“Rûaħ or ruach, a Hebrew word meaning ‘breath, spirit.'”
The Ruah Center at Villa de Matel is dear to my heart. A silent retreat tucked into a convent at the center of a bustling city, its wooded acres and quiet halls are always a soothing balm for an achy soul.
“This place hasn’t changed,” I said to the spiritual director during our session. “It’s been four years since I’ve been here, and I’ve changed…but this place still feels exactly the same.”
We talked about my anxiety. The tight, heavy feeling around my heart and the deep wisdom wanting to emerge from behind the suffering. She’s a wise woman and friend, and later in the afternoon of my arrival, she slipped a prayer under my door which began with the following:
“Gentle me, Holy One,
Into an unclenched moment.”
These words informed my journey in the coming days as I walked the cemetery grounds and labyrinth and wandered through the building’s ancient yet immaculate hallways. I felt them echo in the roots of great, towering trees and in the wind that called to spring.
My first night, I woke up with a feeling of perfect stillness in my heart, surrounded by tenderness. Still half asleep, I saw myself in an egg, with the moon shining overhead. I heard,
“I am an extension of the Great Mystery.”
I painted my dreams the next morning, the egg and the roots of a tree.
The generosity I experience here always astounds me–generosity of people and generosity of Spirit. It is completely donation based, no questions asked, just leave what you can in a box on your way out. You are fed, housed, and gently ushered through a silent retreat of your own design. You can meet with a spiritual director, or not. There are thoughtfully placed signs, unique gardens, prayer spaces and works of art that are always exactly right where you need them to be. Though the center is rooted in Catholicism, people of all faiths are welcomed.
Generosity always reminds me that it’s okay to receive. It’s okay to reach out into the world and into the heavens and lean on a little support.