Does your soul need a break from your busy life! Try a spiritual retreat au Québec.
What if, say, you want to get away from it all and you don’t happen to have your own cottage? And what if wanting to get away from it all includes getting closer to your inner self?
What if you wanted to do this in one of the oldest cultures in North America, indigenous people aside? Let’s says, Quebec?
Given the deep, historical roots of doctrine-oriented religious practice in Québec, it is surprising that present-day Québec is so genuinely interested in non-traditional forms of spiritual quests through a true diversity of offerings.
Or perhaps it is because of its long religious history that so many diverse and distinct spiritual centres are operating in the province, and have been for many a year.
Shivanada Ashram Camp, Val-Morin
The Shivananda Ashram in Val-Morin, in the Laurentian Mountains of Québec, is home to what I like to refer to as the “granddaddy” of yoga practice in North America. It was founded in the 1960s by none other than Swami Vishnu-devananda, the man who turned the Beatles onto yoga and meditation, before the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
By visiting the ashram,where Swami Vishnu-devananda inspired generations of Canadian yoga devotees, we not only learned yoga with a cohort of international teachers, but also got to know the discipline of the Yogic monastic lifestyle, with early morning chanting, Karma Yoga, Ayurvedic diet and evening devotions.
What I truly loved about this ashram was meeting Yoga enthusiasts from around the globe. Furthermore, it was here that I mastered the art of yogic breathing.
Vipassana Centre, Montebello
The 10-day silent retreat at the Vipassana Buddhist Centre creates the structured ambience that makes unplugging easier. As you surrender your cell phone, car keys and other electronic gadgets at the reception desk, you enter into a physical space that you’ll be sharing with up to 50 strangers who, like you, will all be taking a dive beneath our everyday experience.
Since modern distractions tend to encourage our natural tendency to engage in a train of continual and random thoughts, the first three days without them can be difficult. And although you are surrounded by fellow participants, there is no one to compare notes with or to discuss things.
After the ninth day, participants can exchange ideas. No one who completes the 10 days remains unchanged, and for many it can be a truly life-changing experience.
Sentiers du Silence, Saint-Damien-de-Buckland
I had become particularly irritated by the noises of modern life before heading off to spend a week at the Sentiers du Silence (paths of silence).
My monitrice at the time, Sister Merzel, was the only one allowed to speak. “Silence purifies,” she says. Sister Merzel must know. She once spent 3 1/2 years in total silence.
We met three times daily for group meditation and guidance, which involved being directed in our thoughts and contemplations. We were also encouraged to reflect on past actions, mistakes and future action. Her words were few, but strong, such as: “Define your identity, reflect on your values.” And now, whenever I wake up in the middle of the night, I think about the mosquito incident and fall back to sleep — in peace.
Le Monastère des Augustines. Québec City
“Neither hunger, nor cold, nor isolation would prevent them, [the sisters], from establishing a haven here to heal the bodies of an entire people.” So reads the mission statement (written in 1639) at Quebec’s newest wellness centre.
This contemporary wellness centre offers rooms, meals and a wide variety of programs in a huge, but discreetly located, historic complex in the old walled city.
Endless halls lead to the salons where yoga, meditation, creativity and wellness classes occur daily. Workshops and conferences on topics ranging from sleep recuperation to indoor gardening, to “Health through Happiness” take place yearlong in both French and English.
While participants are encouraged to eat breakfast in silence, it may be the most accessible for those making their first foray into the universe of spiritual retreats.
Be here now: each centre has made changes due to Covid 19.
Shivananda – Day visits are no longer available. Participants come for weekend or longer retreats. Sivananda.org/encamp
Vipassana – Each participant now has an individual room.
Sentiers du Silence – no current changes, although it was closed until July.
Monastère des Augustines – a special rate for health, social and community workers. For 99$/night participants receive three meals, lodging and special discounts.
You might also enjoy this article on how our values change as we age and attain wealth.
Author: Although Bruce Sach does not believe in “spiritual materialism,” he has been on the spiritual path for many years. Each centre he visited in Quebec brought him closer to his goals, some defined, some still undefined.