An Eco-Spirituality Retreat in Maine
An excerpt from Exploring the Spirit of Maine: A Seeker's Guide, by Karen Batignani
Guests at the Living Water Spiritual Center will find well-landscaped grounds, groomed nature trails, cheerful accommodations, and knowledgeable, warm staff members. They also find a progressive vision of spirituality that encompasses more than just religion. Programs fall into seven broad categories: Faith Formation, Family, Global Inspiration, Healing, Nature, Nurturing Ministries, and Spirituality. One would be hard pressed to find an area of living that is not touched upon in the programs. Woven throughout it all is the theme of finding the Divine through nature and in nature.
Living Water Spiritual Center offers adults retreats and day programs that provide the opportunity for people of all ages to reflect and meditate on nature. In their grounds management, food production, and building operations, the staff at the spiritual center has made a commitment to be green. The center recycles, has an organic garden, composts, serves fair trade coffee, uses only environmentally friendly cleansers, and is outfitted with compact fluorescent bulbs. A no-spray agreement with the local utility protects the river from pesticide runoff, and trails and acreage are maintained to create habitat for area wildlife…
[Living Water] has eco-spirituality programs for all age groups including EarthWorks, an enrichment program that invites young people to connect ecological principles and spirituality. EarthWorks seeks to show how spirit, nature, and science are interrelated and interdependent. One to four sessions lasting two hours each are available for K-12 students. The program is based on the premise that people will protect what they love, and if children are shown the wonders of nature, they will naturally become good stewards of Earth. The four sessions are the Web of Creation, Sense of Place, Earth-Keeping, and Peace-Making. The two hours include instruction, a short reading, a 30-minute nature walk, discussion, and teaching games. During the nature walk, the children remain silent, walk slowly, and are encouraged to listen and observe carefully. The response is overwhelmingly positive, as most of the children find comfort and delight in their own company. Afterwards, discussions are lively, with the children sharing stories from their experiences.
Though committed to ecology, the essence of Living Water's programming is for people to know their God more deeply in solitude or in a sharing community. Programs encompass a plethora of topics and range from full weekends to short morning or evening sessions.
Weekend retreats generally begin on a Friday night and end on Sunday after lunch. Five meals are included. Typical retreats are Feasting on Prayer; Faith Scrap Booking; Encounters with the God of our Experience; and Prayer Weekend: the Psalms. A popular repeating retreat is 11th Step weekends, based on that step from Alcoholics Anonymous. The 11th step states, "Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understand Him, pray only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out." Men and women meet on separate weekends and have different themes. A sample men's program is called The Joy of Recovery: If I Didn't Laugh I'd Drink, while a women's is Becoming Usefully Whole.
Full-day programs are on Saturdays, last for six or seven hours, and include lunch and a snack. Topics include Sounds of Glory: Encountering the Sacred Through Great Music of Faith; Aramaic Words: Praying in the Language of Jesus; Marriage Encounters; and Spirituality and Sustainability: Faith Communities Caring for Earth.
Weekends are booked well in advance, so to fully utilize the facility, many one-and-a-half- to two-hour programs are scheduled during weekdays in the early morning or evening.
The second Friday of every month is set aside for personal renewal. Renewal Day lasts from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., and attendees follow a self-directed schedule where they are welcome to use the facilities and trails, attend an optional guided meditation, or schedule a session with a trained spiritual director. Massages and holistic healing are available for an additional fee. Restore/24 is a similar program in which guests stay for 24 hours, and many choose to remain in silence. This is an increasingly popular offering for people in high-stress occupations or circumstances.
It is not necessary to attend a learning retreat to enjoy Living Water. Directed eight-day retreats are silent and include a daily spiritual guidance session. During a session, the spiritual director listens, reflects back what is shared, and makes suggestions for prayer, reading, or reflection. Guided retreats include all of the above, except there is a morning group presentation and spiritual direction occurs less frequently. It should be noted that four Sisters still live on the premises in private quarters, so guests are never truly alone in the center…
There are 25 single and three double bedrooms. Each one has a bed, bureau, desk with a reading lamp, comfortable chair, linens, closet, and sink. Bathrooms are shared, but have private showers and stalls with solid wood doors. Retreat leaders stay in a suite with a private bath and sitting room… Other amenities include a well-supplied library, an exercise room, chapel, massage room, and private spaces for solitude or private conversations. The stairway is equipped with a stair-lift elevator chair; a scooter is available; and the bathrooms are handicapped accessible. Food is available 24 hours a day in the snack room, which is stocked with beverages, cookies, crackers, and healthful snacks.
Living Water prides itself on its excellent, home-cooked, nutritious meals. Organic produce and herbs from its own garden are used whenever possible. Vegetarians are presented with food that is truly filling — not just a garden salad. All reasonable dietary limitations are accommodated. The dining room seats 75 and can be divided to provide privacy for silent retreatants. Thoughtful touches extend to the table decorations that have changing seasonal themes… The grounds of Living Water complement its theme of nature and spirituality. The center sits on 61 acres that border the Sebasticook River. Four marked and groomed trails meander through 54 of those acres…
When guests are not enjoying the trails, they can find outdoor comfort at the swimming pool, in the three-season gazebo, on the glider benches, by the memorial garden, walking the seven-circuit labyrinth, or in the pine grove that features the Cosmic Walk. The Cosmic Walk, created in 1998, tells the universe story, starting five billion years ago, through painted slates attached to pine trees.
Living Water Spiritual Center provides visitors with the opportunity to restore themselves through God and nature and offers a number of classes, programs, and experiences to deepen spiritual wisdom and expand faith. The cheerful warmth of the center, the beautiful grounds, and the gracious hosts make this a splendid getaway.
Program Booklets are available at no cost.
Prices range from a free will offering for evening and morning programs to $360.00 for 8-day retreats.
Prices for private retreats are based on length of stay and number of meals.
Nonprofit and faith-based organizations are welcome to host their own retreats and should contact the center for prices.
Holistic healing sessions are scheduled with professionals; fees depend on the service rendered.
Living Water Spiritual Center
93 Halifax Street
Winslow, ME 04901
Web site: www.e-livingwater.org
Waterville is home to Colby College, which dates from 1813 and has a beautiful campus that is both scenic and historic. The Colby Museum of Art has an impressive collection of contemporary and historical works.
- By: Karen Batignani