This was the third yoga retreat I’ve led at St. Gertrude’s Monastery in Cottonwood Idaho . There were 14 of us yogis there, ready to be on retreat. Remember in my last post the stillness I was surprised to find so many besides myself were longing for? Well, here we were. In the heart of the Camas Prairie, overlooking the gold and dark brown fields lying fallow for the winter, listening to the stillness of the large sky above us, and the quiet beating of our hearts. St. Gertrude’s is THE place to find that stillness, from which we find the space to feel…Gratitude, Compassion, Peace. I am so very grateful to have this place to come to just 2 hours from my home. And so grateful to have these 14 men and women to share it with.

The monastery was established in Idaho in 1907 by the Benedictine Sisters after outgrowing their space in Oregon and Washington. The striking building, now on the National Register of Historic Places, was quarried out of the blue porphyry stone just behind it. It’s gorgeous and so welcoming to visitors with it’s lovely statuary, museum and Spirit Center where retreatants (and they are not exclusive to race, gender or religion) meet and reside for a short while to restore themselves. Like we did.

Welcoming Arms

Welcoming Arms

The red building on the right with all the windows is the Spirit Center

The red building furthest right with all the windows looking over the prairie is the Spirit Center

And that’s not to mention the Sisters of St. Gertrude’s. They’re a strong bunch with a mission. Since they came here they’ve established schools, hospitals, and championed human rights. As individuals they are unfailingly humble, kind, curious and certainly guided by spirit. I love this quote from their website:

For over 130 years we have lived the gospel message through prayer and work. Our communal life of prayer and contemplation is the leaven for our lives of presence and service.

The leaven for our lives of presence and service. Special women.

Behind the monastery there’s a climb up into the hills, punctuated with kiosks telling the story of the 12 stations of the Cross. Boy, that’s a tough one to take, ending in the crucifixion with poor Mary looking on. Certainly creates the setting for some serious contemplation. Thank goodness for Easter and its happy ending!  And in this season of Thanksgiving, actually a cause for gratitude.

A little further up the hill is their cemetery.

St. Gertrude's Cemetery

St. Gertrude’s Cemetery in winter

So much history here

So much history here

A walk up the road is lovely too. Very little traffic with huge views of the prairie. And on this day, it was a spectacular cloud show!

Cloud Show

Cloud Show

This is a view of their “Farm” where the sisters grow most of their own produce. Notice the solar panels peeking in on the left side. They are avid advocates of the earth, with its stewardship another large part of their mission. The food they grow is put up and stored for the winter.

They're farmers too!

They’re farmers too!

I do believe we all left refreshed, restored, and with our lamps lit.

St. Gertrude's Monastery Lighting our Way

St. Gertrude’s Monastery Lighting our Way

And beautiful new doorways ready for opening into a deeper experience of the stillness within.

Beautiful Doors

Beautiful Doors

Here’s the poem written collectively by the whole group at the end of our time together that tells the story of retreating at St. Gertrude’s best:

“Finding for myself moments of true balance and harmony,

This has been a weekend of learning and exploration.

Through the teaching and practices I peeled away years of unconsciousness and awakened to my clear, beautiful, spiritual self,

The awakening of my body and mind.

Ow! that hurt! I’m Centered!

Peace within, aura around,

Experiencing the movement of prana up for energy and down for grounding,

I feel more enlightened and relaxed –

An opening up of a new way to care for myself with knowledge,

I experienced unity of my body with the energy of the universe and connection of humanity through friendships.

My body is an amazing, integrated system of interrelated parts.

I NEED to keep doing yoga, for

Peace and comfort within mind, soul and body.”

Our next retreat there is March 24-26, 2017. Care to join us?? Let me know and I’ll put you on the growing list…..  :<)

And, as always, there’s more to see in my gallery here.

Connie McClaran

My work is an expression of the deep connection I feel with the natural world. When I’m on a photographic “walkabout” I allow the lines of separation to blur and settle into an immersion, if you will, that becomes the images you’ll see on this website.

Comments (2)

  1. Beautiful photos and words! So glad to have found your blog through the jpeg2RAW site.

    1. Nice to meet you Kelly!

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