AN AN OA­SIS OA­SIS OF OF CALM CALM

The Luisne Cen­tre for Spir­i­tu­al­ity is a haven for people of all faiths or none

Bray People - - ABOUT GREYSTONES - MARY FOG­A­RTY

THE LUISNE Cen­tre for Spir­i­tu­al­ity in Kil­coole is a se­cret oa­sis of calm and cre­ativ­ity open to people of all faiths and none.

Sit­u­ated in a her­itage house nes­tled in 40 acres of un­spoiled land, the house was com­pleted in 1782 and used as a sum­mer res­i­dence for John Dar­ragh’s fam­ily, the for­mer Lord Mayor of Dublin.

The house was bought by the Holy Faith or­der in 1897 and a school was sub­se­quently built on the grounds.

The school ac­com­mo­dated some 12 or so board­ers and a lot more lo­cal chil­dren would at­tend daily, even­tu­ally clos­ing down when a big­ger school was built in the vil­lage.

For years the house re­mained quite idle, serv­ing as a sum­mer re­treat for young pos­tu­lants trav­el­ling from Dublin for a hol­i­day by the sea.

Sr. Miriam Lu­cas was one of those young pos­tu­lants from the city and eight years ago she came to live at the house. She lov­ingly brought life back to the build­ing, invit­ing the lo­cal com­mu­nity to come in and at­tend classes on sci­ence, spir­i­tu­al­ity and mys­ti­cism.

This new cen­tre which Miriam named Luisne (Ir­ish for the first blush of light be­fore the dawn breaks and pro­nounced Lish-nah) now hosts 30 dif­fer­ent tu­tors and ther­a­pists who deliver over 60 dif­fer­ent classes and work­shops ev­ery year.

Luisne has be­come akin to the early monas­tic set­tle­ments where ed­u­ca­tion, sci­en­tific dis­cov­ery and cre­ativ­ity, all in­ter­wo­ven with a rhythm of med­i­ta­tion and rit­ual, were part of daily life.

The first beau­ti­ful walled gar­den has been metic­u­lously pre­served and is home to sev­eral ap­ple trees which an­nu­ally pro­duce the ap­ples that be­come Luisne’s Or­ganic Ap­ple juice.

There is a sec­ond walled gar­den which is in need of some lov­ing restora­tion.

Old pho­to­graphs from the 1870s show that this gar­den was once very grand with ex­ten­sive glassed green­house, an or­na­men­tal bridge over the river and a tea house.

Pho­to­graphic ev­i­dence shows that the fam­ily mem­bers would be trans­ported from the main house to the gar­den by horse and trap.

In 2013, the Holy Faith or­der made an in­cred­i­bly gen­er­ous move and re­quested that a Luisne Trust be set up so that they could gift the house and out­houses to the trust.

The trust should not be af­fil­i­ated with any one re­li­gion, but should specif­i­cally wel­come people of all faiths and none.

Luisne is in the process of ap­point­ing trustees who will con­tinue the hos­pi­tal­ity and in­tegrity of the cen­tre well into the fu­ture.

The old school­house is a true time-cap­sule. It has been left vir­tu­ally un­touched since the last stu­dents in the mid 1900s, all that re­mains are the coat hooks on the walls and the empty shelves where school­books once rested.

‘One of the first goals of the Luisne trust will be to save the school­house and bring life to it once more, per­haps mov­ing the art work­shops or the sa­cred dance out there,’ said Liz Glee­son from Luisne. ‘We hope that in time, a grant from Wick­low County Coun­cil will help us to achieve this goal.

‘There is some­thing very spe­cial and unique about Luisne. It doesn’t of­fer the mod­ern, zen-like workspace of many re­cently built cen­tres, but it does of­fer an in­cred­i­ble wel­come to those who come; vis­i­tors re­port a sense of im­me­di­ate be­long­ing; a sense of com­ing home. As soon as you en­ter the drive­way, flanked ei­ther side by cat­tle graz­ing, there is an overwhelming feel­ing that some­thing great lies at the end of the drive­way! A smell of home cook­ing in­fil­trates the house each morn­ing and you may be joined by Sophie the cat as you sit for your daily med­i­ta­tion.’

To date, the cen­tre has been of­fer­ing a wide range of cour­ses at low cost prices. The goal is to be as in­clu­sive as pos­si­ble. Ev­ery­body is free to at­tend (with no charge) the twice daily med­i­ta­tion ses­sions at 12.10 p.m. and 5 p.m. Most cour­ses have a con­ces­sion price and groups are usu­ally small so that in­di­vid­ual at­ten­tion is guar­an­teed.

Any­one who is search­ing for mean­ing in life or to ex­pand their own spir­i­tual awak­en­ing in a place steeped in his­tory will find wel­come and en­cour­age­ment, whether it be through med­i­ta­tion, art, yoga or sa­cred dance.

For more in­for­ma­tion go to www.cen­tre­for­spir­i­tu­al­ity.com.

ABOVE: vol­un­teers at the Luisne Spir­i­tu­al­ity Cen­tre in Kil­coole, Ly­dia Brien and An­nette Flynn with Sr Miriam and Sr Bar­bara; LEFT: paint­ing tak­ing place at the cen­tre; ABOVE LEFT: the walled gar­dens of the cen­tre.

Mu­si­cians Andy Con­nolly and Dan McCabe of An­nie’s Choice per­formed in the gar­dens of Luisne Spir­i­tu­al­ity Cen­tre at a re­cent open day.

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