Howard County Times
Howard County

Take peaceful journeys for your mind's health

A reflection pond at Bon Secours Retreat & Conference Center in Marriottsville . The free programs Quiet Mornings and Centering Prayer are held throughout the year.

After the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, a little peace and quiet might be the best resolution for many.

Taking time to relax and clear one’s mind is just as important to one’s health as physical exercise, proponents say.


A mind is never “fully resting,” according to Jennifer Garcia, owner of Spiritual Spectra in Columbia.

“The body is at rest, but the mind is going,” Garcia said. “People need to de-stress and calm their minds. Let go of all that mental chatter.”


Tessa Newton, marketing manager of Bon Secours Retreat and Conference Center in Marriottsville, agreed.

“You need to take that time for yourself to get away from the busyness and craziness of life,” Newton said. “Circle back to yourself.”

There are several spots around the county where one can take a step back to chill.

“At home, you get distracted. You see a pile of laundry,” Garcia said. “If you have a place to go to, you’re more willing to say “I’m going to do this.’”

Jennifer Garcia, owner of Spiritual Spectra, leads a meditation circle.for Ash Shukla, of Howard County.

Since June, Garcia has offered a meditation session the first Monday of every month at her office in Columbia. Each session begins with a stretching exercise before everyone takes a seat and she begins.

“We sit there and clear our minds,” Garcia said. “People wander off to a peaceful state.”

No registration is required to attend the non-denominational sessions, Garcia said, and participants can wear whatever they want. Chairs are provided, but yoga mats are welcome, too.

“It doesn’t matter if you are a planner or spontaneous,” Garcia said. “It only matters that you are there.”


Bon Secours Retreat and Conference Center first started offering “mini-retreats” about four years ago with Quiet Mornings, according to Newton.

The monthly, one-hour program begins with an opening prayer before participants move into silence, whether by remaining in the room or wandering the property.

A second program, Centering Prayer, was first offered two years ago as a monthly program. Led by a facilitator, the program features prayers and moments of silence.

It immediately received a lot of traction, Newton said.

“We really did see an interest to do it more frequently,” Newton said. “We then did it two times a month and now it is once every week.”

The free program alternates weekly between evening and morning sessions to reach a “wider audience,” Newton said.


While Bon Secours is a Catholic organization, both Quiet Mornings and Centering Prayers are open “to everyone and anyone,” Newton said.

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“With these smaller, little retreats, you can circle back to yourself,” Newton said. “They help to get your day, week or month started on the right foot.”

Typically either breakfast or lunch is available for a small fee, too.

“It is a nice way to punctuate your time if you’re not racing back to work, carpool or grocery shopping,” Newton said, of adding a meal. “It is a time to gather yourself.”

“Los Cocos Beach, Costa Rica" by Diane Dunn is part of the exhibit "Art to Warm the Soul" at the Artists' Gallery.

For some, admiring a work of art may can be a relaxing experience. Through Feb. 24, the Artists’ Gallery in Ellicott City is hosting the exhibit “Art to Warm the Soul.” While Diane Dunne, a member of the gallery, admitted that the theme was more in reference to the cold temperatures, she didn’t deny that art can be soothing.

“I do think art relates to the soul, especially in the cold winter when you need something to make you feel good,” Dunn said. “Art does.”


Garcia stressed that taking the time to mediate is often the biggest roadblock people face.

“People don’t allow themselves to do things for themselves. It’s a luxury to take an hour for ‘just me,” Garcia said. “It is one those things people need to get around. We need that time for ‘ourselves.’”