Katie Harmon-McLaughlin of Independence, MO, USA
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. -Romans 15:13
One of the afternoon options at the Inland West Mission Center women’s retreat was a meditative hike. We walked up an incline behind large boulders, talking and laughing together under the shade of towering ponderosa pines. Along the trail, our leader invited us all to enter silence. We would walk the rest of the way holding hands, she told us. Then, she would begin to drop us off one by one to be in solitude and pick us up when we were done.
We clasped hands and continued to make our way up the mountain. When someone in the back of the line was struggling to keep up or needed to catch their breath, a chain of hand squeezes would make their way up to the front and we would all slow down or stop. I had no idea where we were going, but nervous anticipation filled me. Where was she taking us? How alone would I be? How long would I be totally by myself in a wilderness place? I had entered silence and surrendered control to our trustworthy leader! That in itself was a daunting and important spiritual practice!
Our final ascent up the trail revealed a community of boulders surrounded by trees. One by one, she dropped us off about 10-15 feet apart, overlooking the cascading trees and mountain vistas. As I sat atop the boulder, I ran my fingers over the coarse surface and felt the bright sun warming my face. I heard the rustling of gusts of wind through the congregation of pines. I gazed out at the mountainside and felt the presence of other women in solitude nearby. Tears of joy and awe streamed down my face as I basked in the surprising solace of being alone together in the beauty of creation.
As our leader came to pick us up for our descent down the trail, we clasped hands and felt a deeper intimacy and connection with each other, God, and the whole mountainside. Halfway down the trail we broke silence to speak aloud our observations to one another and to share in prayer. A circle of women stood hand in hand as sunlight streamed through the trees drawing our hearts together in the presence of God. It was an important reminder of the many ways sacred community can be formed and the importance of supporting each other’s solitude-holding space together to encounter the Holy we seek.
Let gratitude show you the way (Doctrine and Covenants Section 165:2b).
Gratitude is an important spiritual practice that invites us to see all of life as a gift. We give thanks for our breath, the food we eat, people we love, and all that we have that truly matters. We remember that we are connected and sustained by a web of relationships with creation, God, and other people. Take time each day this month to practice giving thanks and to consider-for what am I most grateful?
Today’s Prayer for Peace
Engage in a daily practice of praying for peace in our world. Click here to read today’s prayer and be part of this practice of peace.