September 1, 2012 in Features

Soothing the spirit

Kairos House helps guests find inner peace
Julie Krug Correspondent
 
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Sister Florence Leon has acted as co-facilitator of Kairos House’s spiritual space for more than 36 years.
(Full-size photo)

Sister Florence Leon of the Franciscan order came to Spokane in the 1970s with a single vision: To create a contemplative retreat center that would be spiritual, but not religious. Kairos House was born in 1976 and is still running as a nonprofit, donor-supported retreat center today.

“The human spirit needs space,” Leon said. “We believe that the nature and quiet of Kairos provides this.”

Kairos House is set on 27 wooded acres in north Spokane. Along with Sister Rita Beaulieu, Leon has acted as facilitator of Kairos’s spiritual space for more than 36 years.

Slowing down, quieting the mind, regaining balance. These elements are at the very heart of Kairos and implemented with the tools of silent meditation and contemplative prayer.

The facility holds up to 16 guests, often during teacher-led retreats. In addition to the five bedrooms in the main house, there are also eight hermitages – most of them simple, wooden A-frame cabins with a twin-size bed, a single chair and a sliding door with a view of the grounds. The barn also has several rooms and a meeting space.

Kairos keeps busy with large meditation retreats led by both local and out-of-state teachers, but sometimes they have single guests seeking a quiet, soul-searching experience.

“It’s important to develop inner work,” Leon said. “Through this kind of work, we create an openness and recognize the essence of God.”

Leon and Beaulieu provide all the meals and care for their guests. While silence and solitude are golden at Kairos, and the center is designed for prayer and reflection, some guests interact and share their goals with the two hosts. Others remain silent for their entire stay.

“Many people show up here when they are at a crossroads in their lives and need to make a major decision,” Leon said. Guests often arrive exhausted from the grind of a busy life. “It’s not uncommon for people to spend their first day here sleeping for fourteen hours.”

But she makes it clear Kairos is not intended as an escape, but an opportunity to settle the mind and dig deep. People come seeking guidance, Leon said, and nature and silence create just the right space for this. “The goal is to re-establish balance,” she said.

Leon also emphasizes that Kairos is not a traditional business. Retreats are scheduled with teachers that have a long-standing relationship with the center and individuals are accepted by referral.

  The word “kairos” refers to a sacred space not bound by clock-time. Leon says Kairos House has become her life’s work, one filled with satisfying opportunities.

“I love my life and I love people. At Kairos, we get to see the heart and soul of a person,” Leon said. “We get a chance to see the grace of God at work.”

Julie Krug is a writer living in Spokane. Email her at juliekrug@comcast.net.


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