by Pia Fritsch, Prairiewoods Intern

I appreciate how everyone participates in the small chores of keeping the facility clean. I’ve seen different staff members doing dishes, wiping tables, and folding cloths regardless of their position here. I think this is a really great way to run a hospitality center, because since everyone willingly does those tasks it makes it feel like we are all participating in the common good. It also makes the company structure more unilateral rather than hierarchical, because those tasks don’t get delegated. This approach also makes those tasks more enjoyable, because if it’s not delegated, it doesn’t feel like a chore. There’s even something contemplative and satisfying in small tasks. Teamwork also makes small things more fun because companionship helps things move along and stay interesting and fulfilling. I’ve started to do a lot of things that I haven’t done before like doing commercial dishes and greeting guests. I’m not really the outgoing type, but even guests are really approachable here. I think people respect and appreciate the space that is provided, so when they come here they are their best selves. This is interesting, because my family owns a hotel. I have heard more than one horror story of guests who were not acting from their higher selves. It is also ironic that I have avoided getting pulled into the family business until now, yet I have come to intern at a place that is essentially a hospitality center. It’s just a funny twist of fate I guess.

Yet, there are key differences between Prairiewoods and a regular hotel. It attracts people who are already interested in developing their higher selves, and provides a space for them to do that no matter where along the process they are. The group that was here working on peer support had a lot of interesting characters, but everyone appreciated and respected the space. I thought it was sweet how the smokers made sure to clean up the smoking area, because they wanted to be able to come back to this place. When I was taking a vacuum from the guest house to the main building a man whose face I recognized but who I had never spoken to said: “I know I haven’t talked with you, but thank you for your services.” I was quite surprised, because I hadn’t interacted with him at all. Yet, he was expressing gratitude towards me for simply being part of Prairiewoods. I have never been at a place where so many people, staff and guests continually express so much gratitude. It’s really incredible to be around.

I think it would be ideal to create spaces and organizations that bring out the best in people. For one, it’s easier and more enjoyable to work with people while they are their best selves, but also because “Leading from the Emerging Future” frames the global sustainability crisis as a fight between our lower and higher selves. I really agree with this, because we have talked a lot in class about the ethical issues at the root of the crisis. We are at a point in history where we have to question what ethics really are and argue for the rights of the tree and deer and mountain. In order to stop the overwhelming destruction of the earth we must collectively act from our higher selves. Jim Carrey even said in his graduation speech that he felt blessed that he could travel all around the world, and people continually present him with their best face. He does this by making people laugh, and as a result he sees them at their best. Prairiewoods brings out the best in people by creating a welcoming and nurturing environment. MUM and the Transcendental Meditation movement create this environment with the Maharishi effect where if one percent of the population meditates there is a measureable decrease in violent activity in the area. Also, if the square root of one percent of the population practice the TM Siddhi’s program then there is a measureable decrease in crime and other violent activity in the are.This increased coherence creates a more peaceful environment. A good action plan to create a better world would be to create more spaces, settings, and environments that bring out the best in people.

I also like how time is not stressed much here. I’m sure people do sometimes, but I haven’t seen anyone checking their watches or phones at all. If a meeting starts a few minutes late, it’s totally fine, and stuff still gets done. I took one class called Cross Cultural Communication where we learned how there are two conceptions of time. Cultures with extreme focus on time tended to be industrialized nations. Cultures with a very loose focus on time but a strong focus on relationships tended to be less developed countries. The two extremes both have issues. Prairiewoods seems to really focus on relationship building and also maintain a good balance of productivity. This is nice for me, because no matter how hard I try, timeliness is always my weakness. Arriving at a particular time always feels forced to me. It’s nice to be in an environment where exact timeliness isn’t an issue. Even though people are definitely busy around here, they don’t seem rushed or stressed. This is particularly important to create that environment for the retreat center, but any organization would do well to have people acting out of that place. It would prevent burnout and breakdowns that happen when people are too tense or overworked without enough time to relax and have fun. Another thing I noticed is that everyone here has a sense of humor. It surprised me the most to hear some of the sisters joke around. I guess I just wasn’t expecting it, but people here are really playful.

Spiritual direction is a really interesting idea that I only just learned about. It seems to be like therapy, but with a spiritual focus. The approach is different as well. The pamphlet I read, “What to Expect in Christian Spiritual Direction” by Thomas Hart, described the spiritual director as someone who is still very much a spiritual seeker who has “not arrived.” This is a really great concept, because therapy seems to create a divide between therapist and patient. The therapist has to act separate from the situation rather than approaching their patient on a human to human level. I always thought that therapy could be replaced by a good friend, because relationships are healing. Unfortunately, there isn’t always someone who can be that person in your life. I guess that’s where therapists and spiritual directors come in. Spiritual direction also brings in the element of observing the sacred acting in your life. I felt like this understanding was missing from regular schools of psychology, though Jung’s theories are inherently spiritual. This human to human healing seems to be what I wanted therapy to be. It’s about one person caring about another, listening, and asking questions to further discover the self. It doesn’t see the other person as a problem. Instead, it sees the other person as one who is already spiritual and on the path to self-discovery. “If it were not so you would not have sought me out” (Hart 3). It also approaches life as a continuous co-creative experience that is never done. This description just feels really resonant and right with me. Spiritual direction seems to offer the missing elements that I perceived in traditional western therapy.