Emily Gillies wants to bring a health and wellness and spiritual discovery retreat centre to southeast Saskatchewan.
And she believes the former Metochos Ministries Lutheran Bible Camp would be the perfect location.
Gillies, who resides in North Portal, was among the speakers at the Natural Health and Healing Expo at the Wylie-Mitchell building in Estevan last weekend. She explained her vision for the project and how she believes it will help people.
Based on alternative healing, health and wellness, it would be known as the Four Pillars Retreat Centre. Those four pillars, she said, are beauty, creativity, truth and service.
“The Four Pillars stands for the four concepts that I teach when I teach about mindfulness,” said Gillies. “So a lot of the spirituality aspects that are going on there are about your own mindfulness and your own practices that can help you improve your mindfulness and get you in touch with yourself.”
It can help with anxiety, depression, addiction and grief, and assist with issues that Gillies said so many encounter.
The idea for the retreat came following a lengthy personal journey. She quit her job last May, even though she enjoyed it, but she wanted to do something she found more meaningful, giving her more of a sense of purpose and connection.
“In the middle of July, I just got a vision that was given to me when I started practising more yoga myself, more meditation, more mindfulness practices, and I just had this fully developed envision in my mind of what the Metochos Ministries Lutheran Bible Camp building could be used for,” she said.
Since last summer, she has been working towards her dream. She has rented Metochos a few times for retreats, so she could see if she enjoyed being there.
“The place is so full and rich, and people were able to really go deep within themselves, and really deep with each other and have a really meaningful time together,” said Gillies. “And it’s hard to find those places in our busy lives … but we need those times to get away.”
Gillies has also taken a course in arts entrepreneurship and business development, and has connected with a business coach.
She has been connecting with people in Estevan and elsewhere to find out who would be interested in working out of there. She has half of the financing in place to purchase the property, has met with potential investors and partners, and is looking at grants and funding through Community Futures Sunrise.
“I know that I’m still a ways away myself with my own personal finances,” she said.
Once it opens, it would be a large retreat, she said. She believes it can draw people from Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and even the U.S., since there isn’t a place like it in the area.
“We would be a gem, being able to offer it, because it isn’t common,” said Gillies. “There have been other retreat centres in Saskatchewan, but they don’t have the ongoing programming. You could bring your own business there. You can rent the space for your own reasons for a time period, but one person can’t just show up and have programming available to them.”
And those who attend such a facility have a hard time maintaining what they have learned when they return to the southeast.
Gillies wants to see a place that would have daily programming that people could access, or extended programs that would allow people to stay overnight or even for a week in the camp’s cabins.
“So what’s happening out there would be group yoga practices, meditation practices, learning about mindfulness principles, and then being able to practice those mindfulness principles in a supportive environment,” said Gillies.
People could also learn to meditate on their own, and there would be different services and practitioners working out there. There would be a close sense of community, because they would be residing in the cabins.
“So you’re encouraged as much as you’re comfortable to connect with others, and really be seen and really vulnerable and open to share with others, so we’ll do that with talking circles and other group circles,” said Gillies.
Specific retreats would be offered with themes.
Kids and family camps could happen in the summer, she said, and there could even be concerts.
“Mindfulness is huge with kids right now,” said Gillies. “They’re teaching it as young as kindergarten.”
Metochos would be the perfect place, she said. She had only been there once before last summer, but she believes it could bring people together through spiritual connectedness, thanks to its location on the shores of Rafferty Dam.
“It’s just really special to be able to have all of the elements, to be able to have earth, air, fire and water all together, and fire is represented by the sun,” said Gillies. “Water is such a healing element.”
Gillies said she attends church on a weekly basis, where she is the organist. It’s an important part of her life. But experiencing another side of spirituality outside of religion can be freeing, she said, and she wants to offer a spiritual journey to people.
Events like the Natural Health and Healing Expo help to connect her with others. And it’s just a great event, she said.
“We are all wonderful, beautiful, complete and loving people on the inside,” said Gillies. “And given that opportunity to get to know that wonderful person within you, you will be able to be that wonderful person within your life in other ways, and then you’ll be your best self.”