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Crafting a Virtual Retreat: Transacting in Community Online

How I have come to use this methodology? What might it offer to you?

“The Consent of Advent,” a virtual Advent retreat, will begin on Sunday December 1 and continue through Christmas Day December 25, 2019. This is an innovative Wisdom approach to the movement through Advent and our preparation for Christmas. Participation in this retreat can be done on one’s own schedule and in one’s own home. While it will provide a certain structure to the duration of Advent…there is enough variation and flexibility that it shouldn’t preclude anyone’s involvement. 

I was always one who said that I was only interested in working with people and groups in person. Then, when a fairly recent move to the seacoast area of New Hampshire took me away from the circles of people with whom I connected and dearly loved, I was forced to find another medium in which to work. I very reluctantly tried my hand at virtual work.

Wow, have I been amazed! I am now so appreciative of the opportunities that the Internet, and specifically, the Zoom platform offers. I feel fortunate to be living in this day and age when we have this technology. I currently meet with both individuals and groups on Zoom and couldn’t be more pleased with the results. But I specifically want to talk with you about the virtual retreats.

Having worked for years to deepen the understanding and experience of Holy Week, this past spring I found that I was itching to create something new. For many previous Holy Weeks—both when I was serving a parish and after I retired—I had organized residential retreats to assist others in deepening their walk through this sacred time. But this past year found me ready to again take up this work—but without a community in proximity with which to share it. And so, I got this crazy idea to create something that could be transacted online. Besides guided reflections and shared online contemplative worship, this would also have an opportunity for people to come together online to share their experiences with each other.

I was simply amazed with the result. Many people wrote to me and shared how important and impactful their experience was to them. I was gratified beyond expectation. I was determined to push this format forward, and, thus, I started planning the Advent retreat.

All in all, the Holy Week retreat was an ambitious program. Although I made it clear that all the parts were optional, I know some people shied away from joining because for them it seemed so daunting. So, when I started planning the Advent retreat, I thought I would simplify the structure. Briefly, starting with the First Sunday of Advent on December 1 and running right through Christmas Day, the components include three Guided Reflections each week as well as two scheduled Zoom group gatherings each week of Advent on Monday and Wednesday evenings (at 7 pm, Eastern). Hopefully, this will provide a structure that can be added to one’s own ongoing meditative or prayer practice.

The human collective is in urgent need of a dramatic course correction. This requires nothing short of a radical change in consciousness. Consequently, this will not be your ordinary Advent retreat…We will be using the response of “consent” to unlock some of the mysteries of this sacred season…our inquiry will include the consents that are required across the complete continuum of our lives–between our beginnings and our endings.

As with the Holy Week retreat, it is important for me to offer this “by donation.” This will make it accessible to anyone and everyone. But I also have wanted to create a safe container within which we could do this work, so I have made these retreats password accessible only. Therefore, it is necessary for everyone who will be participating to sign up.

The Guided Reflections may at first seem to be teachings put to music. It might be assumed that the music is employed to “amp up” the emotion. But, actually something very different is going on here. First of all, in preparing the reflections I am finding and actually experiencing an unexpected connection and bond with the listener. Even though there is a “dislocation” in terms of time—that is, I am preparing the reflections at a preceding point in time before the listener will receive them—I find a meeting, maybe even a union, out of time. This has undone me. I bow in the presence of this great Mystery.

Second, in terms of this profound connection with the listener, what is recorded is not exactly a teaching. If these reflections were teachings, they could stand alone and maintain their structure and form outside of this intimate relationship between me and the listener. They could be written and perhaps even published. But because of this accessed depth in relationship, these are more like intimate whisperings that are meant to be deeply shared, briefly treasured, and then let go. If they are to be measured at all, it will not be in terms of any increased intellectual understandings; it will be in terms of more subtle transformation in the field of loving relationship.

Third, the musical pieces chosen to undergird the reflections have been chosen not on the basis of rousing emotionality, but in terms of deepening vibratory resonance. Thus, the music simply helps the reflections go more deeply into the body. While this may not completely circumvent the emotions, these are secondary at best. Interestingly, when the reflections were at first brought together with the music that might vibrationally support them, the music would sometimes instigate changes in the wording of the reflection. Thus, the reflection and the music became of a piece, with each more deeply informing the other.

I am honored to be able to do this work.
If it calls to you, I would love to meet you in that beautiful field we call Advent.

 

You will find more information about this retreat, and how to register, either on the Northeast Wisdom Events page, or at: https://www.williamredfield.com/program/virtual-advent-retreat.

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