritual retreats can come in holistic packages anchored on healing the complete person and founded on the affirmation that we are a physical, mental, emotional and spiritual being.
Our spiritual activities are not separate from our mental or from our physical well-being. Spirituality opens us up to the awareness that “everything happening around us is a conspiracy.” Thus, “we are all interconnected.” The challenge in a healing retreat is to find our balance, attain harmony and live in synchronicity with the Divine Will.
A good healing retreat that can deliver wellness at all levels would be worth the hefty sum it charges. In these uncertain times when there is no safe refuge but the self, retreats – from healing to wellness to spiritual – have become one of the fastest growing travel trends.
Among a sampling of healing retreats, two stand out for their international recognition:
The Farm at San Benito, one of the few truly medical and wellness resorts in the world built on the foothills of Mount Malarayat in Batangas, hosts regular wellness programs for the holistic treatment of the body, mind and soul by making use of Nature’s own remedies.
Their Prevention, Recovery and Wellness Retreat Programs are based on the principle that physical, mental and emotional health is the cumulative result of one’s own actions and lifestyle. The integrated program is designed to guide and educate guests towards their maximum healing potential through European-inspired medical services, natural spa healing therapy and organic living food (for the body); medical doctors’ consultancy, nurturing spa therapists, movement consultants and living food chefs’ classes (for the mind); and conducive atmosphere for meditation (for the soul).
The Farm is currently offering 30 percent off for weekday stays from Sunday through Thursday nights until May 25, prior to hosting a four-day event called Body Mind Soul Transformational Healing Retreat on May 26-29. A guest event leader will conduct Health/Wellness activities that include Energy Therapy, Healing, Organic Living Foods, and Meditation.
Inquire at (02) 884-8073 to 75 or mobile (+63) 918-8848080 or visit: www.thefarm.com. ph
Nurture Spa Village in Tagaytay, a pioneer in the Philippine spa industry and recently named one of the 28 Most Relaxing Spas in Asia by “CNN Go,” offers a distinctive brand of “Ecotherapy” or healing by, and through, nature. Rooms overlook lush gardens located deep amidst coffee orchards. Expanded wellness services include detoxification, weight reduction, anti-ageing, and alternative and complementary medicine program, meditation and lifestyle counselling.
Inquire at (02) 584-4228 or (046) 483-0805 and visit www.nurture.com.ph
Juju Cleanse Home Program.
A better way to complement a spiritual retreat is through juice fasting or what is essentially a spring cleaning of body and soul. Not only does juice fasting fulfill the Lenten call for restraint and sacrifice, it also effectively purges the body of toxins and corrects the body’s alkaline balance, resulting in a clearer state of mind, which adds up to inner peace.
Juju Cleanse has created a convenient home program of daily juice cleanses in a three-liter kit equivalent to roughly thirteen pounds of nutrient-dense, healthy produce. They are freshly-juiced to order, and delivered to your door (limited to Metro Manila). All one is left to do is read the cleansing guidelines, get a good night’s sleep, and wake up spiritually motivated.
Juice fasting is just a call away at (+63) 917-5763012, or a click away at www.jujucleanse. com. •