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Conference hears of value of finding balance in life

03 July 2015

RETREAT ASSOCIATION

Poetic contribution: Pádraig Ó Tuama 

Poetic contribution: Pádraig Ó Tuama 

RETREATS and silence are a way of trying to find balance in a society dominated by a "left-brain" approach, delegates at the Retreat Association Conference heard.

The keynote speaker, Dr Iain McGilchrist, explored the need to find a balance between the "left-brain, details-oriented" approach to life that modern society favours, and the right-brain, holistic approach. He spoke of the value of having periods of silence in trying to find this balance.

The former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Williams and the former Abbot of Worth Abbey Fr Christopher Jamison OSB reflected on the talk. Other contributors included the poet Pádraig Ó Tuama, the sculptor Sophie Hacker, the composer Margaret Rizza, and the liturgist Emily Walker.

The director of the Retreat Association, Alison MacTier, said: "Retreats are there to address the balance between being and doing. It is one of the unique things they can offer: redressing the balance, and finding values that are not always obvious in our contemporary world."

The conference, which is held every three years, is intended as a celebration of Christian spirituality.

More than 40 wardens and leaders of retreat houses gathered to discuss the changing climate for retreats. Although some large retreat houses have closed in recent years, smaller retreat centres have opened up, and these were trying to meet people "where they already are" by offering events such as a quiet day in a pub.

"Retreat houses are going to where people already are, and meeting them there," Ms MacTier said.

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