By Kenzie Knight, (C’23)
I spent my spring break at Bonnevaux Retreat Centre (pictured above), the headquarters of the World Community for Christian Meditation (WCCM). Part of the trip was an immersion into contemplative life as exhibited by the Benedictine-structured community and the other half was part of a retreat entitled “A Benedictine Wisdom School” by Cynthia Bourgeault. When I arrived at Bonnevaux, I was struck by its beauty, quietness, and ease. I quickly slipped into the schedule and the movement of the life of the community. The slower, more intentional pace was built around prayer with complementing work in accordance with the Benedictine ora et labora tradition. In the daily movements between meditation, communal prayer, and household chores, I found silence, simplicity, and stillness, which after a demanding start to the spring semester, I was in desperate need of. In the first couple of days here, my resting heart rate dropped five beats per minute. I spent more time in nature and meditation than I had in months. I was happy to have found this relief and time to focus on both my faith and my well-being.
But, as the week progressed, I started to notice a restlessness and disquietness. My meditation practice was distracted, and I struggled to engage for the thrice daily sessions. Even worse, my prayers felt mechanical and scheduled. While I was frustrated, confused, and a bit guilty that I felt like this when this experience at Bonnevaux was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, I realized that these feelings were offering me the essence of the Lenten journey. This season of reflection and its call to deepen faith is meant to be challenging, to test self-discipline, and to ultimately convert the heart to a more faithful following of Christ. In this spirit, what if I took these feelings, not as an excuse to give up but signals for a way forward?
With a new perspective on the feelings arising, I found that this was an opportunity not to languish but to go deeper. Why was I feeling this? What was God calling me to do? I am still grappling with these questions as I return to the Hilltop. Despite not having an answer, these questions have given me a place to start. It was a wake-up call for a stagnant practice. I had been going through the motions of meditation and prayer without being attentive to the bidirectional exchange with God. But, the immersion experience and the discomfort I felt forced me to confront my passivity in engaging with my relationship with God. The experience calls me to pay attention to God’s work in my life and to take the time to be lovingly attentive to my faith. The immersion into contemplative life left me with a renewed outlook for my Lenten journey.
So, I am grateful for my spring break not because I found rest but because I found discomfort. Ultimately, the experience has given me a path forward for discernment and encouragement for strength in faith—the best gift any break could have given me.
Thank you to the Trust for the Meditation Process for sponsoring Kenzie’s trip.