Getting lost on a muddy hike for hours… No cell phone service for days… Food so full of beans that it raised the sheets at night (if you get my drift.)
Hmmmm, not your idea of the perfect get-away?
Well I’m here to tell you: it was an amazing weekend and I hope everyone gets a chance to spend time at Peace Village. (No kidding, there really is such a place.)
It’s a center in New York’s Catskill Mountains built on the conviction that world peace starts with inner peace. Of course it sounds familiar – it’s the same message Peace Pilgrim spread as she walked across the U.S. seven times.
I learned of Peace Village from my friend, Susan, who backpacked with me through South America decades ago. We lost touch until recently, but that’s a whole other story. When we met at the retreat a couple of weekends ago, we couldn’t wait to scamper past a labyrinth, around a pond and into the 300 acres of woods. Before we knew it, we were sloshing through trails flooded by days of torrential rain and climbing over downed trees, but, like old times, we didn’t care. We were determined to do a long loop that would take us back to the main building.
Thing is, after an hour or so of following what seemed to be the right, albeit soggy, trail markers, we realized we kept passing the same tree, like Winnie the Pooh and Eeyore in one of A. A. Milne’s tales. To make matters worse, Susan is recovering from a knee replacement and I’m not as balanced crossing rocky streams as I used to be.
But here’s where the magic of Peace Village came in, and it has to do with thoughts.
In sessions the night before and that morning, the teachers talked a lot about how our mind dictates who we are. It’s nothing new in the “thoughts ‘r us” camp (i.e., “Whether you believe you can or can’t, you’re always right.”) But the Peace Village twist is that when we give ourselves time, even 10 seconds, to withdraw like a turtle into a shell of quiet, we remember who we really are: beings of love. Then we can respond to situations in a centered, peaceful way rather than a reactive burst.
So, there we were, lost in the the woods, leaning towards buggy, cranky and tired, without any cell phone service to cheat and look on Google maps. But we turned toward each other, took a long breath, and laughed.
Obviously we made it out, although we never did finish the loop. We spent the rest of the weekend soaking in the spirit of the place. OK, we also cracked up at the abundance of flatulence caused by the delicious vegetarian fare. But the real movement was in our hearts.
It’s amazing what a few days of good food, electronic embargo and mindfulness can do. Here’s a toast – of silence – to Peace Village!