Friday, July 24, 2009

Searching for a Retreat Center

What do you look for when searching for a location for a private, quiet, spiritual retreat? If you have already found what you are looking for, what is it like and where is it?

I live in New York City, in many respects an urban paradise. A person can find almost anything they might want in New York City. Even though there are numerous religious institutions and spiritual organizations throughout the city, I have yet to find a retreat center where I can spend a few quiet days at minimal cost.

I am not looking for five star amenities. I desire a simple but clean room with a single bed (I am even willing to bring my own linens), a writing desk, comfortable chair, a good reading light, a window with some natural light, and preferably a comfortable reading chair. I do not need or want a television, a clock radio, or internet access. With access to a small kitchen I am willing to fix my own meals. A small garden or courtyard with plants and a statue or two would be a plus.

Access to a small library of biblical and spiritual writings would also be nice, as would a small meditation area with perhaps candles, an icon or two, and stained glass.

Oh, I also want to be able to get there via public transportation such as subway, train or bus. I do not want to have to drive or take a cab. I would not mind walking up to a mile from the closest station or stop.

Internet searches have returned numerous Buddhist and other eastern spiritual centers but I am a Christian. Several years ago I spent a full day meditating at The Bhāvanā Society. The hospitality was outstanding. The vegetarian food was tasty and fulfilling. The spiritual energy was discernable. I missed observable Christian symbolism, however. There were no crosses, icons, or biblical scenes anywhere.

At present I am considering Kirkridge but wonder how I can take with me all my food for a few days while still using public transportation. This is not an insurmountable problem especially if I eat simply and take nonperishable food.

In my profile I say that “My dream job is to manage and provide spiritual direction at a retreat center with easy access to water for kayaking and rock for climbing. A small progressive worshipping community or church associated with the retreat center would be a plus.” Maybe access to rock for climbing and water for kayaking is too much to ask for. Perhaps a small community of progressives worshipping together is a reach. Right now I would settle for a few single rooms set aside for people on retreat, a small library, courtyard or garden, prayer chapel, and easy access to public transportation. Any suggestions? Any offers?


bonnie said...

Kayaking sort of IS my retreat.

I don't think I ever feel as peaceful & right with myself & the world as I do when I'm out on the water.

bonnie said...

More seriously - isn't there something that's run by a Catholic group on Staten Island?

I think like my Irish music friends have occasionally done benefits for them.

I will check in with them & see if I made this up.

bonnie said...

Right, so the first answer was 2 retreats on Long Island, the musician who suggested them had not been to either one but knew of them -

And then my friend who'd been to the one on Staten Island got back to me - it is the Mount Manresa Jesuit Retreat House, they helped a very good friend of mine get through some very hard times, and their website is

John Edward Harris said...

I still need to follow up on the second and third comments. Responding to the first comment, I too have experienced the occasional solitude and natural and wild beauty of Jamaica Bay as a natural sanctuary where I have retreated and been recharged in nothing less than a spiritual, even mystical sort of way.