Bowen Island's Gift of Silence
By Chris McBeath
There were only nine of us and I thought we knew each other quite well. After all, we had worked together for more than a year making executive decisions, lunching at The Bar & Grill, and attending various staff events.
But we had never shared silence with one another, and the experience was quite unnerving. At least to start.
Silence was a part of this year's corporate retreat, a three day session designed to revisit our mission statement, focus our thoughts and plan for the future. Usually these management escapades involve team building exercises such as falling backwards from a height into your colleagues arms, or using a talking stick to express one's real opinion about the company's state of affairs. But silence? I had my doubts.
Silence is the primary focus for the Xenia Centre, a 38-acre sanctuary nestled amid tall trees, meadows and two lakes on Bowen Island. Once a rundown sheep farm, founder Angelyne Toth and partner Chrystalle Canfield, have created a most unusual destination, converting the original homestead (the oldest dwelling on the island dating back to 1880), into a comfortable lodge, and transforming the old chicken coup, garage and barns into charming guest cottages.
A 30-foot circular Yurt is the Centre's workshop arena, and is where our group first gathered. Our session, therefore, started as a circle seated within a circle, creating a dynamic 'energetic container' into which we poured our ideas, thoughts and concerns. At most retreats, this material would evolve into heady discussions, action plans and timelines, but at Xenia quite the opposite happens. Silence follows. And with so much 'unfinished' business left in the air, the need to 'be' rather than 'do' was an unexpected challenge.
But for the next 36 hours, that's precisely what we did, learning to hear the quiet of the forest, the rhythm of our bodies and the call of spirit. The only collective responsibility was to maintain a 24-hour vigil at the Sanctuary - a meditative space with floor to ceiling windows through which you can watch the stars beyond the tree-tops or the formation of early morning dew across the meadow.
There was no roster - simply the trust that spirit would guide us at the appropriate time, even if that meant waking in the middle of the night for no 'apparent' reason (and without the help of an alarm clock) so we could wind our way through the trees to the Sanctuary to take our turn.
In the silence of Xenia, we began to realize how forgetful we are of spirit, and how often we turn away from our inner wisdom. Slowly, whether it's lying under the wide-spread branches of Opa, a 900+ year old Douglas fir, wandering through the Deva Garden or tracing the steps of Xenia’s Celtic labyrinth, it's a voice that brings fresh perspective.
Gathering at the Yurt once more, this time to break our silence, there was a reluctance to speak. No-one dared break the magic. Seated back in our circle, we simply looked at one another, broad smiles across our faces in acknowledgment that we were sharing a new discovery, a new way of being.
In emptying ourselves of busyness, we had made room for insights, inspiration and messages.
ourselves of busyness, we had made room for insights, inspiration and messages. We had learned how to communicate without words and actually hear each other. We had moved beyond the personality and into the essence of the person, and most significantly, we had started to remember, at a soul level, why we had come together.
Translated into our lives and back at work, our collective silence has opened up new horizons both individually and as a group. Each of us can still touch in on that space we experienced in silence. We give ourselves permission to take just a few moments out to listen, whether to a colleague, a child or to ourselves and make mindful efforts to bring spirit into the workplace, 'pausing' periodically to allow spirit to put forth its guidance. Such is the magic of corporate silence.
The Xenia Centre is available to individuals as well as to groups. Choose to stay for one night, a weekend or on a more formal five-day getaway.
If You Go:
Telephone: (604) 947-9816
Web site: www.xeniacentre.com
Take the Bowen Island Ferry from Horseshoe Bay
From the Bowen Island BC Ferry terminal stay on the main road until you get to the fork in the road at the Bowen Island Community School.
Turn right onto Mt. Gardner Road until, at the next fork, you turn right onto Woods Road and after a few kilometres, right again onto Smith Road.
Follow the meadow down into the valley to Xenia Centre
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