We all have different ways that our spirituality has been nudged: Paula D’Arcy’s came quick. In 1975, Paula’s husband and daughter were killed in a drunken driving accident. She was twenty-seven years old and three months pregnant, yet she survived unharmed. Six months later she gave birth to her second daughter, Beth. In the time since, she has authored ten books, worked as a therapist in private practice, founded a nonprofit, and spoken at countless retreats and seminars.
According to Paula, the tragedy that changed her life has enabled her to touch the hearts of others. Forty years after the car accident, Paula says that she’s learned “what breaks a heart is equal to what breaks another heart.”
“I understand now that it’s less trying to overcome [the grief] than it is to actually lean into it,” she says. “It caused me to go well past the tenants of my faith and things I had believed to really find the deep within. It will always be teaching me.”
From Friday June 26 at 5pm through Sunday June 28 at 1pm at The Center at Mariandale, Paula hopes to learn through this process with others. She’s offering a Being Here: Life Itself is an Unimaginable Gift retreat, which she hopes will open participants eyes to the great love that is in their lives.
Life itself is an unimaginable gift. Even as we meet its challenges, the things that move our hearts and break our hearts, the griefs and losses, they are never the end of the story. Within every circumstance is a deeper dimension that exceeds what we’re going through. As author Andrew Harvey writes, “Our shared planetary future depends on our taking –alone and together and soon– the journey into love.” Through the silent retreat, Paula will expound on this idea.
“We’ll examine what it is that calls to us at a very deep level,” Paula says.
Of course, there will be plenty of time to journal, exercise, listen to music, and rest. Regardless of whether participants arrive with a desired outcome or if they’re just looking to pray more deeply, Paula hopes to cater the experience to them. Although Paula might have had grief of her own, the retreat is about love, not grief.
“My deepest hope would be that people will leave with something awakened in them, whether it’s healing or a question that causes them now to look at things in their life in a larger way,” Paula says.
She’s quick to note that much of the grace that happens on retreats isn’t her doing; it’s the spirit moving among the group in ways that are unpredictable. When asked about specifics of the retreat, Paula’a answer is less of a rubric and more of a come-and-see.
She doesn’t, as she says, arrive at a retreat center “with a folder with all of the retreat preparation inside.”
“I have all the preparation that I’m doing always in terms of prayer and reading and being with people,” Paula shares.
“If you’re reading this article and you have the feeling anywhere in you that you should do this, perhaps you should sign up,” she encourages. “That’s often the way the spirit nudges us in life.”