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 Natural Awakenings Lancaster-Berks

The Urban Well: Exploring the Unfolding Path

Mar 29, 2024 09:31AM ● By Martin Miron

(L-R) Amanda Lyda, Kate Brossman and Sound Healer Ken Ebert

The Urban Well, a hybrid spiritual space and historic downtown campus, maintains a remarkable online following with resources open to all that seek the wisdom and practices they need to live with more joy, energy and depth.

Sharing ancient spiritual practices from the deserts of Egypt and the rainforests of South Asia, the Urban Well is a center for sharing transformative contemplative practices that is at home in both Eastern and Western religious traditions. David Peck, an Episcopal parish priest of Saint James, Lancaster, which hosts the center for contemplative spirituality, says, “The world is now much smaller and more connected; and yet so much religious thinking remains defensive and anxious. That was not the posture of Jesus or any of the great teachers.”

From resonant Gregorian chanting and prayers by candlelight on each of the city’s artsfocused First Fridays to Indian sitar, Tibetan singing bowl and Middle Eastern oud, varied soundscapes provide insight into the revitalization of mind, body and soul. Urban Well studios and prayer spaces interweave daily yoga, meditation teaching, retreats employing Brené Brown-certified facilitators and her reflections on healing, resilience and wholeheartedness in the context of addiction and recovery, as well as online group study of classical Buddhist texts and Gandhi’s non-violence philosophy.

Urban Well Executive Director Kate Brossman and Amanda Lyda, a restorative yoga instructor, appreciate the interface of teaching those new to yoga in an off-the-street community setting. Brossman explains, “While a new, purpose-built yoga studio is being completed for the summer, we use a chapel space or other meeting room to introduce people to yoga and meditative practices. Many want a recovery path back to greater confidence and wholeness in their bodies and spirit, while others are healing from old wounds. This work is done through slow and intentional movement while we also build community and share in a really rewarding contemplative experience.

One participant, Sylvia Cavanaugh, a poet and recently retired school teacher who moved to Lancaster, observes, “A simple sidewalk sign drew me into the Urban Well and contemplative prayer. I had previously studied Daoism and Buddhism, and practiced meditation. I also studied the historical Jesus. These two passions of mine had seemed quite separate. Contemplative prayer at Saint James has unified my meditative practice with my love of Jesus. I couldn’t have been more surprised to discover an age-old practice of meditation within Christianity.”

Anthony Galati, a younger Urban Well participant who works in human services, says, “Discovering contemplative practices in a warm community helps me cultivate a spirituality that enriches both my inner world and everyday experiences.”

John Kincaid, an artist who moved to Lancaster during the pandemic, reflects on how learning a new prayer practice like silent meditation that gets beyond words and images helps him. “When on a pilgrimage, I walked the Camino de Santiago, in Spain. I realized how easy it was to see God almost as an idol, rather than pure relationship. Contemplative prayer has helped me to keep exploring this unfolding path.

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