The following comes from a Sept. 22 story in the Daily Journal (San Mateo County and northern Santa Clara County).

If you’re looking for a chance to truly relax, the Mercy Center in Burlingame has the event for you Sept. 26.

Elizabeth Murray of Monterey is visiting the center for a daylong retreat called Harvesting The Gifts of Autumn focused on mindfulness. Murray wrote the book Living Life in Full Bloom, which was released in April and covers “120 daily Practices to deepen your passion, creativity and relationships.” She suggests gardening, art and other paths to happiness.

“It’s a time to slow down and go inward and spend some time in the gardens,” she said.

Activities for the retreat include making wind wishes, making positive affirmations, walking in silence, drawing, poetry reading and gardening.

“What I have found is when we have really busy lives, if we can have some time in silence in a quiet place that’s beautiful it makes time go longer and deeper; it’s really healing,” she said. “I’m hoping we will have some humor, reflections, a combination of play, spontaneity and delight. Whether someone is a busy executive, a mother or retired, it’s good to give ourselves time to have spiritual renewal.”

Meditation is going mainstream, she said.

“Being busy even online, it’s very different than relaxing by unplugging and sitting in nature,” she said. “It really gets us more attuned. Even Google is offering meditation; the most high-strung people are realizing how silence and time in nature really helps them reboot themselves. … A lot of times people are so tense and cramped up and they don’t even realize their bodies are in pain. It’s kind of like if you want to put flowers in a vase; you want to clean it up first.”

Murray lives in a historic house in Monterey with cottages on her property that she rents out to artists. She teaches workshops on photography, painting and life mapping and hosts an art show every year. She also travels around lecturing. Additionally, in 1985, she helped restore Monet’s garden in France. For the past 30 years, she’s gone back to France every year and photographed it. She wrote the best-selling book Monet’s Passion: Ideas, Inspiration, and Insights from the Painter’s Gardens featuring these photographs.

Murray has local ties to the area. Although she grew up in Tiburon, her cousins lived on the Peninsula. She was raised Catholic and her uncle Frank is a retired priest in Burlingame. She’s explored different religions since.

“The tradition of Catholicism gives you a lot of ritual,” she said. “I’ve also had a lot of death in my life. It teaches you about the cycle of life and teaches you to live fully.”

As a child, she said she was taught to garden by little old ladies.

“I grew up in Marin County and was able to run around as a kid,” she said. “It becomes a sanctuary for you and I used it for renewal and for a spiritual place.”

The upcoming retreat is the perfect time of year, she said, as everyone is getting ready for the harvest. Even though it is a workday, Murray says it’s a way of giving oneself a mini vacation to renew and get in touch with his or her soul.

“It’s a time for someone to give themselves a gift of reflection,” she said. “As they prepare to go into the holidays, rather than go into it with franticness, they can go in with a little more depth and clarity. It’s a time to really reflect on the gifts given and received.”

The Mercy Center is pleased to have Murray onboard for the retreat. Mercy Center Director Suzanne Buckley notes the Sisters of Mercy opened their doors to everyone 33 years ago.

“Even though it’s a Catholic retreat center, we welcome people from all faith traditions and no faith traditions,” Buckley said. “What Elizabeth is about – creativity, art, nature – those are the values of the Sisters of Mercy. It’s about finding the creative part of you as a way to be enriched. … We made short programs because we know the Bay Area is really fast paced and we are trying to accommodate people who want a break.”

To read the original story, click here.