Restoration, Resilience, Reflection, and other R words

Nov. 6 2023 | Vickie Wu, Associate Director

The junction of Grand River and Whitemans Creek at Five Oaks Retreat Center in Ontario, Canada, where the RCC Retreat was held this year. This land is the traditional territory of the Cayuga, Haudenosaunee, and Anishinaabe peoples. 

Dear Friends,

From Oct 22 – Oct 25, I had the privilege and opportunity to attend the Retreat Center Collaboration (RCC) Annual Retreat, this year at the beautiful Five Oaks Retreat Center about an hour outside of Toronto, Canada.  This was a gathering of retreat center professionals and allies, and the theme of this year’s retreat was restoration and resilience.

I’ll be honest with you, my friends: I was very nervous going into this retreat.

I’ve never been on any sort of retreat before, whether for personal or professional development, and I felt very out of my element, especially as someone who is still figuring out my place in the wider community beyond “just” the nuts and bolts of my work here at BHFH.

And yet, I had my heart and soul cracked open repeatedly and profoundly as I connected with other folks who are doing similar or adjacent things within their own centers and communities. I came out of the retreat with a deep appreciation for all of the work we (as a house, as a community, as a center for faith and growth) are doing – to provide safe havens, to provide places that are safe to gather and connect, and (this is a deep, mission-central moment here) to call forth and spread our light and love out into the world.

I laughed. I cried, multiple times. And I breathed.

One of the biggest concepts I took home with me was a reminder of the importance of self-care – namely, of rest. It’s so easy to burn out in this world – there is so much to accomplish, there is so much toxicity to dismantle, there is so much raging against the machine.  But if you don’t take time to take care of yourself, how effective can you be in taking care of others? Even airline safety protocols state you should put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others.  And how do you balance the needs of the individual against the needs of the whole? We see that imbalance on both sides, from overly-individualistic societies to the sometimes oppressive family/community-above-all-else cultures (and that’s family and generational trauma that I still have yet to unpack).

But rest – rest is a universal need.  We need rest before we can approach restoration, to give us resilience, so that we can embrace renewal, so that we can resist or rewrite the systems that no longer serve us, so that we can reflect on our journeys, so that we can reconnect with not only ourselves individually but with our larger place in the world.

With that in mind, I’m going to make a promise to myself to let myself rest. It’s okay if I don’t complete everything on my list. It’s okay to just hibernate in my room sometimes. It’s okay to take a deep, centering breath when I need to. It’s okay to just be.

In light and restoration,

Vickie Wu

BHFH Associate Director

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