Why being part of a community matters: A conversation with João

Avatar Paola Di Pietro

My experience of meditation started back in 2014 as a part of a personal development journey. At that time I didn’t follow any spiritual or religious paths, so I started to explore meditation following the Buddhist and Secular approach, which was what I could easily access in my hometown. After knowing a little bit more about meditation, I chose to start a secular mindfulness path through programmes like the MBSR – Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction.

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View of the Bonnevaux Chapel’s roof

Since then I have been facilitating a few MBSR programmes in business and health contexts, as a way to talk about meditation to others and also to support my own path. Along that, I also started a religious and spiritual path in Christian Catholic Faith driven by wife’s faith and the birth and christening of my two children. I took adult catechism for two years and got baptized. After practicing secular mindfulness for some years, I felt the need to take my practice to a more spiritual level and that’s when I started my journey into Christian meditation. I learnt about the World Community for Christian Meditation and joined one of their Portuguese online meditation groups. I felt a growing need to get in touch with the Community at a more personal level, whilst deepening my spiritual path. That’s when I decided to take part to the Bonnevaux Advent Retreat.

An absolute learning and growth

The experience of meditation has been a journey of different perspectives but in the end they all sum up in one absolute learning and growth. Meditation allows me to learn and connect with my true self, to build a relationship with my essence in complete harmony of body, mind and spirit. It is as if meditation cleans my eyesight and takes me to a broader perspective of what’s inside and outside myself. This in turns leads me to be more compassionate and empathic. In a spiritual way, I feel that my meditation practice is dwelling and working in the intimacy and personal relation with Christ, in two main ways: by working on the unity of the heart and the mind; by learning to let go, of acceptance and trust in the Divine, as I deepen my relationship with Jesus and allow Him to truly be present in my life and the life of those around me.

I feel that my meditation practice is dwelling and working in the intimacy and personal relation with Christ, in two main ways: by working on the unity of the heart and the mind; by learning to let go, of acceptance and trust in the Divine, as I deepen my relationship with Jesus and allow Him to truly be present in my life and the life of those around me.

I have been in Bonnevaux for seven days for the Advent Retreat. Being at Bonnevaux was an intense experience in many ways, but I would highlight four main areas:

  • the community
  • the space (house and surroundings)
  • the discipline
  • the “work of the Spirit in us”

The community

The community I found was lovely and welcoming; a community in sharing of the Spirit, the Silence and the Simplicity of the being; a community that lives according to Benedict rules.

The space

The space is also to praise, the outside fields and landscape, the inside of the house and chapel, brings meaning and peace to the practice and to contemplation, which allowed me quickly to feel at home.

The discipline

The discipline through formal and informal practices and lectures gave me the opportunity to deepen my understanding of the tradition and practice in faith.

All the above together allowed me to grow and nurture my relationship with God, through Christ, and in harmony of the Spirit, hearth and mind. A vital step for me to do my best, in each moment, and bring Christ to my daily life, actions, feelings and thoughts.

  • Bonnevaux during Advent
    Bonnevaux during Advent
  • João Correia - Advent Retreat 2019, Bonnevaux
    João Correia – Advent Retreat 2019, Bonnevaux
  • View of stream in Bonnevaux
    View of stream in Bonnevaux

Why I think being part of a community matters

Since the beginning of meditation and my Christian path, I am discovering a new meaning of being and experiencing community. I’m learning that who I am is strictly connected with the relationships I cultivate with others. I am discovering that the community where I belong and I are one and the same reality, always evolving and connecting to one another. In the community we can better grasp how to be kind and nurture oneself in relation to others. Finally, going through the challenges and obstacles in life becomes easier and balanced when you belong to community.

A worthwhile investment on yourself

I would say that if you feel an inner will, sometimes expressed as a simple curiosity, make plans and go. Don’t be hold back by life contingencies. Sometimes it is worth investing on yourself. You will be different as you experience the community and nature and the meditation practice will help you continue your journey to let the Spirit dwell in your heart.


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