Monday, November 9, 2009

The Seeds for Iona...

I've been trying to wrap my head around my time on Iona...and I've come to the conclusion that I'm going to have to break it all down into a few different blogs.

It was such a deeply personal journey...and since this isn't my journal...I'm trying to separate the two.

First of all, I need to give a big shout out to my Mom for putting the magazine article about John Philip Newell's workshop/retreat weeks on my bed shortly after my last visit to Scotland. I had put my wish out to the Universe to return to Scotland as soon as possible and to have it be some sort of group activity...and Boom! an article about Iona, and Philip, turned up on my childhood bed (with another about Edinburgh on the reverse side). I said, "What's this?" and Mom responded..."It's about Scotland."

Indeed, it was.

I took the website info down and found out when the next Iona week would be. This particular week was titled, Matter Matters: A Celtic Perspective Led by John Philip Newell and Neil Harvey. I researched Iona very little in the process. All I really knew of Iona was that it was beautiful...and the songs by Mike Scott and The Waterboys :)

Matter Matters had the following description:

"Iona has been described as a thin place, in which the veil between heaven and earth is translucent. Here we see more readily the glory of creation in the Celtic world. ‘Matter Matters’ will be a physically rigorous week of reflection and exercise, of pilgrimage hikes and community sharing led by John Philip Newell along with Neil Harvey, in which we renew our spiritual commitment to matter, whether that be the matter of the human body, the matter of creation, or the matter of the body politic and how we relate as nations."

After debating in my head, and checking with my boss, I contacted the St. Columba Hotel to reserve a space. Then I set about saving money and buying supplies. The fact that I'd be going alone and being with a big group of strangers didn't even phase me, when in the past that would have been enough to make me count it out immediately.

A short while before I was to fly out I got an e-mail from the hotel about the started off with the above description and the following:

"Each day will begin and end together with the rhythm of prayer and meditation, either at the Abbey or elsewhere on the island. After breakfast the mornings will be given to teaching and sharing with John Philip and on Tuesday to an outdoor activity with Neil . On the Thursday we will walk the island pilgrimage route together, so sturdy footwear and waterproof clothing are essential for the week! Wholesome breakfasts and evening meals, with provision from the organic gardens of the hotel, will be an important part of our shared community life. Lunches and afternoon hours will be free for solitude and rest."

Sounds pretty good so far, right?

Indeed, it was.

I set out for Scotland on October 22nd...arrived and had a wonderful day in Edinburgh on the 23rd, and was off to Iona the morning of the 24th. The day's travels went so smoothly...I even met a new friend who was also bound for Iona and we kept each other company.

When we finally arrived on Iona that evening, I walked towards a man wearing an orange rain jacket to ask where the St. Columba Hotel was. It turned out to be John Philip Newell.

My week had begun.


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