2023 CWP Newsletter Summary

December 10th, 2023

As the year comes to a close, I can look back on many projects, writings, trainings, and conversations I’ve been a part of in the past twelve months. But one of the things that stands out most to me are the periods when I didn’t do any of that. These were times where I instead created space for spiritual reflection.

And what I’m referring to here are ancient traditions within many different cultures of monastic retreat–where people give up all their possessions, and their familiar daily routines, and live the life a monk, following a simplified and disciplined daily routine or “rule,” and spending most of their day in silence and prayer. In Southeast Asia a large portion of the men before marriage do two months in a monastery. I have written about pilgrims, as part of these traditions. In our community, many have experienced this practice through Vipassana meditation retreats as taught by S.N. Goenka, the most popular and accessible meditation retreat in the world, with dozens of centers in the U.S., and over one hundred thousand participants each year. Paul generally spends 20 days a year in a retreat like this, either in a Christian or Buddhist monastery, and his update called “Learning to Drink from the Monastic Waters,” is about how transformative this experience has been for him. Garret also wrote a wonderful personal testimonial of his year working full time at the community, and includes the importance of the monastic retreat and tradition for him. 

2023 has been another year full of changes, and it feels like we’re still in the winter of life, for myself and the CWP community, represented by the many transitions within our individual lives as well as our community spaces. Old friends and new friends have come and gone from the community. Many in our community have experienced breakups or left jobs. Social movements have slowed, experiencing protest fatigue, and many leaders have left social movement organizations to focus on other needs. You can read about this in our 2023 House Journal. 

But returning from the monastery, there seem to be some signs of spring. Although the “retreat” experience can actually be quite challenging, as the simple lifestyle gives us the time and space we need to care for the pain in our mind and body that we’re usually distracted from, when we emerge, we feel again what it is to live a life outside of the water of the dominant culture, and drink from new waters. 

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