House of Retreats
I have been on a lot of retreats in my life thus far. Native american retreats, yoga retreats, shamanic retreats, leadership retreats, and held a few retreats as well. There is a lot to gain from a well done retreat and the name itself says it all. A retreat from the day to day to reflect. And I did.
Three days and nights in silence – a brief interlude to review the grand tapestry of my life.
Self-reflection is the cornerstone of a balanced mind. To disconnect from the digital cacophony and the weight of assisting others, this time became a sanctuary for self-care.
Living in the heart of New Orleans, I strive to kindle awakening in those around me. New Orleans, my hometown, exudes a unique essence.
However, the city transformed after Hurricane Katrina, welcoming a multitude of individuals from across the United States and the world. Many of them arrived without a true understanding of, or reverence for, the culture they came to embrace. It’s a poignant shift.
My journeys to retreats worldwide have not only enriched my knowledge of diverse cultures but have also unraveled aspects of my own being. I envision the city as a simmering pot, filled with frogs—those dear friends who have never ventured beyond its boundaries, oblivious to the transformations.
Amidst this introspection, one universal truth emerges—the importance of creating a sanctuary within ourselves. The old rhythms of New Orleans, deeply ingrained in my very being, remain untouched by external change. Regardless of the evolving landscape, I carry the city’s love and character within me, as any loyal native would.
The essence of New Orleans, once so authentic, has undergone a metamorphosis. I yearned for a period of reflection—three days and nights—to rekindle my spiritual fire and delve deeper into the enigma of my existence. This reorientation was paramount for my well-being.
I often proclaim, “To provide the highest level of healing, I must first heal myself.”
Thus, I embarked on this journey, partly inspired by my grandfather, who made an annual pilgrimage to Manresa Retreat House.
Dr. John Menville, my grandfather, was a devout participant in these retreats, eventually assuming the role of captain and bringing others along. I vividly recall his impassioned stories about the spiritual significance of these retreats.
Hailing from Houma, Louisiana, he relocated to New Orleans to attend Jesuit high school in the 8th grade. The values instilled by his education and parents molded him into a man committed to serving others.
He excelled at Jesuit and later at Tulane University, earning the coveted four-letterman status. After completing his education at Tulane Medical School and undergoing three residencies, he returned home to practice Urology. In addition to his medical career, he dutifully served as a Captain in the Navy during World War II.
Beneath his façade of seriousness, my grandfather harbored a love for humor and a penchant for making people laugh. During his hospital rounds, his first stop was always the information desk, bearing coffee for the ladies stationed there. He had a policy of never charging nuns, priests, or widows for his services.
Despite his secretary’s concerns about the financial viability of this approach, he remained unwavering in his belief that they would manage—and indeed, they always did.
The first time I truly experienced the profound embrace of unconditional love was in the presence of my grandfather. I recall a specific moment when I was fourteen years old. It was a holiday gathering, and our family had convened at his house.
I mustered the courage to confess something I had done wrong, something I wished to mend. We found ourselves in a small coat closet, where a baby piano nestled in the corner. It was just him and me, face to face. I recounted my misdeed, and with gentle understanding, he didn’t utter a word; instead, he enveloped me in a warm, reassuring hug.
That embrace marked a rite of passage, a transfer of wisdom from one generation to the next. It was liberating, granting me permission to aspire to a better version of myself.
To this day, I cherish that memory, grateful for the love and acceptance I received from a man whom I deeply respected and admired, knowing that he loved me in return.
I’ve been fortunate to have had numerous exemplary role models and mentors throughout my life. Their guidance has inspired me to strive towards becoming the best possible version of myself.
One integral aspect of this transformative journey has been self-reflection. For instance, during my time at Manresa, I unearthed valuable insights that continue to shape my path.
Retreats and Their Impact.
I’ve come to understand that every individual must embark on a journey of self-discovery and personal growth, ultimately becoming a pillar in their community. However, just as no two pillars are identical, not all pillars are designed to uphold the same structures.
My journey, which began with owning my own business at the age of twenty-three and pioneering various ventures, has led me to a vocation of service, aligned with my current endeavors—being a pillar of healing.
We all bear our share of pain and wounds. Yet, it’s our capacity to transcend these afflictions that propels the world forward. Playing the role of a victim serves no one and merely perpetuates a cycle of enduring anguish.
Silent and listen share the same letters, a poignant reminder that it’s a profound privilege to be heard. The act of listening, a manifestation of self-respect, is often a pivotal part of the healing process, as it allows the voice of one’s soul to emerge during moments of silence.
“Hurt people, hurt people.” It’s imperative to seek healing before becoming a source of affliction in society. Each person’s pain is substantial, irrespective of how it may appear to external observers.
Pain and suffering are inherent facets of existence, but neither can endure indefinitely. Gratitude serves as a virtuous antidote, redirecting our focus away from suffering and towards the blessings in our lives.
In meditation, a transformative step involves cultivating gratitude. By reflecting upon all that we are thankful for, we unlock a door to a fresh, invigorating perspective.
I extend heartfelt gratitude to Manresa for affording me the opportunity to embark on this inward journey amidst kindred spirits, all seeking more from life.
And to the ancient ones, whose words of wisdom resonated in the air and whose compassionate hugs liberated our souls, I offer my deepest thanks.
Grampa, your love and wisdom continue to live on within me. Thank you for imparting the invaluable knowledge gleaned from your retreats, for it has left an indelible mark on my soul.
I wrote a short poem inspired by the experience;
In a Louisiana December, I penned this poem while gazing out of a window. Before my eyes stretched giant oak trees, their branches adorned with swaying moss. It was a sight that has held my heart since childhood, for the oaks of New Orleans have forever been my cherished companions.
These majestic trees stand tall and proud, forming a grand canopy over the streets, their branches providing shade and solace. In my mind, they are the venerable ancestors, vigilant sentinels, silently observing and steadfastly nurturing life.
The Wisdom of the Ancient Ones
The long drawn out dangling beard blows in the wind as if being stroked with knowledge seeping in, so majestic, secure, stable, and tall, the bark of which need to say nothing at all.
The presence alone breathes wisdom into the air.
These ancient ones are a representation in time standing still.
Each tree is a house and home in all conditions.
How bold and how brave to bear all, to all, everywhere.
Persists to giving having taken root to stand. So firmly in its landing, as a simple tiny acorn once upon a time, it all began.
Oh great one who sees and hears all, let your knowledge enter in my consciousness, that I may grasp the wisdom blowing in in the air.